The Inventor of the High Five…


From Priceonomics

The high five is ubiquitous. It’s a gesture that permeates every social environment — the workplace, the bar, the middle school kickball field — and it seems to be appropriate in almost any situation. Your friend got married? High five. You chugged an entire liter of IPA? High five. You just re-enacted, word-for-word, the opening sequence of A Clockwork Orange? High five! Since its inception, the hand-slapping maneuver has taken on multiple iterations and has never fallen out of style.

But tracing the origins of the high five reveals a riveting, heroic, dark story that seems to be everything the joyous gesture is not.

Death On All Sides…

sA member of the Free Syrian Army sits on a sofa in Deir al-Zor, Syria (Reuters/Khalil Ashawi)

From Adbusters

Forgotten and encircled in Syria, Brandon Gray reports from a refugee camp in Northern Syria.

The refugee camp of 20,000, mostly children, on the Syrian side of the Turkish border north of Aleppo faces death on all sides. There is a grinding lack of humanitarian aid, a ruthless Assad regime offensive led by elite troops from Iran pushing a wave of new refugees toward the camp, and fundamentalist Islamic State fighters advancing towards them from the East with Russian T-72 tanks and American humvees captured from defeated Iraqi military units.

If the Islamic State captures the area, “they will cut my head [off]” says Yusuf, a young rebel fighter and media activist fresh from fighting them 40 km to the east of the camp. He had already lost eight friends and fellow fighters in Aleppo when their unit became encircled seven months ago by the Islamic State, then known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He escaped death only by a “miracle.” Now they have tanks, humvees, artillery, heavy machine guns — “they have everything” — and have captured Yusuf’s home town of al Bab, right next to Aleppo city. “They have come to conquer our country. To make an Islamic State, a Caliphate.” Since speaking with Yusuf, the Islamic State has launched attacks within Aleppo itself, killing several rebels.

Drone Warfare: Who is dying in Afghanistan’s 1,000-plus drone strikes?

dCrewmen from 39 Squadron, Royal Air Force, pilot a Reaper over Afghanistan (Photo: Ministry of Defence)

From Bureau of Investigative Journalism

On the afternoon of September 7 last year, a truck made its way along a remote road in Watapur, a region in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. A local farmer, Miya Jan, heard a buzzing overhead, and looked up to see a drone above him, he told the Los Angeles Times. Minutes later, he heard an explosion.

Reaching the site, he realised the mangled vehicle belonged to his cousin. Among the bodies, he recognised his brother and his brother’s family. “There were pieces of my family all over the road,” he told the newspaper. “I picked up those pieces from the road and from the truck and wrapped them in a sheet to bury them.”

Substitute Teacher Fired for His Music Video Mocking Religion Finally Gets Some Justice…

Last year, I posted a delightfully funny video about two parents teaching their daughter about different religions, only to have her respond with “That doesn’t make sense!” to all of them:

That video was made by guitarist Jonathan Hurley and actress Whitney Avalon (who played the parents) and they even won an award for it last month. Yay! Happy ending, right?

Turns out that wasn’t the case for Hurley.

‘Witch Hunt’: Fired MSNBC Contributor Speaks Out on Suppression of Israel-Palestine Debate…

From AlterNet

As Gaza body toll mounts, NBC executives crack down on criticism of Israel.

MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal’s on-air protest of the network’s slanted coverage of Israel’s ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip has brought media suppression of the Israel-Palestine debate into sharp focus. Punished for her act of dissent with the cancellation of all future appearances and the termination of her contract, Jebreal spoke to me about what prompted her to speak out and why MSNBC was presenting such a distorted view of the crisis.

“I couldn’t stay silent after seeing the amount of airtime given to Israeli politicians versus Palestinians,” Jebreal told me. “They say we are balanced but their idea of balance is 90 percent Israeli guests and 10 percent Palestinians. This kind of media is what leads to the failing policies that we see in Gaza.”

Gene Logsdon: Old (Farm) Wives’ Tales

The Contrary Farmer

We are down to only three hens at the moment, thanks to foxes or coyotes exacting their yearly tribute, but we are still getting two eggs every day. One of the two recently was a small, yolkless egg. “Old wives” told me when I was a child that such an egg signals the end of a hen’s laying season until she molts and starts up again. But since that yolkless little egg, we have continued to  get two normal-size ones every day. One might argue, in defense of old wives’ tales, that the third hen started laying the minute she noticed that one of others had laid a small egg. But if something that outlandish could be true then, according to another old wives’ tale, that first egg she laid should have had a little dried blood smeared on the shell which was not the case.

There’s another mystery involved. I asked my sister, the one closest to me in age, if she had heard about this last egg-first egg morsel of folklore and she said no. How could she not have heard what I heard since we grew up together. Perhaps her memory is dimming quicker than mine, although I would not dare say that in her presence. So I ask all of you: have you heard this folklore? Did I just dream it up?

Welcome to Utopia…

From Australian Magazine

On a remote Island, a rich former executive and his wife wait for the world to end. They want others to join — but it’s a one-way trip…

Three reasons why the world can’t end: my wife and daughters. Things I won’t miss: eight-character passwords, four-digit pins and leaf-blowers; life’s merry-go-round of small victories, the carrot-and-stick mystery of existence and “down, down, prices are down”.

A bullying moonlit ocean wave slams the wall of my cabin, our 14m ­catamaran dips into a trough and a blue ink line slashes across my notepad. We are nine hours’ hard night sail from the new world.

I sleep and dream of drowning. Before dawn I emerge above deck to find Steve Quinto at the ship’s wheel, where I left him last night. Steve is a rich American businessman. He once owned an international airline, pioneered low-cost travel across the United States. Steve believes the world I know is in the second phase of certain self-destruction. “So you’ve found your way to us,” he says. He nods to the horizon. Cloud and fog seem to shift at his command and the untouched, impenetrable west coast forest mountains of the island of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, rise out of the Pacific like monsters made of moss and vine.

Beyond those mountains is Steve’s utopia, an 800ha living ark that he has spent the past eight of his 79 years creating, investing his life’s fortune in the shipment of 300 tonnes of materials from around the world to the very edge of human existence. Paradise. Salvation. A new world for when the old one dies. He calls it Edenhope. Eden would have sufficed. “Soon you will meet Ona,” Steve says. Ona is a girl. Ona is a beginning…

Complete story with videos here

Reasonable Doubt…

From The Automatic Earth

Presumed innocent. Innocent until proven guilty. Reasonable doubt. How long ago it seems that these principles guided our societies. Perhaps there are a few courts in the heartland left that still live up to them, but the aftermath of 9/11 certainly erased them from the overall American conscience. Some animals are more equal than others, said Orwell in Animal Farm.

Guantanamo Bay showed that some people are far less equal than others, and laws that apply to everyone else don’t apply to them. That, somewhat ironically, is probably the case at the other end, the upper echelons of society, as well, judging from the – lack of – numbers of persecuted bankers.

War Zones…


From James Howard Kunstler

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summed it up the other day when he said, “We use our rockets to protect our women and children; they [Hamas] use their women and children to protect their rockets.”

Some time ago, the Left adopted the Palestinians as their pet oppressed minority group so there is nothing that Israel might do that will be okay with them, except to commit suicide, that is, cease to exist — which is the stated policy of Hamas. Every time Israel refuses the suggestion that it cease to exist, the Left becomes inflamed. They cannot imagine why Israel would prefer to fight for its existence than to roll over and die.

Americans Are Leaving Religion Behind and It Scares the Hell Out of the Christian Right…

From AlterNet
Conservatives are getting more frantic and repressive by the minute, in response to America’s growing secularism.

There’s been a lot of ink spilled about the increasing political polarization in America,  which is at historically high levels. There are a lot of reasons for it, including changing demographics, women’s growing empowerment, the internet, the economy and cable news. But religion and religious belief plays an important role as well. There’s no way around it: America is quickly becoming two nations, one ruled over by fundamentalist Christians and their supporters and one that is becoming all the more secular over time, looking more and more like western Europe in its relative indifference to religion. And caught in between are a group of liberal Christians that are culturally aligned with secularists and are increasingly and dismayingly seeing the concept of “faith” aligned with a narrow and conservative political worldview.

Why do Americans claim to be more religious than they are?

From The Hidden Brain

Walking Santa, Talking Christ

Two in five Americans say they regularly attend religious services. Upward of 90 percent of all Americans believe in God, pollsters, and more than 70 percent have absolutely no doubt that God exists. The patron saint of Christmas, Americans insist, is the emaciated hero on the Cross, not the obese fellow in the overstuffed costume.

Two in five Americans say they regularly attend religious services. Upward of 90 percent of all Americans believe in God, pollstersreport, and more than 70 percent have absolutely no doubt that God exists. The patron saint of Christmas, Americans insist, is the emaciated hero on the Cross, not the obese fellow in the overstuffed costume.

William Edelen: Time… and the River Flowing

The Contrary Minister

Sitting by the River, surrounded by the beauty and magic of Oak Creek Canyon, in Sedona AZ, has been one of the most enduring Joys of my 92 years of life. Great TRUTHS about life, the movement of our days, with the decisions and attitudes that create either great happiness and peace, or else fill our days with despair, anger and stress, have come to me from that river and how it relates to time… flowing even as the river flows.

I have dated this essay the 17th of July, the day I entered the world 92 years ago in Stephenville, Texas, (called “The Cowboy Capital of the World”, due to so many of the National Rodeo Champions who live there). I have chosen that date on purpose. WHY? Because I consider this subject one of the most important of ALL my subjects of the last 40 years. We live today in a culture and society filled with human beings living with daily stress, anxiety, frustrations, confusion over values, shallow relationships and the chaos created in the mind and emotions of so many personal lives.

Tony Serra a tireless courtroom ‘Verbal Warrior’…

From SF Gate

On Thursday morning, Tony Serra will put on his best $10 suit and loose secondhand shoes to begin what could be his last big courtroom battle – the defense of Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, presumed leader of a Chinatown money laundering ring and a central figure in an indictment that has also targeted state Sen. Leland Yee.

The hearing, in federal court before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, will involve 29 defendants. Among their lawyers, Serra will be easy to spot – shaggy side hair, broken teeth, loud tie, but still at his fighting weight of 195 pounds and arguing for his client at every turn.

Dying With Dignity: A Reading List About the Right-to-Die Debate…


From Longreads

Should patients suffering from terminal illnesses and unbearable pain be able to make the decision to end their lives? Helping the terminally ill end their lives is illegal in all but five states in the U.S. Here, five stories looking at the right-to-die debate.

1. “Helping Dad Die: A Daughter’s Story.” (Catherine Syer, Financial Times)

In the U.K., Britons with terminal illnesses or incurable diseases have nowhere to go if they want aid in dying. A daughter’s personal story about finding a way to ease her father’s suffering.

2. “The Right to Die is the Right to Live.” (Lisa Carver, Vice Magazine)

A mother decides to give her son Wolf, a talented artist who suffers from a range of ailments, autonomy over his own life.

Christian Crock of the Week: How To Be Sneaky Racist for Fun and Profit…

From Stuff Fundies Like

Way back in the day, Bob Jones University lost its tax-exempt status because it refused to change its policy on interracial (whatever that means) dating. A lot of other fundamentalist institutions beheld this debacle from afar off and were severely torn between the love of two different kinds of money: 1) money in tax savings and 2) money from the racist parents of students at their schools who didn’t want their little girl dating one of “those people.”

So somebody came up with a VERY CLEVER compromise called the “parental consent” rule which said that any dating relationship on campus has to have parental permission. This kicked responsibility up the road a bit so that the administration could claim “We’re not racists — we just follow the wishes of racists parents who pay us money!”

Dear Christians: Don’t Be Evil…


From Salon

9 sinister things the Christian right does in the name of God

Hobby Lobby isn’t alone. Evangelicals routinely manipulate the Bible’s teachings to serve their political agenda

Christians may be a super majority in the U.S. They may control the U.S. Congress and, as we all were reminded recently, the Supreme Court. But that hasn’t stopped Bible believers from preparing their children for martyrdom. Web resources abound for church youth leaders who want to make sure their young charges are ready when the lions come for them. Titles include, “Expect to be Persecuted” “Persecution Equals Reward” and “Adventure Game—Persecution of Christians and Paul of Tarsus.”

Todd Walton: Food Prices

Under The Table Books

“U.S. food prices are on the rise, raising a sensitive question: When the cost of a hamburger patty soars, does it count as inflation?” Ben Leubsdorf and Jon Kilsenrath

The sentence above opens a recent article in The Wall Street Journal and illuminates one of the most despicable practices of our government: not counting food prices when calculating the rate of inflation. Imagine not counting rainfall when supposedly measuring rainfall.

I have avoided listening to audio of Janet Yellen, the new chair of the Federal Reserve, because the articles wherein she is quoted make her sound like a dupe of epic proportions, and listening to dupes is one of my least favorite activities. In the Wall Street Journalarticle of which I speak, she is quoted as saying she is not certain that food prices are relevant to discussions of inflation.

Will Parrish: Jared Huffman — CalTrans Errand Boy


“I think this is the district in the state that can and should serve up a real environmental leader in a time of great need and urgency — and that’s why I’m running.” — US. RepJared Huffman (D-San Rafael), 2006

Last week, the US Congressional representative for California’s North Coast, a former Natural Resources Defense Council attorney named Jared Huffman, threw the full weight of his legislative power behind the most environmentally destructive project in the recent history of Mendocino County, the California Department of Transportation’s Willits Bypass. This more than $300 million project, as presently designed, requires the largest filling in of wetlands in northern California in more than 50 years.


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