September 2014 archive
Sep 27 2014
Sep 27 2014
Japanese company creates ball-balancing cheerleader robots
Michelle Lynn Dinh
Japan has an infatuation with robots; after all, you don’t see beautiful cyborg women hanging out in restaurants in the US or 24-fingered hair washing bots in the UK. That’s why we weren’t surprised at all to find that Japan has just produced a gang of cheerleading robots that dance in sync while balancing on a ball.
Officially called the “Murata Cheerleaders,” these balancing robots are the fourth generation of robots to be produced by the company. The bicycle-riding Murata Boy was first to come in 1991, followed by the second version of the Murata Boy in 2005, and the Murata Girl who learned to ride a unicycle in 2008.
Sep 27 2014
R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes of Garden City, Michigan and Lakeland Eye Clinic of Lakeland, Florida have been found to have much in common by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In 2013 Aimee Stephens, an embalmer and Funeral Director told her boss at Harris that she was transitioning from male to female. Two weeks after that the owner of the funeral home chain fired here…telling her that what she proposed to do was “unacceptable.”
In 2011 Brandi Branson was fired from her job as director of hearing services at Lakeland Eye Clinic after informing her employer that she was transitioning to female and beginning to wear makeup and women’s tailored clothing.
Branson observed that co-workers snickered, rolled their eyes and withdrew from social interactions with her.
EEOC says the companies violated federal law by discriminating based on gender stereotypes. and has filed suit against them.
Sep 26 2014
Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.
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Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
A couple of months ago, at the height of the summer tomato season, I gave you a recipe for a delicious whole wheat focaccia with tomatoes and fontina. I was so enthralled with the bread that I decided I’d come back to it and post a week’s worth of focaccia recipes. [..]
Focaccia takes more time to make than pizza, but I find that it’s less challenging to make and it’s more versatile in some ways. You can serve it warm or at room temperature, as a snack or as a small meal. It’s easy to transport, freezes well and lends itself beautifully to whole grain flour.
~ Martha Rose Shulman ~
A lightly sweetened flatbread is topped with hazelnuts and the last plums and figs of summer.
This is a beautiful, slightly sweet focaccia that goes well with cheese.
The potato in this savory focaccia is blended into the dough.
This focaccia looks and tastes like summer in Provençe or Tuscany.
This savory focaccia is garnished with a medley of Mediterranean vegetables.
Sep 26 2014
Why It Matters That Statoil Just Shelved Its Multi-Billion-Dollar Tar Sands Project
by Emily Atkin, Think Progress
September 26, 2014 at 2:19 pm
Statoil is putting the project on hold for a few reasons, but the most notable is the company’s assertion that there is “limited pipeline access” for the oil. In other words, Statoil is not sure there is enough pipeline capacity for it to actually get the oil out of northern Canada. According to Reuters, Statoil is the first company to explicitly cite pipeline access as a reason for delaying or cancelling a project.
The momentum surrounding opposition to Keystone XL has done more than just delay the one pipeline – it’s made companies extremely wary of pursuing pipeline projects that cross the border to bring Canadian tar sands oil into the United States. According to Leach, that broader fact is now making some companies rethink tar sands production projects.
Because of Statoil’s postponement, some have called into question the accuracy of the State Department’s claim that building Keystone XL would not impact global greenhouse gas emissions, because the oil produced in Canada would get to market anyway. But as Leach points out, the State Department’s assessment only looked at the 800,000 daily barrels of oil that would be produced by Keystone – not the ripple effect approval might have on other cross-border pipeline projects.
Another reason Statoil may have put its project on the shelf is because of its shareholders. Unlike most Canadian-based oil companies, stockholders of the Norwegian energy company have put a decent amount of pressure on the company to make environmentally-friendly investments.
“Statoil has been under a lot of pressure at home in terms of their oil sands investments,” Leach said. “For them, building a new oil sands project is going to be difficult given the opposition … They won’t be able to push ahead if it’s even slightly risky.”
Sep 26 2014
Baris Karaagac is a lecturer in International Development Studies at Trent University, in Ontario.
The U.S. has begun its bombing campaign in Syria, ostensibly against the Islamic State, only a year after a failed effort by President Obama to initiate a bombing campaign against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Fighting between IS and various armed groups has brought about 140,000 Syrian Kurdish refugees across the border into Turkey. A member of NATO, Turkey has been playing a major role for the past couple of years in facilitating aid, armaments, transportation to Syrian rebel groups that had been fighting Assad. Though the Turkish government has said it will not be joining the broad coalition in the war against the Islamic State, being on the border with Syria, it is without question a major player here.
Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College.
Funny thing for the American president to talk about adhering to international laws. Also, Mr. Obama at the UN said that the large nations should not trample small ones in pursuit of what he called “territorial ambition”. These are curious statements coming from the American president at this time. There’s no UN resolution that allows the United States to carry out operations in Syria. You’ll remember that in Libya in 2011 there was a great hoopla made about the importance of getting a UN resolution. Here there was no attempt to get any resolution. They simply bombed in Syria. The question of international norms or international resolutions, you know, coming from Mr. Obama is not really about whether there are international norms or resolutions to uphold.
But why is Mr. Obama saying this? What is his audience? It’s plain that the American right wing, the Republicans and some sections of the Democratic Party, don’t really care about international norms. They believe in the executive authority of the president. They don’t even believe the United Nations or international law should play any role vis-à-vis American policymaking.
And then you have the world community. You know, when they hear things like big countries shouldn’t trample small countries, people keep thinking of Iraq. I mean, from 1991 till the present, Iraq sovereignty has been trampled by the United States. However you define territorial ambitions, it need not be a country that’s right next to the U.S. for it to exercise its extraterritorial or territorial ambitions. So most people around the world would not see the credibility of that statement.
I think this particular gesture comes towards the liberal wing of the American population that’s maybe a little anxious about this escalation into warfare. You know, there are people who are saying that they voted twice for Mr. Obama and they are now feeling a great sense of regret, not only over Guantanamo, etc., but now perhaps the entry into a new war in West Asia.
Liberal base sours on Obama
By Justin Sink, The Hill
09/26/14 06:00 AM EDT
Obama has taken a number of steps in recent months that put him out of step with the coalition of young adults, women and minorities that helped him win the White House.
The problems began last year with revelations about the National Security Agency’s top-secret surveillance programs – the same kind of programs that were condemned on the left during the George W. Bush years.
A Pew poll this summer found that, despite Obama’s efforts to explain and reform the surveillance programs, 58 percent of so-called “solid liberals” continued to oppose the NSA efforts.
Concerns about the president’s use of military force, meanwhile, have intensified with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Liberals largely elected President Obama in 2008 on the promise he would extract the U.S. from Middle East conflicts, and the prospect of a new military campaign is not sitting well with many of them.
Since announcing that he would delay executive action on immigration reform until after the midterm elections, Obama’s numbers have plummeted with Hispanic voters. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 47 percent of Latino voters approved of the president’s performance, down 15 points over the past 20 months.
Sep 26 2014
Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when
we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.
This Day in History
JFK and Nixon participate in TV’s first presidential debate; Cuba ends Mariel boatlift; Composer George Gershwin, poet T.S. Eliot and tennis star Serena Williams born; ‘West Side Story’ hits Broadway
Sep 26 2014
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
September 26 is the 269th day of the year (270th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 96 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day on 1957, West Side Story premieres on Broadway. East Side Story was the original title of the Shakespeare-inspired musical conceived by choreographer Jerome Robbins, written by playwright Arthur Laurents and scored by composer and lyricist Leonard Bernstein in 1949. A tale of star-crossed lovers-one Jewish, the other Catholic-on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the show in its original form never went into production, and the idea was set aside for the next six years. It was more than just a change of setting, however, that helped the re-titled show get off the ground in the mid-1950s. It was also the addition of a young, relatively unknown lyricist named Stephen Sondheim. The book by Arthur Laurents and the incredible choreography by Jerome Robbins helped make West Side Story a work of lasting genius, but it was the strength of the songs by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein that allowed it to make its Broadway debut on this day in 1957.
There are no videos of the original Broadway production which starred Larry Kert as Tony, Carol Lawrence as Maria, Ken Le Roy as Bernardo and Chita Rivera as Anita (Ms. Rivera reprized her role in the movie), so here is the Prologue from the Academy Award winning movie. The area that the movie was filmed no longer exists. The 17 blocks between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, from West 60th to West 66th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where he filming took place were demolished to build Lincoln Center for the Preforming Arts.
Sep 26 2014
Sep 25 2014
Everything That’s Wrong With The NFL Is Wrong With America, Too
By Richard RJ Eskow, Crooks And Liars
September 25, 2014 8:00 am
The NFL organization has 1,856 employees and paid $107.7 million per year in salaries last year. Goodell was paid more than $44 million. That means more than 40 percent of the organization’s entire payroll went to one individual.
Most of Goodell’s income was in the form of a “bonus” based on performance standards which, like that of many corporate CEOs, have never been publicly defined.
Roger Goodell is not a “job creator,” even by the right’s loose definition. He – like most corporate CEOs nowadays – invented nothing, made nothing, and built nothing. And the gravy train doesn’t stop at his house. Jeff Pash, the General Counsel, was paid $6,199,000. The EVP of Business Ventures got $4,180,000. The CFO made nearly $2 million. The EVPs of Operations and Human Resources made more than $1.6 million each. (Another executive, the EVP of media, was paid $26 million by an “affiliated” organization.)
All told, more than 54 percent of the organization’s entire payroll went to five individuals – the organization’s top 0.0027 percent. The remaining 43 percent or so was divided among 1,851 employees- the 99.9973 percent.
Executives like Goodell – or, for that matter, bank CEOs like JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon – seem to be compensated more for their ability to influence elected officials than for their business acumen. On that score, at least, he’s been a good investment. In addition to protecting its tax status, Goodell’s NFL has brokered loans, bonds and tax concessions for its franchises.
The NFL had annual gross receipts of $184.3 million in 2010 – and that doesn’t include earnings for the individual franchises which own it. It reported $788,113,036 in total assets on the tax-exemption form which is its only public disclosure. It gave exorbitant salaries to its top executives – and it paid no taxes.
As for his accomplishments, well … Under his leadership the NFL fought reports of player head injuries for years. Its security apparatus and legal teams have intervened when its players are arrested, often for violent crimes, securing special treatment which ordinary citizens don’t receive. It has fostered a culture of misogyny, brutality, and amorality in the field of sport, whose stars were once considered examples for young people to follow,
Goodell’s football league isn’t an example for today’s corporatized America. It’s a reflection of it.
Bill Simmons Suspended by ESPN for Tirade on Roger Goodell
By RICHARD SANDOMIR, The New York Times
SEPT. 24, 2014
Simmons, on his Grantland.com podcast, repeatedly called Goodell a liar for saying that he had not seen the elevator video of Rice punching his fiancée.
Simmons calmly delivered his harshly critical remarks while peppering them with obscenity – an incendiary brew, especially considering ESPN’s business relationship with the N.F.L. on “Monday Night Football,” the college draft and other programming.
On his Grantland podcast, Simmons said: “Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar. I’m just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie-detector test, that guy would fail.” He added: “I really hope somebody calls me or emails me and says I’m in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goodell, because if one person says that to me, I’m going public. You leave me alone.”
Bill Simmons suspension highlights uneasy, $15 billion relationship between the NFL and ESPN
By Terrence McCoy, Washington Post
September 25 at 6:20 AM
The suspension highlights the uneasy – though lucrative and mutually beneficial – relationship between the two powerful acronyms, joined in a $15.2-billion contract over “Monday Night Football.” It also hints at questions over a conflict of interest that, despite its strong coverage of the Ray Rice scandal, ESPN has never been able to shake. How can ESPN simultaneously cover the NFL as a subject while reaping billions from their business ties?
His suspension immediately sparked concern among reporters and editors. “Did ESPN have any idea how all of this would look?” asked Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Pearce.
“Apparently saying Roger Goodell is a liar is a much worse offense than Roger Goodell lying,” added Judd Legum, the editor of ThinkProgress. “Is it ESPN’s corporate position that Roger Goodell is not a liar? Because their own reporting says he is a liar.”
The suspension comes at a particularly inconvenient time for ESPN, which just got done patting itself on the back for excising its conflict-of-interest demons. The piece, written by network ombudsman Robert Lipsyte, explicitly praised Simmons for excoriating Goodell. “The networks heavyweights – Keith Olbermann, Jason Whitlock and Bill Simmons, among others – delivered their own verbal punches,” he wrote in a blog. “I’d like to say I wasn’t the least bit surprised … but I was.”
In February 2004, ESPN canceled its popular series, “Playmakers,” after only one season. Despite the fact the series never mentioned the words “National Football League,” the football association was nonetheless offended by its sex-and-drugs portrayal of professional football players.
“It’s our opinion that we’re not in the business of antagonizing our partner, even though we’ve done it, and continued to carry it over the N.F.L.’s objections,” Mark Shapiro, ESPN’s executive vice president, told the New York Times. “To bring it back would be rubbing it in our partner’s face.”
The fraught relationship between ESPN and the NFL, however, came under its greatest scrutiny during what the network’s ombudsman called ESPN’s “darkest” hour. In August 2013, the New York Times reported ESPN abruptly terminated its affiliation with PBS’s “Frontline.” The network had teamed up with the show to produce an unsettling investigation into the league’s inaction regarding the crippling psychological effects football can have on players.
Though the NFL denied it pressured ESPN to ditch the project, high-level executives from both entities had, according to the New York Times, a “combative” meeting at a Manhattan restaurant over the documentary. ESPN President John Skipper told the network’s ombudsman he thought the trailer promoting the documentary was “sensational” and some of the comments in it were “over the top. … I am the only one at ESPN who has to balance the conflict between journalism and programming.”