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8382NEWS -- 2013.12.30.Monday

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  • James Martin
    Dec 30, 2013
      Monday 30 December 2013

      1) Robin Roberts Addresses Sexuality
      2) A&E Ducks for Cover by Forgiving Phil Robertson
      3) Duke Grad Student Secretly Lived In a Van to Escape Loan Debt
      4) Report: NSA Intercepts Computer Deliveries
      5) Forty Percent Of Workers Made Less Than $20,000 Last Year

      EXTRA -- Don't miss this one --->
      How A Federal Judge In Utah Adeptly Dismantled All Of The Arguments Against Marriage Equality
      By Zack Ford on December 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm


      Robin Roberts Addresses Sexuality
      By Robert Pace, Sunday 29 December 2013

      As she reflected on her condition last year in recovery from a bone marrow transplant, Good Morning America host Robin Roberts publicly acknowledged her sexuality for the first time.
      Roberts, 53, posted a flashback photo on her Facebook page from exactly a year ago, when she was 100 days in recovery from a bone marrow transplant.

      RELATED PICS: Stars Who've Come Out As Bisexual

      In the caption, she reflected upon the many things in life she is thankful for, including her girlfriend, Amber.

      "At this moment I am at peace and filled with joy and gratitude. I am grateful to God, my doctors and nurses for my restored good health. I am grateful for my sister, Sally-Ann, for being my donor and giving me the gift of life. I am grateful for my entire family, my long time [sic] girlfriend, Amber, and friends as we prepare to celebrate a glorious new year together," the Good Morning America anchor wrote.

      RELATED: GMA's Sam Champion Marries Longtime Partner

      According to Variety, an ABC News spokesperson said that Roberts has been in a 10-year relationship with a woman named Amber Laign, a massage therapist whom she met through mutual friends.

      "We love Robin and Amber, who we have all known for a long time," a spokesperson for GMA said. "We were so touched by her Facebook message today and so thankful for all the loving support she has in her life."

      Roberts has been a co-anchor at GMA since 2005, previously working as an anchor for ESPN's SportsCenter from 1990 to 2005.


      My comment ---
      Reight wing christians were thrilled when Sam Champion left the show. Now they are in hissy-fit mode again learning that GMA still has a queer. (!)


      See also http://omg.yahoo.com/blogs/celeb-news/robin-roberts-comes-out-on-facebook-223218396.html


      A&E Ducks for Cover by Forgiving Phil Robertson
      By Michael Musto
      December 30th 2013 5:45 am
      More Stories by Michael Musto
      As remotes around the country thumped along with bibles, 'Duck Dynasty' ratings were set to dip. So the network let Phil Robertson off the hook for his homophobic rant.
      Let me goose A&E as they duck for cover over their botched handling of the Phil Robertson mess. Robertson, of course, is the petty patriarch of the Louisiana family that fills Duck Dynasty with divine wisdoms, along with expert ways to lure ducks so you can shoot their guts out. (Well, God did provide the bounty, after all.)

      And A&E has decided that it shalt not kill Phil's chances for stardom despite the misguided things that come out of his mouth like explosive bird diarrhea.

      In a wildly controversial GQ interview, Robertson equated homosexuality with bestiality, which is extra strange since he's the one who's obsessed with animals, not me and my friends. He also compared gays to greedy people and swindlers, all headed to eternal damnation unless salvation calls. "But he's just quoting the bible" say his loving supporters, rallying around him with beatific grins and guns out. Well, if there was some religion based on a hoary old book written by humans, and it said that Christians should go to hell along with criminals and CEOs, would I get away with quoting it in public? Even if I only selectively pulled passages from such a book rather than heed every single word in it (like the stuff that's vehemently against demonization)?

      Robertson went on to light-heartedly boast about preferring to commingle with a lady's vagina rather than a man's anus, achieving the modern high-water mark for TMI. As for the "sin" of those who like the reverse, he quipped, "It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical." As if consensual adult sexual acts need to get notarized endorsement from a man who lures wildlife to slaughter while spouting God's alleged word for profit. How logical would that be? Besides, are bible readers against anal intercourse with the opposite sex too? I pray they can all prove they've never done it and also never enjoyed it!

      And that's just the tip of the murky duck pond. The 67-year-old quack's comments about black people made his gay stuff sound like a GLAAD release by comparison. In the same interview, Robertson said that the African Americans he knew way back in the pre-civil rights era were all bouncy and singing, with nary a grudge in their hearts, as they gaily toiled away for white farmers. "Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare.they were happy. No one was singing the blues," the man stated, with a seriousness that could no doubt inspire Paula Deen to whip up some kickass duck dishes. This guy would probably recommend 12 Years a Slave as a romantic comedy. I'm guessing that his ring tone is "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah."

      As the inevitable uproar bubbled up over these remarks, A&E decided to put Robertson on an indefinite hiatus, but then the backlash suffered a backlash. The ratings were set to drop, as remotes around the country thumped along with bibles. What's more, the Robertson family wasn't necessarily going to keep filming without doctor-less Phil. And naturally, Sarah Palin chimed in her two hastily prepared cents against the channel, while admitting that she hadn't actually read the interview. This from the woman who lost her chance to be in the White House largely because when Katie Couric asked her what she read, she couldn't think of anything! You'd think she'd have started trying to click on an occasional link after that literary debacle.

      One of the big defenses Palin did manage to get in was that Robertson says he loves sinners, absolutely adores the folks. But somehow that concession fails to be terribly heartening. "Love the sinner" is one of religion's most patronizing ways to bludgeon someone into submission while making yourself appear noble for doing so. And Robertson's supposed love of gays includes lumping them in with other sinners like, you know, "terrorists." Good luck trying to convince my gay brethren to be thrilled that we're on an equal plane with bin Laden, and it's heading to the fires of hell. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Doo, gurl.

      Anyway, once some major cash flow seemed to be at stake, A&E wasn't quite so sure of its ethics. They withdrew their slap on the wrist, while citing various mealy mouthed reasons. Robertson, they said, would "never incite or encourage hate." No, except when he incites or encourages hate. The show, they added, is more than one person's views. Yeah, and a lot of them agree with him. And finally, they noted that Duck Dynasty "is a show about a family, a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance, and forgiveness." Their own, I hope.

      Swarms of Christ-loving people have defended their Duck hero's freedom of speech, the same ones who thought that whole Chick-fil-A horror in 2012 was a triumph of human rights. But "free speech" doesn't mean you can say anything and still keep a job! If your free speech threatens someone's chances to live a free life, it hardly means that putting someone on hiatus from a TV show would violate the Constitution. At the very least, couldn't A&E have brought some proud gay and African American characters into the show's next season and let them try to enlighten Robertson, as well as the millions of cable viewers who couch-sit in awe of him?

      Of course sticking to their initial response would have been even stronger because caving in shows how easily execs can be swayed from what they had already announced as correct. MSNBC had no problem putting Alec Baldwin's Up Late on hiatus after he indulged in another one of his public tantrums involving anti-gay slurs. Baldwin and the channel later came to a "mutual parting" and the show is bye-bye, perhaps forcing the part-time liberal to finally confront the way his mouth doesn't always match up with his ideas. He's now free to do another show, so maybe he and Robertson should get together for some kind of Celebrity Hate Rehab series with a happy ending. I wouldn't watch it, but I wouldn't protest it either.


      Don't miss the comments at this URL.
      Here's one ---
      A&E learned a lesson the hard way...in their bottom line. Run-o-the-mill liberals have nothing to lose by pretending to be outraged, but when push comes to shove they are shown the door.


      My comment ---
      I hope our spokespersons -- and there are a lot of good ones (and a whole bunch of not so good ones who should shut up and let the good ones do the public speaking) -- will take advantage of this marvelous opportunity. The possibilities are endless.


      Duke Grad Student Secretly Lived In a Van to Escape Loan Debt
      By Mandi Woodruff | Business Insider - Fri, Dec 27, 2013 1:38 PM EST

      Yahoo editors have selected this article as a favorite of 2013. It first ran on Yahoo Finance on June 10 and was one of the most popular stories of the year. The article details the extreme lengths Ken Ilgunas went to in order to pay back his big student debt bill.

      By the time Ken Ilgunas was wrapping up his last year of undergraduate studies at the University of Buffalo in 2005, he had no idea what kind of debt hole he'd dug himself into.

      He had majored in the least marketable fields of study possible - English and History - and had zero job prospects after getting turned down for no fewer than 25 paid internships.

      "That was a wake-up call," he told Business Insider. "I had this huge $32,000 student debt and at the time I was pushing carts at Home Depot, making $8 an hour. I was just getting kind of frantic."

      Back then, student loans had yet to become the front page news they are today. Ilgunas could have simply deferred his loans or declared forbearance. He also could have asked his parents (who were more than willing to help) for a leg up. He could have thrown up his hands and gone to grad school until the job market bounced back.

      Instead, he moved to Alaska and spent two years paying back every dime. And when he enrolled at Duke University for graduate school later, he lived out of his van to be sure he wouldn't have to take out loans again.

      "I had no idea what I was getting into at the time. I didn't even know what interest was when I was 17," he said. "I just think that's awfully indicative of the incredibly poor personal finance education young people have at that time in their lives."

      In his book, "Walden on Wheels: On The Open Road from Debt to Freedom," Ken chronicles his journey out of debt.

      He was kind enough to share his story with us this week.

      --- click on URL to continue, and for pictures ---


      Report: NSA Intercepts Computer Deliveries
      By Raphael Satter, Associated Press

      30 December 13

      A German magazine lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacking unit Sunday, reporting that American spies intercept computer deliveries, exploit hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijack Microsoft's internal reporting system to spy on their targets.

      Der Spiegel's revelations relate to a division of the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, which is painted as an elite team of hackers specializing in stealing data from the toughest of targets.

      Citing internal NSA documents, the magazine said Sunday that TAO's mission was "Getting the ungettable," and quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying that TAO had gathered "some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen."

      Der Spiegel said TAO had a catalog of high-tech gadgets for particularly hard-to-crack cases, including computer monitor cables specially modified to record what is being typed across the screen, USB sticks secretly fitted with radio transmitters to broadcast stolen data over the airwaves, and fake base stations intended to intercept mobile phone signals on the go.

      The NSA doesn't just rely on James Bond-style spy gear, the magazine said. Some of the attacks described by Der Spiegel exploit weaknesses in the architecture of the Internet to deliver malicious software to specific computers. Others take advantage of weaknesses in hardware or software distributed by some of the world's leading information technology companies, including Cisco Systems, Inc. and China's Huawei Technologies Ltd., the magazine reported.

      Der Spiegel cited a 2008 mail order catalog-style list of vulnerabilities that NSA spies could exploit from companies such as Irvine, California-based Western Digital Corp. or Round Rock, Texas-based Dell Inc. The magazine said that suggested the agency was "compromising the technology and products of American companies."

      Old-fashioned methods get a mention too. Der Spiegel said that if the NSA tracked a target ordering a new computer or other electronic accessories, TAO could tap its allies in the FBI and the CIA, intercept the hardware in transit, and take it to a secret workshop where it could be discretely fitted with espionage software before being sent on its way.

      Intercepting computer equipment in such a way is among the NSA's "most productive operations," and has helped harvest intelligence from around the world, one document cited by Der Spiegel stated.

      One of the most striking reported revelations concerned the NSA's alleged ability to spy on Microsoft Corp.'s crash reports, familiar to many users of the Windows operating system as the dialogue box which pops up when a game freezes or a Word document dies. The reporting system is intended to help Microsoft engineers improve their products and fix bugs, but Der Spiegel said the NSA was also sifting through the reports to help spies break into machines running Windows. One NSA document cited by the magazine appeared to poke fun at Microsoft's expense, replacing the software giant's standard error report message with the words: "This information may be intercepted by a foreign sigint (signals intelligence) system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine."

      Microsoft said that information sent by customers about technical issues in such a manner is limited.

      "Microsoft does not provide any government with direct or unfettered access to our customer's data," a company representative said in an email Sunday. "We would have significant concerns if the allegations about government actions are true."

      Microsoft is one of several U.S. firms that have demanded more transparency from the NSA - and worked to bolster their security - in the wake of the revelations of former intelligence worker Edward Snowden, whose disclosures have ignited an international debate over privacy and surveillance.

      Der Spiegel did not explicitly say where its cache NSA documents had come from, although the magazine has previously published a series of stories based on documents leaked by Snowden, and one of Snowden's key contacts - American documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras - was listed among the article's six authors.

      No one was immediately available at Der Spiegel to clarify whether Snowden was the source for the latest story.

      Another company mentioned by Der Spiegel, though not directly linked with any NSA activity, was Juniper Networks Inc., a computer network equipment maker in Sunnyvale, Calif.

      "Juniper Networks recently became aware of, and is currently investigating, alleged security compromises of technology products made by a number of companies, including Juniper," the company said in an email. "We take allegations of this nature very seriously and are working actively to address any possible exploit paths."

      If necessary, Juniper said, it would, "work closely with customers to ensure they take any mitigation steps."


      Comments at the URL. Here's one --->
      When is enough going to be enough. The NSA has unlimited budget and capacity to spy on everything all humans on earth do. This is really sick --

      "Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, which is painted as an elite team of hackers specializing in stealing data from the toughest of targets."

      This is not about keeping people safe from al Queda or any terrorists. It is about stealing people's privacy. Human bings, human rights, privacy are the real targets.

      I'm sure this will drive people to simply get off the grid. Go back to using cash. Buy local. Don't use email. It is not that any of these people are doing anything wrong. It is just offensive to have Big Brother snooping on you all the time.

      My comment ---
      The government has an unlimited budget. And they use it without limits.


      Forty Percent Of Workers Made Less Than $20,000 Last Year

      By Bryce Covert

      December 29, 2013 "Information Clearing House - Nearly 40 percent of all workers in the country made less than $20,000 last year, according to data from the Social Security Administration, which doesn't include figures on benefits such as health insurance or pensions. That's below the federal poverty threshold for a family of four and close to the line for a family of three. On average, these workers earned just $17,459.55.

      Meanwhile, more than half of all workers made less than $30,000, not much more to live off of. Wider Opportunities for Women has estimated that a two-income family with two children needs to bring in nearly $72,000 a year to simply reach economic security. Two earners at this level won't achieve that status.

      As David Cay Johnston notes, the median wage was $27,519 in 2012, at the lowest level since 1998. That means half of all workers made more and half made less. But the average wage actually grew. "When the average wage grows but the median wage stagnates, it means that, statistically, only workers in the top half of the job market are experiencing increases," he writes.

      His analysis shows that most of the wage growth was for the top quarter of earners, or those who make about $50,000 and up. In fact, things are very good at the top. The number of workers making $5 million a year or more jumped by nearly 27 percent over 2011, and their total wages grew 40 percent, or 13 times the increase for all workers.

      This income inequality has been growing since the 1970s, as the richest 20 percent of Americans saw their income grow much faster than the bottom 20 percent. But things have accelerated in the economic downturn. For the past three years, those at the top of the income ladder saw their incomes grow by 5 percent while everyone else's income dropped. The top 10 percent of the country's earners took home half of the income in 2012, the largest amount on record.

      And things at the bottom have been declining. The bottom 60 percent of earners have experienced a "lost decade" of wage growth, seeing their compensation fall or stagnate. Many forces have contributed to this trend, but the growth of low-wage jobs that replace middle class work during the recovery has helped it along.

      This article was originally published at Think Progress


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