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Bird song: the sound of eastern Aleppo's empty streets

MiddleEasteye - 5 hours 37 min ago
Language Undefined

BBC Middle East Correspondent describes the destruction left behind in Aleppo

Prevent on campus: London university reads students' emails

MiddleEasteye - 6 hours 6 min ago
Language Undefined

King's College London tells students and staff it is monitoring messages to meet obligations under government counter-extremism strategy

He Bombed the Poorest People on Earth

LibertarianInstitute - 6 hours 17 min ago

John Pilger has some choice words for those who worship Barack Obama and now fear the end of civilization with the coming of Trump.

Obama “bombed the poorest people on earth, in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan,” Pilger writes.

Where was the progressives’ indignation the last eight years?

Read Pilger’s article here.

The post He Bombed the Poorest People on Earth appeared first on The Libertarian Institute.

He Bombed the Poorest People on Earth was first posted on January 18, 2017 at 10:33 am.

Whole Foods to celebrate monthly food holidays in 2017

MarketWatch Market Pulse - 6 hours 17 min ago

Whole Foods Market Inc. announced Wednesday that it will celebrate at least one food holiday each month in 2017. The effort kicks of on Jan. 20 with National Cheese Lovers Day, when guests will be able to sample a variety of cheeses at all stores, and continues with National Green Juice Day on Jan. 26. The green juice holiday will be accompanied by $2-off digital coupon on any large store-made smoothie or juice from Jan. 25 to Jan. 31. Future food holidays will be announced a week in advance. Whole Foods shares are up 0.2% so far in Wednesday trading, and up 4% for the past year. The S&P 500 index is up 20.7% for the last 12 months.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

Obama Finally Spares a Whistleblower

LibertarianInstitute - 7 hours 2 min ago

On Tuesday, President Obama decided to commute the sentence of whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s remaining prison sentence. Although rumors of the decision had been circulating for weeks, it was a very surprising change of heart for an administration that has earned a reputation for zealously prosecuting whistleblowers.

It’s easily the best news of the year so far, and Obama deserves credit for granting Manning freedom. Manning is rightly hailed as an American hero after leaking thousands of secret documents to Wikileaks, including US diplomatic cables,  war logs from Iraq War 2, and a video feed from a US helicopter raid on civilians during Iraq War 2 that came to be known as Collateral Murder. Manning’s releases are credited with helping bring an earlier drawdown in Iraq (which unfortunately proved to be temporary) and sparking the Arab Spring.

All of which is the long way of saying that the commutation could not have happened to a more deserving individual.

But while Obama certainly deserves praise for this decision, it must be noted that he’s really just undoing some of the harm his administration caused previously. After all, Chelsea Manning’s conviction happened on Obama’s watch. And her prosecution was unprecedented, both in terms of the severity of the sentence and the nature of the charges.  Indeed, the reason that Chelsea Manning’s future looked so bleak–driving her to attempt suicide twice while in custody–is because the Obama Administration threw the book at her, in an apparent bid to deter future whistleblowers.

For now, we should be grateful that Manning’s sentence has been reduced. We can also be grateful that President Obama is concerned enough about his own legacy that he wants to repair some of the damage he caused.

Finally, we can also delight in the new spectacle of watching Democrats and Republicans try to figure out which side of Wikileaks they’re supposed to be on this week. Do they celebrate/condemn Wikileaks for publishing Manning’s documents, which revealed corruption and wrongdoing in the Bush years? Or should they condemn/celebrate Wikileaks for publishing documents that exposed corruption in the DNC and the Clinton campaign? Personally, I feel bad for them. Choosing the right position is hard when you don’t have any principles.

The post Obama Finally Spares a Whistleblower appeared first on The Libertarian Institute.

Obama Finally Spares a Whistleblower was first posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:48 am.

Turkish prosecutor demands lengthy sentences for pro-Kurdish leaders

MiddleEasteye - 7 hours 6 min ago
Language Undefined

HDP leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag face combined sentence of more than 200 years according to indictment

SEC, DOJ fine State Street Corp $64 million for secret commission fraud

MarketWatch Market Pulse - 7 hours 9 min ago

State Street Corporation , the Boston-based global financial services company, will pay a $32.3 million criminal penalty and an additional equal amount to the SEC to resolve the government's investigation into a scheme to defraud at least six of the bank's clients through secret commissions, according to the Department of Justice. The commissions were applied to billions of dollars of fixed income and equity trades for at least six institutional clients and charged in addition to fees the clients had agreed to pay and despite written instructions to the traders not to charge those clients trading commissions. State Street also took steps to hide the commissions from clients and misrepresented its performance to one of these clients in order to conceal a trading loss. The company admitted the allegations and agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement that requires it to employ an independent corporate compliance monitor for three years. State Street has already fully repaid the victims of the scheme. The government had previously charged two former high-ranking State Street executives, former Executive Vice President Ross McLellan and former Senior Managing Director Edward Pennings, with conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud in connection with the same scheme. They are scheduled to go to trial in October.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

Russia says teams up with Turkey for first time to bomb Syrian militants

Top Reuters News - 7 hours 10 min ago
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said its war planes had joined forces with Turkish jets for the first time on Wednesday to target Islamic State militants holding the town of al-Bab in northern Syria, evidence of increasingly close cooperation between Moscow and Ankara.

Liberty Global says Vodafone joint venture is not a deal blueprint

Reuters Us Markets - 7 hours 12 min ago
DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 18 (Reuters) - International cable TV group Liberty Global's joint venture with Vodafone in the Netherlands has started well but is not a blueprint for deals in other...

MOVES-Pension Infrastructure Platform, Willis Towers Watson, BlueBay Asset

Reuters Us Markets - 7 hours 13 min ago
Jan 18 (Reuters) - The following financial services industry appointments were announced on Wednesday. To inform us of other job changes, email moves@thomsonreuters.com.

Gates charity to sell 60 mln Berkshire shares, as Buffett urged

Reuters Us Markets - 7 hours 15 min ago
Jan 18 (Reuters) - The foundation created by billionaire Bill Gates and his wife Melinda plans to sell 60 million Class B shares of Berkshire Hathaway Inc donated by Warren Buffett, reflecting the...

World temperatures hit new high in 2016 for third year in a row

Top Reuters News - 7 hours 15 min ago
OSLO (Reuters) - World temperatures hit a record high for the third year in a row in 2016, creeping closer to a ceiling set for global warming with extremes including unprecedented heat in India and ice melt in the Arctic, U.S. government agencies said on Wednesday.

Investors pare net shorts on U.S. Treasuries -JPM

Reuters Us Markets - 7 hours 16 min ago
NEW YORK, Jan 18 (Reuters) - The margin on bearish bets on longer-dated U.S. Treasuries over bullish positions shrank further as investors reconsidered how many of President-elect Trump's economic...

BRIEF-Freddie Mac forgoes issuing reference notes security on Jan 18, 2017 announcement date

Reuters Us Markets - 7 hours 21 min ago
* Freddie Mac forgoes issuing a reference notes security on its January 18, 2017 announcement date Source text for Eikon: Further company coverage:

MOVES-BlueBay Asset Management appoints emerging markets strategist

Reuters Us Markets - 7 hours 22 min ago
Jan 18 (Reuters) - Fixed income manager BlueBay Asset Management LLP appointed Timothy Ash to the newly created role of emerging markets senior sovereign strategist in its emerging market debt team.

BRIEF-JPMorgan to pay $55 mln to settle with U.S. over alleged discrimination-WSJ

Reuters Us Markets - 7 hours 22 min ago
* JPMorgan to pay $55 million to settle with U.S. Over alleged discrimination - WSJ, citing sources Source text: http://on.wsj.com/2k4hIEY Further company coverage:

UPDATE 1-Bank of Canada holds rates steady amid U.S. uncertainty

Reuters Us Markets - 7 hours 23 min ago
OTTAWA, Jan 18 (Reuters) - The Bank of Canada held interest rates steady on Wednesday, as expected, even as it nudged growth forecasts higher, saying the big unknown of what policies...

UPDATE 1-EU leaders welcome Brexit clarity, Merkel says EU united ahead of talks

Reuters Us Markets - 7 hours 24 min ago
* Result must not be stronger Britain, weaker EU -Slovak PM (Adds Gentiloni, further Merkel quotes and wraps in Juncker, Slovak PM )

FOREX-Dollar edges up after hitting nearly six-week low

Reuters Us Markets - 7 hours 25 min ago
* Sterling drops after largest one-day rise since at least 1998

Paranormals, Psychics, and Politicians: The Human Need to Believe in Hucksters

LibertarianInstitute - 7 hours 26 min ago

Why are Clinton loyalists blaming Putin for Hillary losing the election?

Why do Trump loyalists believe that Donald’s economic hokum will make America great again?

Why do I believe in different nonsense without realizing it?

What is it about humans from all walks of life and education levels that they fall for flimflam artists, hucksters, scoundrels, and claptrap?  Why do they suspend rationality, reason, and logic?

One can spend a lifetime looking for answers in philosophy, history, anthropology, sociology, and evolutionary psychology.  Or one can spend an hour and 33 minutes watching the 2015 documentary, “An Honest Liar.”

The documentary is about magician and escape artist James Randi, who, after retiring from a successful career at sleight of hand, set out to expose popular faith healers, paranormals, psychics, and televangelists as frauds and hucksters.

The documentary could just as well have been about politicians, or, for that matter, the news media, TV commercials, and reality shows.

James Randi saw himself as an honest liar, because he never portrayed himself during his career as anything but a magician and entertainer.  The charlatans, on the other hand, took advantage of people by pretending to have special powers, including healing powers.

It’s the same with politicians who pretend to have special powers and insights instead of just admitting that they are magicians and entertainers.   Take FDR, one of the most beloved presidents in history.   Because he had no idea about how to repair the economy, FDR flailed about wildly with economic hokum after economic hokum, thus protracting the Great Depression.  But he came across as confident, sincere, articulate, and caring.  He also was a master at using the Twitter of the day, the radio, in his fireside chats with the public.

It’s no surprise that the charlatans exposed by Randi had similar traits.

Faith healer Peter Popoff was one of them.  He had the looks and charm of a newscaster on the evening news.  Thousands would attend his faith-healing events and cheer, cry and swoon as they watched him receive a private message from God and then select people out of the audience, supposedly at random.  Popoff would then proceed to identify the ailments of the selected people and cure them on the spot.  But as Randi revealed, Popoff’s special gift was a tiny receiver in his ear.  His wife, who was offstage, would use a radio transmitter to read cards to Peter that people had filled out beforehand about their infirmities—similar to newscasters reading scripts written by someone else or to politicians reading a teleprompter.

Many believers became angry after Randi exposed Popoff and others as frauds—not angry at the hucksters but angry at Randi.   It’s only human, after all, to want to believe that someone has the answers to life’s mysteries, has the power to make everything okay, has easy solutions to complex problems, and is pure of heart and cares for others.  Burst their bubble at your own peril.

Ironically, famous media personalities fell for the shticks of some of the hucksters exposed by Randi.  Hucksters in their own right, the media elites thought they were smarter than the average bloke but in actuality didn’t have the smarts to realize that they were being duped by better skilled hucksters.

Randi even set up an experiment to show that physicists could be fooled by hucksters pretending to have telepathic powers.

Which brings us back to Hillary Clinton.

Her loyalists are less angry about her losing the election than they are about the curtain being pulled back to reveal that she is a huckster.  The resulting cognitive dissonance was too much for their psyche to bear.  They couldn’t accept that they had been duped by a phony in whom they had believed for decades, and in whom they had invested their self-worth. That left them with only one escape from the psychological trap:  to blame someone other than her or themselves.

Republicans are no different.  They just believe different hucksters, as was the case with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

The same with me, in ways that I don’t yet realize.

And it will be the same with Trumpers, after they discover that Trump is a huckster selling economic snake oil.

Being embarrassed about being wrong is a blessing and completely natural and expected.  It should be celebrated instead of denied.  It’s a blessing to find out that you’ve been duped, that you’ve put your faith in a scoundrel, that you believed a falsehood, and that you had the facts wrong about something.  Otherwise, one stays trapped in perpetual adolescence, never questioning assumptions and beliefs about the world and never acquiring wisdom, thus ending up like such simpleminded ideologues as Sean Hannity and Alec Baldwin—which would be the ultimate embarrassment.

Of course hucksterism goes beyond politics.  It is the foundation of the TV industry.  TV hucksters hawk magic elixirs that supposedly make it easy to lose weight, attract the opposite sex, smooth your wrinkles, or give you a 12-hour erection.  Other hucksters hawk cars and trucks that will accomplish the same things.  Still others hawk craft beers, free-range coffee beans, and electronic gadgets that will do the same, along with FICO scores and credit cards to buy the stuff and be forever in debt to the hucksters.

Of course those who succumb to such seductive advertising are not sexier, smarter, wiser, or hipper after buying the stuff than before they bought it, but are certainly poorer afterwards. In my case, I would still have a large Roman nose on my face and have an average IQ, whether I drove a Maserati or Corolla.

Then there are the reality shows that make fake news look real by comparison.

An example is “Alaska, the Last Frontier,” which is about a family that pretends that they will starve over the Alaskan winter if they don’t kill enough game and chop enough wood in the short summer and fall.  Unspoken is the fact that a town and supermarket are within driving distance on a paved highway.  And unexplained is how they can afford a fleet of snow machines, ATVs, tractors, bulldozers, backhoes, and even a large tugboat and barge—or how it pays to take a boat or seaplane 300 miles to a wilderness area to shoot a bear for meat instead of driving to the Safeway and buying a rump roast.

Even worse is the “Property Brothers,” a popular show on HGTV featuring two brothers who convince gullible homeowners to renovate their homes at ridiculously low quoted prices and short timeframes.  The brothers pretend to do much of the work themselves while dressed in clean skinny jeans and skinny shirts and wearing tool belts that look as if they just came off a Home Depot shelf.  The brothers don’t look anything like the burly beer-bellied guys who actually do such work.  Instead, they look like effete metrosexual males with scruffy beards, the kind that hang out at Starbucks, drive a Mini Cooper, and wear pink breast cancer ribbons in order to get bedded by weepy women or other metrosexual males.

Worse yet is “Flip or Flop,” featuring a California husband and wife who buy distressed properties and renovate them for resale.   The wife has a grating Valley-girl voice and sees herself as a fashion model, complete with long false eyelashes, longer false nails, short skirts, and the standard bleached-blonde hair with dark roots.  Some staged scenes show her pretending to paint a large inside wall with a tiny three-inch trim roller without an extension handle, as multiple bracelets dangle from her wrists and clingy skirts shake seductively on her hips.  Miraculously, there is not a drop of paint on her or the uncovered floor.  The plot is always the same:  After buying a house, the couple discovers that the roof needs to be replaced, or the electrical system needs to be upgraded, or water and sewer pipes are shot, or the foundation is sinking at one end.  They never learn to spot these problems beforehand.   Of course the show would be devoid of drama if they did learn.

Each “Flip or Flop” episode ends on an even more absurd note.  As prospective buyers walk up the sidewalk to an “open house” of one of the couple’s remodeled houses, they are wired with mics and make rehearsed comments about the house, as if it’s perfectly normal to go to an open house and be recorded and filmed by a camera crew.

There’s nothing real about any of these shows.  They’re all fake shows.  But they are very popular, just like fake news, fake elixirs, fake erections, and fake politicians.

Well, enough of that.  It’s time for me to check my horoscope.

The post Paranormals, Psychics, and Politicians: The Human Need to Believe in Hucksters appeared first on The Libertarian Institute.

Paranormals, Psychics, and Politicians: The Human Need to Believe in Hucksters was first posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:23 am.

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