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Friday, August 26, 2016

Mylan Execs Gave Themselves Raises as They Hiked EpiPen Prices

Mylan is the maker of EpiPen. (photo: Mark Zaleski/AP)
Mylan is the maker of EpiPen. (photo: Mark Zaleski/AP)

By Ben Popken, NBC News
24 August 16
 


piPen prices aren't the only thing to jump at Mylan. Executive salaries have also seen a stratospheric uptick.

Proxy filings show that from 2007 to 2015, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch's total compensation went from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068, a 671 percent increase. During the same period, the company raised EpiPen prices, with the average wholesale price going from $56.64 to $317.82, a 461 percent increase, according to data provided by Connecture.

In 2007 the company bought the rights to EpiPen, a device used to provide emergency epinephrine to stop a potentially fatal allergic reaction and began raising its price. In 2008 and 2009, Mylan raised the price by 5 percent. At the end of 2009 it tried out a 19 percent hike. The years 2010-2013 saw a succession of 10 percent price hikes.

And from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the second quarter of 2016, Mylan steadily raised EpiPen prices 15 percent every other quarter.

The stock price more than tripled, going from $13.29 in 2007 to a high of $47.59 in 2016.

And while sales of the life-saving drug rose to provide 40 percent of the company's operating profits in 2014, as Bloomberg reported, salaries for other Mylan executives also went up. In 2015, President Rajiv Malik's base pay increased 11.1 percent to $1 million, and Chief Commercial Officer Anthony Mauro saw his jump 13.6 percent to $625,000.

After Mylan acquired EpiPen the company also amped up its lobbying efforts. In 2008, its reported spending on lobbying went from $270,000 to $1.2 million, according to opensecrets.org.

Legislation that enhanced its bottom line followed, with the FDA changing its recommendations in 2010 that two EpiPens be sold in a package instead of one and that they be prescribed for at-risk patients, not just those with confirmed allergies. And in 2013 the government passed a law to give block grants to states that required they be stocked in public schools.

A spokeswoman for Mylan, the sole supplier of EpiPens, didn't respond to NBC News emails or voicemail seeking comment.

This isn't the first time the company's executives have been touched by a scandal.

A 2008 inquiry found Bresch didn't complete the coursework for her MBA granted by West Virginia University. The school had received a $20 million donation from Mylan chairman Milan Puskar in 2003.

Several of the university administrators resigned in the aftermath, including president Mike Garrison. The former Mylan consultant and lobbyist had gone to high school with Bresch, the daughter of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, and was a longtime family friend.

As NBC News previously reported, the sharp increases in price haven't escaped the attention of parents worried about paying for the drug in the back-to-school scramble, and Congress is starting to scrutinize Mylan's pricing.

On Monday, Senator Amy Klobuchar wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, calling for a probe.

In a statement to NBC News, an FTC spokesman said, "The Commission takes seriously its obligation to take action where pharmaceutical companies have violated the antitrust laws, and it will continue to closely scrutinize drug market competition on consumers' behalf."

The pharmaceutical industry has seen steep increases in the past few years. Along with specialized drugs like ones for cystic fibrosis, decades-old generic prices have spiked. When one company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of a drug used by HIV patients 5,000 percent overnight, the ensuing uproar pressured it to pledge lower its prices. Though, nearly a year later, a search on the drug-price comparison site GoodRx shows pharmacies are still selling it for the same amount or higher.

Among the usual advice for lower your prescription drug costs is to seek out a generic alternative. But because of the patent on the EpiPen delivery device, a true generic doesn't exist. Patients are instead buying abroad where the EpiPen is cheaper, and resorting to other devices that deliver epinephrine, including DIY syringes.

Shares of Mylan were down more than 4 percent in trading Tuesday as news of its troubles spread.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

We see evil in our enemies, never in us



 GEORGE TEMPLETON
COMMENTARY

The religious right has come down strongly in favor of Donald Trump, but on this matter the Bible is not unambiguous.  Proverbs 16:28 it tells us that “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.”  Titus 3:2 tells us “to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”
By George Templeton
Gazette Columnist


Heroes

Joseph Campbell described the process of becoming a hero when he wrote, “… we have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us.  The labyrinth is thoroughly known.  We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god.  And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves.  Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our existence.  And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.” 

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.  Was Martin L. King a hero?  In the segregated sixties, the office cadre, wanting law and order, viewed him as a Communist, who was deliberately and unjustifiably inflaming black people.  We wonder if those, who would shoot the messenger so they could avoid the message, are angry when his holiday comes around.
Motivations
Is life about winning or enjoying and appreciating?  Is what we are seeking the experience of being alive or the meaning of life?  What makes a leader is not winning an election.  It is the role that he is going to play.
The Peter Principle claimed that people rise to the level of their intellectual incompetence.  Instead, people rise only to the level permitted by their character.  Personalities have to fit the requirements of the job.  We think they can know a person’s intent from their actions, but some people just march to the beat of a different drummer.   
The Artist
Artists and craftsmen are highly independent.  Their satisfaction in life comes from creative expression.  They interpret our archetypal dream into future reality.  They don’t like to compete.  They believe in hard work, quality, and respect for others, but they hold their cards close to their vest. 
The Party Man
He identifies with the GOP or DNC.  He is a submissive bureaucrat, rigid, and ideological.  His desk is lined by three ring binders filled with management’s procedures for every possible situation.  He is driven by fear of failure and takes solace only with the support of others.  He molds himself into what he feels people want him to be.
The Gamesman
He wants to be boss and does not like taking orders from others.  He breaks the rules in order to win.  He enjoys competition and risks.  The gamesman can be highly effective at promoting team work because he is flexible and aggressive, but he expects everyone else to see life as a game.  When he wins too much, the thrill and meaning of life goes away.
The Jungle Fighter
He sees life as a battle where enemies must be destroyed.  This type of person is effective in trimming out losers and reducing bureaucracy.  He often fails when others become sick of his intimidating, self-serving conduct.
Selecting Mr. Right
Heroes don’t necessarily fit within any of the previously described boxes.  Differences in temperament compete with a desire to control.  It results in behaviors that are not aligned with organizational goals, but instead are skewed toward increasing personal power.  The ego-centric leader’s loyalty is to himself.  It causes those who work under him to be loyal to themselves because they want to keep their jobs.  They know they have to promote the self-image of their thin skinned leader.
  Psychological
The Madness of King George was a film describing the British King’s bizarre behavior and how the public tried to ignore it.  Their hope for the king was bigger than their pessimism.  Unfortunately, neurosis augments a disconnection between temperament and ideals.  Fortunately, the king became a force for stability by reigning rather than ruling.
Personality theorists view traits as determined by both genetics and experiences.  They remain constant over a person’s lifetime within situations like working with other people, reacting to weakness, and reacting to barriers that prevent goal attainment.  The strong aggressive leader tends to be bossy, likes to dominate, wants to win, and reacts to frustration with anger and hostility.
Is “winning” by destroying rivals Donald’s motivation?  On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he threatened to fund revenge super packs that would attack Ohio Governor John Kasich, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and others.
Alan Greenspan, in his book, The Age of Turbulence, wrote that Nixon and Clinton were by far the smartest presidents he had worked with.  Nixon had a dark side that communicated possibly hidden motivations, a cynical paranoia that justified winning and getting even.  Who would have ever dreamed that such a great and popular president could fall because of the senseless stupidity of Watergate?
When Nixon set forth his ideas, he did so in perfectly turned sentences and paragraphs, but not Trump.  His double meaning speaks clearly but twists common usage.  To hit adversaries so hard their heads would spin is not an example of Platonic debate.
Could it be that Trump is simply trying to maintain attention by abruptly changing direction and saying something outrageous?  Perhaps Trump is just easily distracted.
We remember from high school English that language follows rules.  Artificial intelligence researchers try to represent those using mathematical symbols, theorems, and axioms.  Everyone who writes original computer programs quickly discovers that computers do only what they are told, not what any perceptive person would know that you want.  Intelligence has its threads like all computer programs, but it is different because it branches massively and breaks the rules.  Trump’s third grade language breaks the rules, suggesting that he is smart.  By insinuating things Trump forges an argument.  He can say ridiculous things without being held responsible or accountable.  This is his “style”.  Trump tweeted, “I love watching these poor pathetic people (pundits) on television working so hard to try to figure me out.  They can’t!”  Can you trust a man who “derails” from his tracks in the middle of a sentence?
Constructive Criticism
Constructive criticism exists within the shadows that lie between right and wrong.  It is not an “attack” when it is politely and humbly offered.  The hero welcomes critique.  He will not demonstrate an inflated sense of his own importance and correctness.  He will adjust his position when he considers the facts. 
The weak man demonstrates his fragility by assailing the person who questions his judgment.  The validity of an opponent’s argument is not weakened by calling the person who offers it “little”.
The pageant of history can be viewed as the consequence of powerful individuals, scheming with evil intent, or it can be the outcome of complex social forces.  How one views the world influences their actions.  They can see “good guys and secretly scheming, powerful bad guys” instead of complex events.  They blame others and the rigged system instead of accepting personal responsibility.
Rigged
Many groups compete to win favors.  Thomas Dye and L. Zeigler’s 1970 book, The Irony of Democracy described the “rigged system” that existed then and still exists now.  It is a system where the key political, economic, and social decisions are made by elites.  Elites are not necessarily greedy, sinister individuals conspiring to take advantage of an unsuspecting, disenfranchised public.  Anyone who has wealth, power, is educated, experienced, professional, and competent is an elite.  Most have a high regard for the public good.
Tea Party anti-intellectualism has countered elitism by electing inexperienced people, but that will not be enough to change things.  When everything changes on the first day, nothing is a priority.  Would you like a leader who makes promises that he knows are impossible but you want to believe in?  He might think, if you make the lady pregnant, she will not want to give up the baby.  
Trump supporters feel that this election is not a choice between Republicans and Democrats.  It is about “losers” voting against their government.  They should consider that Trump views losers as inferior “bad guys” who get what they deserve and “good guys” as winners who are competitive.  Weakness taints losers in the same way that race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation have done in the past.
Civics Teachers
Pity the poor high school civics teacher.  The future will be about phone-side tweets instead of fireside chats.  Politics becomes intrinsically self-destructive when it insists on going where the sun does not shine.  Reality is not a choice between true and false, or Republican and Democrat.  We have to choose whether we will join with or fight against the “unfacts” people.  We have to choose between civility and revolution.
Violent
In November of 2015, at a campaign event in Birmingham, Trump approved of a Black Lives Matter protester being roughed up.  At a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa, Trump said, “Where  I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?  By February of 2016, Trump was urging supporters to “knock the crap out of” protestors and in Cedar Rapids, Iowa Trump said, “So, if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them.”  In a Las Vegas speech Donald indicated that he would like to punch a protester in the face and claimed demonstrators should go out in a stretcher.
In his North Carolina speech Donald said, “By the way, and if she gets to pick -Lower electric – lower electric bills, folks.  Hillary wants to abolish – essentially abolish the Second Amendment.  By the way, and if she gets to pick --- (Crowd Booing) If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks.  Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is.  I don’t know.  But – but I’ll tell you what.  That will be a horrible day.  If Hillary gets to put her judges – right now, we’re tied.”
Trump has made statements supporting torture and the execution of the families of terrorists.  We all want law, order, and security, but isn’t it more important to be pro justice and equal opportunity?  Our leaders should be about reconciling a divided people instead of suppressing dissent.  Sacrifice is not about winning, working hard, or creating jobs as Donald seems to think.  It is about the surrender to a heroic good regardless of personal loss.
Hijacking God
The religious right has come down strongly in favor of Donald Trump, but on this matter the Bible is not unambiguous.  Proverbs 16:28 it tells us that “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.”  Titus 3:2 tells us “to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”
We blame it on the other party.  We make the mistake of seeing evil only in our enemies, never in us.  It can be found in different presidents and their administrations, in decades of history, in materialism, no amnesty, pre-emptive war, irresponsible tax cuts, and unfettered investment banking.  
Lincoln’s second inaugural address captured a similar situation.  He explained that both the North and the South had collaborated, profited, and participated in slavery.  Then and now, we are one people united by our altruism and crimes.
Culture War
We are at the still point of turning.  Dye and Zeigler captured this when they wrote; Heroes “… must govern wisely if government by the people is to survive.  If the survival of the American system depended upon an active, informed, and enlightened citizenry, then democracy in America would have disappeared long ago…”

It is not that the “makers and takers” are dissatisfied with the status quo, that everything should be destroyed just for change, but rather that we should search for heroes that will build on the roots of our human agency.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fox News and the Repercussions of Sexual Harassment

Roger Ailes. (photo: Wesley Mann/FOX News)
Roger Ailes. (photo: Wesley Mann/FOX News)

And this sleazy sexual predator is now working for the Trump campaign



By Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker

23 August 16
 

ne of the surprising things about the Fox News sexual-harassment story is that the women who have come forward with allegations include several of the network’s better-known anchors and reporters. You might think that professional power could stave off the kind of spin-around-and-let-me-see-your-ass leering and straight-up demands for sex that Gretchen Carlson, Megyn Kelly, and others say they endured from former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes and other male supervisors. (Ailes and his lawyer, Susan Estrich, continue to deny the allegations.) But that does not seem to have been the case.

In some ways, the situation at Fox was extreme: the seventy-six-year-old Ailes, who stepped down from the chairmanship on July 21st, soon after Carlson filed her lawsuit, seems to have taken management tips from some minor but debauched Roman emperor. According to Gabriel Sherman, an editor at New York magazine who has kept a close eye on Ailes and Fox News for several years now, the former chairman spent millions of dollars from the network’s budget to settle sexual-harassment claims and to maintain a cadre of consultants and private detectives, who worked out of what was known as “the Black Room,” keeping tabs on journalists like Sherman and others who’d covered him aggressively. How did he get away with it? “It was the culture,” one Fox executive told Sherman. “You didn’t ask questions, and Roger wouldn’t entertain questions.” When it came to sexual harassment, ideology surely played a role, too: given the pervasive scorn at Fox for “political correctness,” or feminism of any stripe, it must have been especially hard to be an ambitious woman who chose to make a stink, to risk looking like what Carlson says Ailes called her—“a man hater.”

To some researchers who’ve studied sexual harassment, though, the Fox News scenario doesn’t look like that much of an outlier. For one thing, some studies have found that women in positions of authority, especially in workplaces that are dominated by men, may be more likely to experience sexual harassment than women in lower-status positions. In a 2012 study called “Sexual Harassment, Workplace Authority, and the Paradox of Power,” the authors—Heather McLaughlin, Christopher Uggen, and Amy Blackstone—found that women in supervisor positions were more likely than non-supervisors to say that they had been sexually harassed on the job in the previous year. (This doesn’t seem to have been merely because supervisors as a group may be more knowledgeable about what constitutes harassment—the same pattern did not hold true for male supervisors and subordinates, for example.) When I spoke with McLaughlin, who is now a professor of sociology at Oklahoma State University, she called the study’s finding “counterintuitive,” because “to most people the most common scenario is still the powerful male boss and the vulnerable female secretary.” That scenario still happens, of course, but sexual harassment may be even more prevalent, she said, where women are “gaining power in the workplace, and it becomes a way of trying to reëstablish who’s actually in charge.”

McLaughlin says that these findings make sense, because, she believes, workplace sexual harassment isn’t really about sex; it’s about power. There’s probably a good deal of truth to that. Not that it explains every case: the person hitting on an attractive co-worker or subordinate might, after all, just be looking for sex at the place he or she happens to spend most of his or her time. (Although, in the age of dating apps, not to mention escort services and chat rooms, there are other, less potentially career-ending ways to get some. The appeal, for a guy like Ailes, of using the office as your personal hunting ground may have more to do with trying to leverage your authority there to get women who’d be out of your league on the more even playing field of Tinder.) But it’s true that the workplace commenter/ogler doesn’t necessarily think his or her perving is going to reap actual sexual rewards. Often, these comments aren’t admiring in any way, just gross or demeaning. (McLaughlin et al. found that a lot of sexual harassment was aimed at women who didn’t comport with traditional standards of femininity.) And it’s also true that, whatever the goal, the effect of such harassment is often to embarrass, unnerve, or undermine the professional confidence of the target.

Indeed, there’s another important way in which the allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News are not at all unique: they are a reminder of what a serious disruption harassment can be to a career. Take the case of Rudi Bakhtiar, who told the Times in July that, back in 2007, she lost a promotion she was expecting—to be a regular correspondent in Fox’s Washington bureau—after she turned down the sexual advances of a colleague who was about to become the bureau chief. Bakhtiar, who had been a foreign correspondent for CNN and who speaks fluent Farsi, had just scored a reportorial coup—getting herself into Iran for a meeting between Iranian and Iraqi leaders—and she was feeling confident about her prospects at the network. But she says things went badly for her after she rebuffed her colleague, Brian Wilson, and filed a complaint:

Wilson, contacted by the Times, said he strongly objected to Bakhtiar’s characterization of events. Bakhtiar reached a settlement with Fox for an undisclosed amount.

Bakhtiar says her agent advised her that she might have to start all over again in local news and work her way up. She couldn’t bring herself to do that, but she spent a few years out of journalism, working in public relations for an Iranian-American organization, before eventually taking a job as a producer at Reuters.

For many women, the climb back up is even tougher. McLaughlin told me that she and her colleagues are about to publish a new study in which they examined the long-term consequences of harassment. They looked at women working in a variety of fields, some of whom said that they had been the targets of unwanted sexual attention on the job when they were in their late twenties. Now, eight to ten years later, eighty-two per cent of the women who said that they’d experienced severe sexual harassment had changed jobs, compared to only fifty-four per cent of those who had not. (The study defined “severe” as unwanted touching or four or more incidents of other harassing behaviors.) People change jobs a lot in their twenties—often for better jobs—so it’s hard to draw too many conclusions from these numbers alone, but the contrast between the two categories is suggestive. And the women who had experienced harassment did see their earnings trajectories climb less steeply. “Compared to other working women,” McLaughlin said, “their earnings growth over this period of time was much slower over all, plateauing throughout their early thirties.”

This stall-out might have occurred for a number of reasons. In some cases, McLaughlin said, “it’s because women are giving up seniority and other advancement opportunities by starting over again with a new employer.” Moreover, “many of the women who quit switched careers—some quite drastically.” If they moved out of “highly competitive and masculine environments” that might pay well (say, banking) but that can also “be breeding grounds for a larger culture of harassment,” they sometimes ended in up in more “feminized and less lucrative fields” (say, retail).

Finally, McLaughlin said, some women who reported offensive behavior paid the price that women often fear: “They were labelled as untrustworthy or ‘not a team player’ and were subsequently passed over for promotion or excluded by their colleagues.”

Still, the more that powerful women who have experienced harassment come forward, the less likely it will be that employers can get away with punishing them. Though Fox News is doing its best to pretend that none of this ever happened, the revelations about Ailes may help others in the long run. As Paul Farhi, of the Washington Post, reported last week, the allegations and their fallout have scarcely been mentioned on the network—“no panel discussions, no diatribes from Fox’s famously aggressive hosts, no follow-up investigations, no tributes to the Ailes era”—but, try as it might, this story won’t go away.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The unaffiliated: Why more than a quarter of Arizonans are leaving religion behind





    TOP: Chris Wojno, vice president of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, began questioning his beliefs in his mid-20s. (Photo by Anna Copper/Cronkite News)
    MIDDLE: Justin Zimmer, a member of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix and a self-described freethinker. (Photo by Anna Copper/Cronkite News)
    BOTTOM: Debra Nolen, a former Catholic, still believes in God and reads the Bible, but no longer goes to Mass. (Photo by Anna Copper/Cronkite News)

    By ANNA COPPER
    Cronkite News 

    PHOENIX — “Granny tells me I’m going to hell,” said Chris Wojno, vice president of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix.

    Wojno, now 31, was 25 when he realized he could no longer profess a belief in God.

    A self-described “lazy Roman Catholic,” he decided to start going to Mass again when he was in his mid-20s. However, his attempted return to the faith brought up a period of questioning and reevaluating of his own beliefs.

    Despite the tension it creates among his family, he now describes himself as an “atheist-agnostic.” And he is far from alone.

    According to a survey by the Pew Research Center in 2014, 23 percent of U.S adults describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or say their religion is “nothing in particular.” This is up 7 percentage points from 2007, when 16 percent of Americans counted themselves among the unaffiliated. In Arizona, the share is slightly higher: 27 percent are unaffiliated, which is up from 22 percent in 2007.

    There is a generational divide, too.

    Linell Cady, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University and professor of religious studies, said, “When the younger generation is showing that kind of a trend over seven or 10 years, it really appears to be something that is going to just grow larger and larger.”

    Cady identified several reasons why this could be happening. First, she said there is a growing “individualistic orientation” in the United States.

    “Americans are increasingly not becoming involved in civic organizations in the way that they had been,” she said. “So if you think about it that way, religion is one more arena where people are less inclined to be joiners.”

    In fact, the nature of civic engagement may be transforming. A 2013 study by Pew found that, in 2008, three percent of U.S. adults said they started or joined a group on social media that organized around political issues. By 2012, that number had risen to 12 percent.

    Of the 22 Arizonans who responded to a Public Insight Network query about being religiously unaffiliated, six said they had a community that acted as a replacement for religion in their lives.

    While it is true that voter turnout was on a downturn for most of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, recent elections have seen a slight reversal in that trend.

    What may better account for the trend away from religion among younger generations are their opinions of religious institutions.

    Cady pointed to the role that religion plays in politics. While it’s unclear if specific political stances commonly adopted by religious groups directly contribute to the rise of the “nones,” it is clear many younger Americans do not have a favorable view of religious organizations overall.

    The percentage of millennials who say churches and religious institutions have a positive effect on the direction the U.S. dipped from 73 percent to 55 percent between 2010 and 2015. Among older generations, opinions have increased slightly, but trust in religious institutions has gradually been declining over the past four decades in the U.S. population overall. According to a Gallup poll, 41 percent of Americans said they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in organized religion.

    Cady also said that the “democratization of morality” further contributed to the trend away from organized religion.

    The majority of respondents in Pew’s Religious Landscape study said that common sense — not religion — was their source for guidance on right and wrong.

    “I think what’s happened over the last few decades is more and more Americans realized that you can be an atheist, you can be a humanist and not be immoral,” she said. “I think as more and more people ‘come out’ in public life — like the ‘new atheists’ or the humanists — you’re finding more and more people who are being emboldened to say, ‘Okay. I’m not really religious either.’” 

    The Non-Believers 

    The Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix is headquartered in Mesa in a whitewashed stucco house with a tile roof. Most of the space is devoted to a large multipurpose room where the group holds its twice-monthly gatherings, but there is also a kitchen, rec room for children and a library.

    Bookshelves take up nearly every square inch of wall space in the library. Wojno said it is not uncommon to find one of the members taking a nap on one of the couches.

    “We’ve got — let’s see,” Wojno said as he reached for books near the top of one bookcase. “The Quran, the Rigveda, Confucianism, Christianity, Judaism, various mythologies. We encourage people to pretty much research as much as possible.

    The more information they have the better. The more exposure they have to concepts the better.”

    Access to that kind of information influenced Wojno’s “de-conversion.”

    “Your faith is like a foundation or a dam,” Wojno said. “You’ve got this big edifice, and as you start looking into the various claims that hold it up—from very far back it looks solid—but when you start looking at the claims in detail, you start to notice little cracks. And as you keep looking at the cracks, they get deeper. You will reach a certain point where it just won’t stand up anymore.”

    But not every experience is so foundation shaking. Justin Zimmer, another member of the HSGP, grew up “technically” Christian but gradually drifted away from organized religion.

    He now considers himself a skeptic and nonbeliever, and he found the society through its Facebook group. But he and his family weren’t initially looking for a community. They were, however, looking for something their daughters could do.

    “What officially got me in there is they were starting a Girl Scout troop,” he said.

    He liked the fact that the troop had very little ceremony. As an added bonus, he was introduced to like-minded parents.

    Despite being a part of this community, non-belief isn’t a core part of his identity or his family’s identity. Religion isn’t a topic that comes up much at home. Instead, he’s more interested in giving his children the opportunity to choose what they want to — or don’t want to — believe.

    “If I am going to try to raise them in anything, it’s to not only be slightly skeptical so that they don’t end up stuck in bad ideas, but also to be curious,” Zimmer said.

    The Believers
     
    While skeptics, doubters and freethinkers are a core part of the HSGP, the majority of religiously unaffiliated people don’t identify as atheist or agnostic. In Arizona, they make up a quarter of the “nones,” with the rest defining their religion as “nothing in particular.”

    And even though they don’t identify closely with any one faith, 35 percent of “nones” in Arizona say that religion is very or somewhat important to them, and 88 percent of them say they believe in a god to some degree.

    Debra Nolen, 62, counts herself as a believer.

    She grew up Catholic, though no longer attends church. Like many other Catholics she knows, as soon as she didn’t have to go to Mass anymore, she stopped going.

    “I hesitate to label myself as a Christian, but I do believe in God,” she said. “I believe if you’re a Christian then that means that you belong to the community of faith. And for me, being a religious studies major and knowing how church works? It turned me off to actually going.”

    When she was in her 20s, she and her best friend developed a renewed interest in Catholicism. Together, they attended Mass at several different churches. But the more they went, the more Nolen became exposed to church politics.

    “You’re only as good as the minister telling those stories back to you. You can have five friends all go to a different church and come back with a different perspective on the same stuff. To me, that’s kind of problematic,” she said.

    Still, Nolen never stopped reading the Bible. She said she continues to find comfort in the stories within its pages and finds faith “amazing.”

    It’s the kind of approach to religion that Linell Cady said she sees becoming more common.

    “I do think religiosity is changing forms,” Cady said. “A lot of these ‘nones’ are not atheists, but they actually have a kind of a sense of a higher power, a sense of a divine spirit. It’s not necessarily anti-religion, but it’s becoming a more personally tailored form of religiosity.”

    These trends might not signal the end of religion as we know it in America, but it might be the beginning of a new kind of spiritual life.

    “I learned early on,” Nolen said, “from a priest no less, that church does not necessarily have to be the building.”

    Sunday, August 21, 2016

    Fossil Fuel Industry Killing World's Coral Reefs

    'Divers from coastal communities around the world wrapped crime-scene tape around dead coral reefs.' (photo: Bioquest Studios/EcoWatch)
    'Divers from coastal communities around the world wrapped crime-scene tape around dead coral reefs.' (photo: Bioquest Studios/EcoWatch)

    By 350.org, EcoWatch
     
    ivers from coastal communities around the world wrapped crime-scene tape around dead coral reefs during a series of underwater dives to highlight the catastrophic damage to this valuable ecosystem and the culpability of the fossil fuel industry for its loss. A series of underwater photographs collected from Samoa, the Australian Great Barrier Reef and the Andaman Islands was released Wednesday to showcase the impacts of the worst mass coral bleaching in recorded history and how it is one of the consequences of the reckless behavior of Exxon and fossil fuel companies hindering global climate action.

    Recent research confirms that the above-average sea temperatures causing this bleaching across 38 countries are the result of human-induced global climate change, rather than from local pollution as was previously argued and the fossil-fuel industry is the main culprit behind these impacts. Since the past century, companies like Exxon chose to ignore the warnings of their own scientists and instead have been pouring resources to actively deceive the public by funding climate denial groups, recommending against climate shareholder resolutions and obstructing climate action.

    What were once bright colorful coral reefs full of life have turned bleached white then murky brown as they've died and become covered in algae. In places like the Great Barrier Reef up to 50 percent of previously healthy reef has been bleached and killed.

    In North America, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting that Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, eastern Micronesia and Hainan Island (China) are likely to have the worst bleaching in the coming months, as well as some bleaching going on in Hawaii and various parts of the Caribbean.

    The event started in 2014 with bleaching from the western Pacific to Florida. In 2015 the event went fully global but mostly through the impacts of global warming as much of the bleaching occurred before the 2015-16 El Niño developed. Reefs support approximately 25 percent of all marine species, so a massive coral die-off may risk the livelihoods of 500 million people and goods and services worth $375 billion each year

    Saturday, August 20, 2016

    Who's Afraid of Hillary Clinton?

    Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders confer during a break in their debate in Charleston, S.C., Jan. 17, 2016. (photo: Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock)
    Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders confer during a break in their debate in Charleston, S.C., Jan. 17, 2016. (photo: Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock)

    By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News
     
    ear, particularly irrational fear, can be its own path to mayhem.

    Hillary Clinton is many things, and is nothing if not determined. However nothing can be accomplished if she is painted as abjectly evil. That she is not. But there are problems. Those problems can be clearly defined. By defining the problems they can be understood and addressed.

    Progressives are angry at this stage. A real progressive candidate mounted a historic bid for the presidency. He was railroaded by a system and by a Democratic Party that sees progress and justice as a threat to their power.

    What fuels the anger more than anything else is a sense that the voice of progressive-Democratic voters was subverted by the DNC and the corporate media. It’s a lot to be angry about, and righteously so.

    In fact the Republican process was, in totality, actually more democratic by default, owing to the failure of the RNC to derail their insurgent candidate, Donald Trump. Although try they did.

    Nonetheless anger, its origin not withstanding, can be a powerful driving force. However as a core strategy for achieving progress and justice it will certainly be a failure.

    Hillary Clinton will be the 45th President of the United States. Donald Trump’s campaign will fail, ultimately because he is Donald Trump and that will prove insurmountable. That and the fact that Hillary Clinton is far more qualified and emotionally stable.

    Now would be an excellent time to begin the process of understanding Hillary, light and dark, and what she is likely to do and not do. Hillary Clinton is not the devil. She is a corporate Democrat. Who incidentally clings to the notion, despite all evidence to the contrary, that she is a progressive. Which could prove quite a useful delusion.

    The question on the table is do you want progress and social justice? Further, would you sacrifice your anger to achieve those goals?

    The first big material problem with Hillary Clinton is her willingness to accept the dictates of America’s wealthiest, most powerful, and most corrupt. Typically referred to as “Wall Street barons” or “the 1%,” they are in fact evil, even if she is not.

    Think of Wall Street as a marketplace for everything that is wrong with humanity.

    Essentially Wall Street commodifies everything. War is not a blight on humanity; it is a commodity to be bought, traded, and most importantly profited from. It’s all a big numbers game. There is no line in the spreadsheet for suffering.

    The same formula applies for the broadcast industry, the healthcare industry, and in fact every publicly traded company in the world. It’s all bottom-line driven, regardless of the consequences.

    So step one to commandeering Hillary Clinton’s presidency will be to drive a wedge between her and not just the overlords of Wall Street but the entire ideology of Wall Street. She has to think and act independently of Wall Street.

    She has to be challenged early and often. Not with childish insults but with facts, evidence, and viable ideas. Throwing your hands up in disgust or absolving yourself of responsibility because Hillary Clinton did or did not do what she should have done won’t get it.

    Denigrating Hillary Clinton is pointless. FDR famously admonished progressive activists who would lecture him on what steps he needed to take. His reply was, “Now go out there and make me do it.” Ad hominem attacks accomplish nothing. If there is a policy she must pursue, we must make that unavoidably clear.

    Hillary Clinton is not just going to wake up on the morning of January 21st and decide that progressive policies are really the best after all. But she can be made to act.

    Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.

    Friday, August 19, 2016

    The #2 Most Heinous Public Person in America Is Now Advising the #1 Most Heinous Person.

    Robert Reich. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty)
    Robert Reich. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty)
    By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Facebook Page
    18 August 16
     
    he #2 most heinous public person in America is advising the #1 most heinous public person on how to be even more heinous. Roger Ailes, the former Fox News chairman, ousted last month over charges of sexual harassment, is now giving media advice to Donald Trump as Trump begins to prepare for the all-important presidential debates this fall, starting with the first debate September 26.

    How fitting. Before he founded Fox News in 1996, Ailes spent years as a pit-bull political strategist for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Rudolph Giuliani.

    And it was Ailes’s Fox News that helped stoke the bigotry and paranoia in America’s white working class that resulted in the rise of Trump. It was Fox News that also elevated Trump as a potential presidential candidate, and has continued to promote his campaign. Oh, and one other thing: Ailes has imposed on women much the same sexist, misogynistic, objectified treatment Trump is known for. They're a perfect match. I wonder when Martin Shkreli will start advising Trump.