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NEWS -- 2010.10.02.Saturday

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  • James Martin
    1) NJ student s suicide resonates on campus, beyond 2) statement regarding the above from The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator, Metropolitan Community
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 2, 2010
      1) NJ student's suicide resonates on campus, beyond
      2) statement regarding the above from The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches
      3) Truth Wins Out asked the rapper 50-Cent to clarify a Tweet
      4) 19-year-old gay college student commits suicide
      5) CNN fires host Rick Sanchez over controversial remarks
      6) White America Has Lost Its Mind
      7) Phelps v. Snyder: Supreme Court Case Tackles Hate Speech
      8) Recession rips at US marriages, expands income gap
      9) Northern Lights hit 100-year low point
      10) Airlines Want to Bump Air Marshals to Coach

      NJ student's suicide resonates on campus, beyond
      By Geoff Mulvihill And Samantha Henry, Associated Press Writers 2
      Friday afternoon 01 October 2010
      NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - "Things will get easier; people's minds will change," Ellen DeGeneres pleads in an Internet video, staring into the camera, her voice breaking. "And you should be alive to see it."

      Just as the murder of Matthew Shepard galvanized the gay community around hate-crime legislation more than a decade ago, the suicide of a Rutgers University student whose sex life was splashed on the Internet has activists rallying around their latest cause: telling tormented gay teens they just need to hang on for a while, that they'll live through it.

      Bullying and harassment of young gays and lesbians, and the suicides they have caused, have long been a major topic in gay publications and among activists. But celebrities and others have seized on Tyler Clementi's shocking suicide to call attention to the issue.

      Prosecutors say Clementi's roommate and another student used a webcam to broadcast on the Internet live images of the 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman having an intimate encounter with another man. Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge three days later. His body was identified Thursday.

      "To this poor kid, it's better to be dead than to have people know he's gay," said Jean-Marie Navetta, a spokeswoman for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. "Therein lies the real tragedy here."

      Clementi's death was part of a string of suicides last month involving youngsters who were believed to have been victims of anti-gay bullying. Fifteen-year-old Billy Lucas hanged himself in a barn in Greensburg, Ind. Asher Brown, 13, shot himself in the head in Houston. And 13-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, Calif., hanged himself from a tree in his backyard.

      The outpouring of emotion over Clementi's death recalls the reaction to the killing of Shepard, a gay, 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming. He was found beaten and tied to a lonely fence post in 1998. Two men were convicted in the slaying. Several states passed hate-crime laws in the aftermath of the crime.

      DeGeneres, one of the first Hollywood celebrities to come out of the closet, posted a video this week in response to Clementi's suicide.

      "My heart is breaking for their families, their friends and for our society that continues to let this happen," the talk show host says in the video. "These kids needed us. We have an obligation to change this. There are messages everywhere that validate this kind of bullying and taunting and we have to make it stop. We can't let intolerance and ignorance take another kid's life."

      Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, who left office six years ago after declaring himself "a gay American," called for more understanding for young gay people.

      "Even here in New Jersey, where we are blessed with a progressive culture, every child travels this journey by himself or herself," he said. "It can be very painful and very lonely."

      Last month, before Clementi's suicide became known, syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage launched the It Gets Better Project, a series of online videos delivered by adult gays and lesbians designed to tell young people that they can survive harassment and have happy lives. The suicide has generated more attention for the project, as well as for a campaign started recently by Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays to persuade gay young people to report harassment.

      Two New Jersey lawmakers said they would introduce legislation to strengthen the state's anti-bullying law, and another legislator called for stiffer penalties for invasion of privacy.

      "We understand that our family's personal tragedy presents important legal issues for the country as well as for us," Clementi's family said in a statement. "Our hope is that our family's personal tragedy will serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity."

      Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi of Plainsboro, N.J., and another student, Molly Wei of Princeton, N.J., both 18, are charged with invasion of privacy, with the most serious charges carrying up to five years in prison. Prosecutors said they are also looking into the possibility of filing bias charges.

      A lawyer for Ravi and one believed to be representing Wei have not returned messages. But friends of both have said that they didn't have a problem with gay people.

      On the Rutgers campus, where students have expressed guilt that they didn't know or couldn't help the quiet Clementi, students set up tables with flowers and sheets of paper on which people could leave messages and condolences for Clementi's family.

      "To recognize this individual is not only to honor a life that was so needlessly lost, but to silently (or vocally) speak out against the flagrantly intolerant and ignorant mindset that facilitated this tragic event," one message read.

      The Rutgers football team plans a moment of silence for Clementi before its game Saturday against Tulane. The university will hold a vigil on Sunday. And the Rutgers Glee club decided during Friday afternoon rehearsal to march down to the memorial and sing the "Rutgers Prayer" a capella in tribute. It is traditionally sung when an important member of the Rutgers community dies or a tragedy happens at the university.

      "Everyone is pretty devastated, and frankly, it's embarrassing that something like this would happen here at Rutgers," club member Jonathan Ramteke said.


      Mulvihill reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press writer Angela Delli Santi in Trenton, videographer Angelique Yack in Philadelphia and AP news researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.


      Tearing Down Walls.
      Building Up Hope.


      Office of the Moderator

      Metropolitan Community Churches

      For Immediate Release: 01 October 2010

      Not One More Child

      Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches

      Calls for Action to End Bullying and Harassment of Gay Teens

      Billy Lucas --- Seth Walsh --- Asher Brown --- Tyler Clementi --- those are the names of four young teenage boys who took their own lives during the month of September.

      Billy Lucas from Indiana was 15 years old when he hung himself from a barn rafter on his grandmother's farm in Greensburg on September 9th.

      Seth Walsh was 13 when he was removed from life support ten days after he'd hung himself from a tree in a yard in California. The date was Sunday, September 19th.

      Asher Brown, from Texas, was also 13 years old when he used his stepfather's gun to shoot himself to death on September 23rd.

      One day earlier, 18-year-old college freshman, Tyler Clementi, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge spanning the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey.

      Each boy had been targeted by classmates and peers based on appearance and perceptions of their sexual orientations. In Billy's, Seth's and Asher's cases, the bullying and harassment, the verbal abuse and physical assault had gone on for months, sometimes years, without any meaningful intervention on the part of the schools they attended. In Tyler's case, just days after his college roommate secretly videotaped a private romantic encounter with another man, posting the tape live on the Internet; the young and gifted musician killed himself.

      All those boys and young men were bright and talented human beings who should have had everything to live for; who should have been able to dream about growing up, falling in love and living openly as healthy, self-affirming adults with the life-partners of their choices. Instead, all they could apparently imagine was another day of torment and bullying which they could no longer tolerate.

      My heart goes out to their families, friends and loved ones. As a person of faith, I find my comfort in knowing that they now live in a realm of peace with a God of total acceptance, whose love for them is unconditional. I find my comfort in trusting that we will all one day be reunited.

      Spiritual comfort, however, is not enough, because it will not save our children. In fact, people of purported religious conviction are many, many times the motivation behind the daily taunts that claimed 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover in April of 2009, and Justin Aaberg of Anoka High School in Minnesota on July 9th of this year.

      Currently, an Assistant Attorney General in the state of Michigan is claiming that his religious conviction and the Constitution of the United States are sufficient grounds to justify his 6-month internet bullying campaign against a student body president on the campus of the University of Michigan because that young man is gay.

      We all know the statistics: 9 out of 10 LGBT youth report being verbally harassed at school; 44% say they have been physically harassed; 22% report having been assaulted; and 60% say is is useless to report abuse, because no one every does anything to help or protect them.

      It is that last statistic that every person of conscience and good will can and must do something about!

      Today, I am calling on Leaders of Faith across religious and denominational differences to do something to protect our LGBT kids.

      Too many preachers and believers are either inciting or justifying cruelty and it needs to stop now!

      The deaths of Carl Joseph and Justin, Billy, Seth, Asher and Tyler were absolutely preventable.

      Go to your local schoolhouse. Volunteer to talk about diversity and ending bullying and harassment. There is no religion on the face of the earth that justifies harming children.

      Teach a Sunday School class on the love of God for all the people of God. Offer an adult education series on what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality. If you don't know, contact your local MCC and we will help you find a wealth of resources {www.mccchurches.org}.

      Talk to your own children and grandchildren, your nephews and nieces, your godchildren. Tell them that hating anyone is wrong and that the Golden Rule is in every case the best policy to live by.

      Forty-two states already have laws designed to legally prevent bullying. Clearly those laws did not save any of the children lost this year alone. --- We need policies that address hate crimes and harassment, yes, and we also need straight and LGBT people alike standing up against cruelty and speaking out for common human decency and kindness so that NOT ONE MORE CHILD is lost.

      On Monday, October 11th, millions of Americans will celebrate "National Coming Out Day." This year, whether straight or gay, transgender or bisexual, join me in coming out for an end to violence and standing up for the safety and protection of all our children.



      The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator

      Metropolitan Community Churches



      Posted October 1st 2010 by Wayne Besen

      Yesterday, Truth Wins Out asked the rapper 50-Cent to clarify a Tweet he made that may have been anti-gay. Here is what he wrote:
      "If you a man and your over 25 and you don't eat pu**y just kill your self damn it. The world will be a better place." Lol, Twitter.

      In response, Truth Wins Out wrote in a press release:

      "We hope that 50 Cent was simply expressing enthusiasm for oral sex in an inartful way," said Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen. "It would be unconscionable if he were calling on gays to commit suicide in the face of such tragedy. Only a despicable reprobate would do such a thing and leaders from Hollywood to Washington should condemn such rhetoric. Truth Wins Out calls on 50 Cent to clarify his remarks immediately."

      Eight minutes ago, 50-Cent left this message on Twitter:

      The other night I made a joke about a blow job. My male followers enjoyed it. So I then went on to joke about women receiving the same..Some how they turned a simple joke about oral sex into a anti gay statement. I have nothing against people who choose and alternative life.Style in fact iv publicly stated my mom loved women. It funny how people think negative statements are news worthy but positive statements are not worthy of coverage.

      Well, good for him. We are glad he clarified the Tweet and that it was not anti-gay. Given the heartbreaking week of LGBT youth suicides -- now up to 5 -- the last thing that was needed was a star encouraging LGBT people taking their own lives. So, his latest Tweet is a relief.


      Truth Wins Out is a non-profit organization that fights anti-LGBT religious extremism. TWO monitors anti-LGBT organizations, documents their misinformation and exposes their leaders as charlatans. TWO specializes in turning information into action by organizing, advocating and fighting for LGBT equality.


      ** By the way, Mr. Half Dollar.FYI. it is not an alternate life and people do not choose to be gay.


      My comment --
      Words created by 50-cent in an attempt to deflect the heat. A poor attempt.
      He doesn't have a clue that he is being used by white men to do their dirty work. Just like the good ole slave days.


      19-year-old gay college student commits suicide
      By The Associated Press
      10.01.2010 2:59pm EDT

      From Campus Pride:

      (Providence, RI) Campus Pride, the nation's leading non-profit organization working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and ally college and university students, offers its condolences and support to the family of Raymond Chase who reportedly hung himself in his residence hall room this past Wednesday, September 29, 2010 on the campus of Johnson & Wales in Providence, RI.

      Add Comment

      "The loss of Raymond this week is the second college LGBT-related suicide in a week and the fifth teenage LGBT suicide in three weeks. The suicide of this openly gay young man is for reasons currently unknown; however, the recent pattern of LGBT youth suicides is cause for grave concern," said Shane Windmeyer, executive director and founder of Campus Pride. "Campus Pride demands national action be taken to address youth bullying, harassment and the need for safety and inclusion for LGBT youth at colleges and universities across the country. We must not let these tragic deaths go unnoticed. Together we must act decisively to curb anti-LGBT bias incidents, harassment and acts of violence."
      Through its Q Research Institute for Higher Education, Campus Pride released last week its "2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People." The in-depth research study is the most comprehensive national LGBT higher education study of its kind. Campus Pride surveyed more than 5,000 LGBT students, faculty and staff for the report. Findings demonstrate that these recent suicides and incidents of harassment are neither rare nor fleeting- they are REAL.

      Among the findings in the report:

      -One quarter (23%) of LGBQ staff, faculty, and students reported experiencing harassment (defined as any conduct that has interfered with your ability to work or learn). Almost all identified sexual identity as the basis of the harassment (83%). An even greater percentage of transgender students, faculty, & staff reported experiencing harassment (39%) with 87% identifying their gender identity/expression as the basis for the harassment. The form of the harassment experiences by transgender people was more overt and blatant.

      -One-third of LGBQ (33%) and transgender (38%) students, faculty, and staff have seriously considered leaving their institution due to the challenging climate.

      -More than half of all faculty, students, & staff hide their sexual identity (43%) or gender identity (63%) to avoid intimidation.

      -More than a third of all transgender students, faculty, & staff(43%) and13% of LGBQ respondents feared for their physical safety.This finding was more salient for LGBQ students and for LGBQ and/or Transgender People of Color.

      For more information about Campus Pride's "2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People" report, visit www.campuspride.org/research.


      CNN fires host Rick Sanchez over controversial remarks
      By Michael Calderone michael Calderone
      Friday afternoon 01 October 2010


      CNN host Rick Sanchez came under fire Friday after making controversial remarks the previous day on a satellite radio show.

      Sanchez called out Comedy Central host Jon Stewart as a "bigot" for mocking him, and complained that Jews - like Stewart - don't face discrimination. He also suggested that CNN, and perhaps the media industry more broadly, is run by Jews and elitists who look down on Hispanics like himself.

      Clearly, those comments didn't sit well with the network, which put out a terse statement around 6 p.m. Friday.

      "Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company," the CNN statement read. "We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well."

      So far, Sanchez hasn't spoken out about the explosive interview Thursday on "Stand Up! with Pete Dominick." On the radio show, the now-former CNN star didn't just make a single impolitic statement, but spoke at length - for roughly 20 minutes - about Stewart and a media world he believes to be filled with "elite Northeast liberals" who consider Hispanic journalists "second tier." Sanchez is a Cuban-American.

      He specifically called out Stewart as someone with "a white liberal establishment point-of-view" who "can't relate to a guy like me." Also, Sanchez claimed that Stewart is "upset that someone of my ilk is at, almost, his level."

      Sanchez also has yet to address the controversy via Twitter, where he is a frequent user. He even made the social media platform a signature part of his afternoon show, "Rick's List." Sanchez didn't appear on his 3 p.m. show on Friday, but CNN's public relations department put out word that he was going to be at a book signing at the CNN Center in Atlanta. It's unclear whether he attended it.

      Sanchez joined CNN in 2004 after working as an anchor in Miami. Prior to that, Sanchez worked as a correspondent at MSNBC, providing breaking news updates at CNBC, and at other local stations.

      CNN plans to air "CNN Newsroom" in the "Rick's List" time slot, weekdays from 3 to 5 p.m.

      You can listen to part of Sanchez's rant against Stewart and his dismissive comments about Jews below:

      CNN's Rick Sanchez Calls Jon Stewart a Bigot

      'Jews are an oppressed minority? LMAO' - CNN's Rick Sanchez


      White America Has Lost Its Mind
      The white brain, beset with worries, finally goes haywire in spectacular fashion
      By Steven Thrasher

      Comments (573)

      Wednesday, Sep 29 2010

      About 12:01 on the afternoon of January 20, 2009, the white American mind began to unravel.
      It had been a pretty good run up to that point. The brains of white folks had been humming along cogently for near on 400 years on this continent, with little sign that any serious trouble was brewing. White people, after all, had managed to invent a spiffy new form of self-government so that all white men (and, eventually, women) could have a say in how white people were taxed and governed. White minds had also nearly universally occupied just about every branch of that government and, for more than two centuries, had kept sole possession of the leadership of its executive branch (whose parsonage, after all, is called the White House).

      But when that streak was broken-and, for the first time, a non-white president accepted the oath of office-white America rapidly began to lose its grip.

      As with other forms of dementia, the signs weren't obvious at first. After the 2008 election, when former House majority leader Tom DeLay suggested that instead of a formal inauguration, Barack Obama should "have a nice little chicken dinner, and we'll save the $125 million," black folks didn't miss the implication. References to chicken, particularly of the fried variety, have long served as a kind of code when white folks referred to black people and their gustatory preferences-and weren't many of us already accustomed to older white politicians making such gaffes? But who among us sensed that it was a harbinger that an entire nation was plunging into madness?

      Who didn't chuckle, after all, the first time they heard that white people had doubts that Barack Obama had even been born in the United States and was therefore ineligible to be president? It sounded like one of those Internet stories in which some (usually white) writer does his best to prove something everyone knows to be true is actually the exact opposite. And you go along with it for a few paragraphs to see how long the writer can convince you that what you know is right is actually wrong.

      Seemed like that, didn't it? After all, what was the beef? Obama's father was Kenyan, and the kid was born in Hawaii-which is barely a part of the United States to begin with (only a state in 1959!). His mother was white, and after the Kenyan guy left, she married an Indonesian guy, so little Barack lived in Jakarta for a while before coming back to Hawaii to be brought up largely by his white grandparents. . . . And that's it? Come on, this was after-school-special material, the kind of thing that brings a tear to your eye because little half-Kenyan/half-white Barry made good, not the stuff of conspiracy novels.

      But the more you shook your head at it, the more it seemed to have taken root deep in the lizard part of the white nervous system. Obama is not an American. He says he's Christian, but he has a Muslim-sounding name. He's not black, he's not white. . . . Is . . . is he even human?

      Today, Newsweek has found, nearly a quarter of Americans believe that Obama is a Muslim, with barely 42 percent of the nation accepting his claim that he's a Christian. CNN finds that a quarter of Americans also believe that Obama was "probably or definitely" born in another country.

      Harris found in an online poll that 14 percent of Americans believe in their hearts that President Barack Obama is the antichrist, with nearly a quarter of Republicans saying so.

      At least in this form, however, Satan (sometimes) wears a flag pin.

      What was going on? Had decades of sucking down so much high-fructose corn syrup not only made Americans incredibly obese, but also messed with white brain chemistry to the point that some sort of tipping point had occurred?

      Not a bad theory, but no, there's a simpler explanation, with two parts: For the first time in their lives, baby boomers are hard up against it economically, and white boy is becoming outnumbered and it's got his bowels chilled with fear.

      "In an age of diminished resources, the United States may be heading for an intensifying confrontation between the gray and the brown," writes Ronald Brownstein in his July National Journal article, "The Gray and the Brown: The Generational Mismatch." That's a polite and understated way of saying that older white folks are losing their shit as they're being replaced by young brown and black kids while the economy is in the crapper.

      --- There is much more. To continue this column, and to read the comments, click on the URL. ---


      print version


      My comment ---
      Southern Baptists are like a nest of hornets. They are still angry about loosing their slaves.
      They make a mockery of Jesus Christ with their "once saved, always saved" theological mythology.
      They are the American Taliban.
      Nobody knows how to lie and bear false witness like a Southern Baptist, or an SB clone.

      Me -- born and raised in the First Baptist Church of Tupelo, Mississippi. Thank God I've been saved from them.


      Phelps v. Snyder: Supreme Court Case Tackles Hate Speech
      By Adam Cohen
      Wed Sep 29 2010, 5:55 am ET

      After Matthew Snyder, a U.S. Marine, was killed in Anbar province in Iraq in 2006, some uninvited guests showed up at his funeral at St. John's Catholic Church in Westminster, Md. The Rev. Fred W. Phelps Sr. of the Westboro Baptist Church and several family members came from Kansas holding signs reading "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "God Hates Fags" and "You're Going to Hell."

      There is no question it was hateful stuff. Phelps' self-styled church preaches that God is punishing America because of its tolerance for homosexuality, especially in the military. The Phelps family makes its point by holding protests at military funerals. The Phelpses also posted an "epic poem" online entitled "The Burden of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder," which, among other things, says to his parents, "you raised him for the devil." (See "Should Bigoted Speech Be Free? A Debate in Britain.")

      Snyder's father, Albert Snyder, sued. He said that the protests, at the funeral of his only son, made him violently ill. He prevailed on his claims of invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress and won a large damage award, but that ruling was reversed on appeal.

      Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case. As the court begins its term - the traditional first Monday in October - the Phelps case is only one of several important ones on the docket. In Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, the Justices will consider whether a California law banning the sale of violent video games to minors violates the First Amendment. In NASA v. Nelson, the court will weigh whether government workers have a constitutional right not to answer personal questions asked by their employers. There are also significant sex-discrimination and citizenship cases.

      But for drama and emotion - and formidable constitutional issues - none rivals Phelps v. Snyder. Phelps is a toxic force - the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have labeled his church a "hate group." The Snyders could hardly be more sympathetic. Albert Snyder said the Phelps protests aggravated his diabetes and his depression. He said he vomited when he read the "epic poem."

      After his case went to trial, a jury awarded Albert Snyder $10.9 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The judge reduced the award but stood by the verdict. In reversing that decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the church's speech was protected. Much of it involved matters of "public concern," the court said, "including the issue of homosexuals in the military" and "the political and moral conduct of the United States and its citizens." The "epic poem" did not purport to be literal facts about Matthew Snyder but rather relied on "loose, figurative or hyperbolic language." (See TIME's top 10 gratuitously provocative acts.)

      There is, not surprisingly, a groundswell of support for Albert Snyder's case before the Supreme Court. Majority leader Harry Reid and minority leader Mitch McConnell and 40 other Senators - ranging from Barbara Boxer on the left to David Vitter on the right - have signed a friend-of-the court brief urging the court to reverse the decision below and reinstate the verdict against Phelps. Another brief is signed by the attorneys general of 48 states and the District of Columbia.

      Albert Snyder's claim can be framed so it does not seem to intrude too far on freedom of speech. There is no need, some of his supporters say, to hold that speech like Phelps' - horrible though it is - is not protected by the First Amendment. It is enough to say that this is a special situation: that funerals are unusually private, that the death of a child in the military is uniquely worthy of respect, and that a special zone of privacy should be carved out.

      It is an emotionally appealing argument - who can read these facts and not hope that Phelps is gravely punished and Albert Snyder is comforted in his loss? The trouble is, once courts begin making exceptions of this sort, the First Amendment quickly gets whittled away. There are those who argue for creating free-speech exceptions for Nazis marching through the town square or for the burning of holy books of one sort or another. Almost everyone has some kind of speech they regard as intolerable - they just do not agree on what that speech is.

      It is always perilous to guess what the Supreme Court will do, but earlier this year the Justices ruled that horrific videos of animal cruelty are protected speech. That 8-1 ruling suggested that the current court is not inclined to create new categories of unprotected speech.

      Even for the most committed civil libertarian, it is hard to get excited about defending a hate-spewing minimob that targets the funeral of a dead soldier or signs saying "God Hates the USA. Thank God for 9/11." Still, it is important for the court to rule that this kind of expression lies within the First Amendment. We defend it not because these ideas are particularly worthy of being protected, but because all ideas, even the most loathsome, are.

      Cohen, a lawyer, is a former TIME writer and a former member of the New York Times editorial board. Case Study, his legal column for TIME.com, appears every Wednesday.

      See TIME's Pictures of the Week.

      View this article on Time.com http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2022220,00.html


      Recession rips at US marriages, expands income gap
      Marriages fall to lowest on record, income gap widens as recession's painful effects persist
      Hope Yen, Associated Press Writer,
      On Tuesday September 28, 2010, 10:42 pm

      WASHINGTON (AP) -- The recession seems to be socking Americans in the heart as well as the wallet: Marriages have hit an all-time low while pleas for food stamps have reached a record high and the gap between rich and poor has grown to its widest ever.
      The long recession technically ended in mid-2009, economists say, but U.S. Census data released Tuesday show the painful, lingering effects. The annual survey covers all of last year, when unemployment skyrocketed to 10 percent, and the jobless rate is still a stubbornly high 9.6 percent.

      The figures also show that Americans on average have been spending about 36 fewer minutes in the office per week and are stuck in traffic a bit less than they had been. But that is hardly good news, either. The reason is largely that people have lost jobs or are scraping by with part-time work.

      "Millions of people are stuck at home because they can't find a job. Poverty increased in a majority of states, and children have been hit especially hard," said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the Population Reference Bureau.

      The economic "indicators say we're in recovery, but the impact on families and children will linger on for years," he said.

      Take marriage.

      In America, marriages fell to a record low in 2009, with just 52 percent of adults 18 and over saying they were joined in wedlock, compared to 57 percent in 2000.

      The never-married included 46.3 percent of young adults 25-34, with sharp increases in single people in cities in the Midwest and Southwest, including Cleveland, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Albuquerque, N.M. It was the first time the share of unmarried young adults exceeded those who were married.

      Marriages have been declining for years due to rising divorce, more unmarried couples living together and increased job prospects for women. But sociologists say younger people are also now increasingly choosing to delay marriage as they struggle to find work and resist making long-term commitments.

      In dollar terms, the rich are still getting richer, and the poor are falling further behind them.

      The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its largest margin ever, a stark divide as Democrats and Republicans spar over whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

      The top-earning 20 percent of Americans -- those making more than $100,000 each year -- received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent made by the bottom 20 percent of earners, those who fell below the poverty line, according to the new figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968.

      At the top, the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans, who earn more than $180,000, added slightly to their annual incomes last year, the data show. Families at the $50,000 median level slipped lower.

      Three states -- New York, Connecticut and Texas -- and the District of Columbia had the largest gaps between rich and poor. Big gaps were also evident in large cities such as New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta, home to both highly paid financial and high-tech jobs as well as clusters of poorer immigrant and minority residents.

      Alaska, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Hawaii had the smallest income gaps.

      "Income inequality is rising, and if we took into account tax data, it would be even more," said Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who specializes in poverty. "More than other countries, we have a very unequal income distribution where compensation goes to the top in a winner-takes-all economy."

      Lower-skilled adults ages 18 to 34 had the largest jumps in poverty last year as employers kept or hired older workers for the dwindling jobs available. The declining economic fortunes have caused many unemployed young Americans to double-up in housing with parents, friends and loved ones, with potential problems for the labor market if they don't get needed training for future jobs, he said.

      Homeownership declined for the third year in a row, to 65.9 percent, after hitting a peak of 67.3 percent in 2006. Residents in crowded housing held steady at 1 percent, the highest since 2004, a sign that people continued to "double up" to save money.

      Average commute times edged lower to 25.1 minutes, the lowest since 2006, as fewer people headed to the office in the morning. The share of people who carpooled also declined, from 10.7 percent to 10 percent, while commuters who took public transportation were unchanged at 5 percent.

      The number of U.S. households receiving food stamps surged by 2 million last year to 11.7 million, the highest level on record, meaning that 1 in 10 families was receiving the government aid. In all, 46 states and the District of Columbia had increases in food stamps, with the largest jumps in Nevada, Arizona, Florida and Wisconsin.

      Other findings:

      --The foreign-born population edged higher to 38.5 million, or 12.5 percent, following a dip in the previous year, due mostly to increases in naturalized citizens. The share of U.S. residents speaking a language other than English at home also rose, from 19.7 percent to 20 percent, mostly in California, New Mexico and Texas.

      --The poorest poor hit record highs. Twenty-eight states had increases in the share of people below $10,977 in income, half the poverty line for a family of four. The highest shares were in the District of Columbia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas and South Carolina. Nationally, the poorest poor rose to 6.3 percent.

      --Women's average pay still lags men's, but the gap is narrowing. Women with full-time jobs made 78.2 percent of men's pay, up from 77.7 percent in 2008 and about 64 percent in 2000, as men took bigger hits in the recession.

      --More older people are working. About 27.1 percent of Americans 60 and over were in the work force. That's up from 26.7 percent in 2008.

      The census figures come weeks before the pivotal Nov. 2 congressional elections, when voters anxious about rising deficits and the slow pace of the economic recovery will decide whether to keep Democrats in control of Congress.

      The 2009 tabulations, which are based on pretax income and exclude capital gains, are adjusted for household size where data are available. Prior analyses of after-tax income made by the wealthiest 1 percent compared to middle- and low-income Americans have also pointed to a widening inequality gap, but only reflect U.S. data as of 2007.




      Northern Lights hit 100-year low point
      Tue Sep 28, 12:40 pm ET
      HELSINKI (AFP) - The Northern Lights have petered out during the second half of this decade, becoming rarer than at any other time in more than a century, the Finnish Meteorological Institute said Tuesday.

      The Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, generally follow an 11-year "solar cycle", in which the frequency of the phenomena rises to a maximum and then tapers off into a minimum and then repeats the cycle.

      "The solar minimum was officially in 2008, but this minimum has been going on and on and on," researcher Noora Partamies told AFP.

      "Only in the past half a year have we seen more activity, but we don't really know whether we're coming out of this minimum," she added.

      The Northern Lights, a blaze of coloured patterns in the northern skies, are triggered by solar winds crashing into the earth and being drawn to the magnetic poles, wreaking havoc on electrons in the parts of the atmosphere known as the ionosphere and magnetosphere.

      Click here to see photos of Northern Lights

      So a dimming of the Northern Lights is a signal that activity on the sun which causes solar winds, such as solar flares and sun sports, is also quieting down.
      For researchers like Partamies, it is the first time they can observe through a network of modern observation stations what happens to this solar cycle when it becomes as badly disrupted as it is now.

      "We're waiting to see what happens, is the next maximum going to be on time, is it going to be late, is it going to be huge?" Partamies said.

      During the cycle's peak in 2003, the station on Norway's Svalbard island near the North Pole, showed that the Northern Lights were visible almost every single night of the auroral season, which excludes the nightless summer months.

      That figure has fallen to less than 50y percent, while the southernmost station, situated in southern Finland, has been registering only two to five instances annually for the past few years.


      My question --
      Why are the pyracantha berries at their full bloom right now, September -- instead of late November like usual?


      Airlines Want to Bump Air Marshals to Coach
      by Scott McCartney
      Thursday, September 30, 2010

      The Wall Street Journal

      A Debate Over Whether Agents in First-Class Seats Should Sit Farther Back Where Some Say Risk of Attack Is Greatest
      To protect the nation's air travelers, federal air marshals deployed after the 2001 terrorist attacks try to travel incognito, often in pairs, and choose flights identified with the potential to fall under threat.

      And they almost always fly first class-something some airlines would like to change. With cockpit doors fortified and a history of attackers choosing coach seats, some airline executives and security experts question whether the first-class practice is really necessary-or even a good idea. It could weaken security by isolating marshals or making them easier for terrorists to identify, airline executives say.

      With more threats in the coach cabin now, first-class clustering may not make as much security sense. Security experts say bombers are a bigger threat today than knife-wielding attackers trying to get through secure cockpit doors, and Transportation Security Administration checkpoints are heavily focused on explosives, whether hidden in shoes, liquids or under clothes. Some believe bombers try to target areas over the wing-a structurally critical location and also the site of fuel storage-to cause the most damage to the aircraft.

      [See 10 Things Your Airline Won't Tell You]

      Airline CEOs met recently with TSA administrator John Pistole and officials from the Federal Air Marshal Service requesting the TSA to reconsider the placement of marshals based on current security threats.

      "Our concern is far less revenue and more that we have defenses appropriate to the threat," said James May, chief executive of the Air Transport Association, the airline industry's lobbying group. "We think there needs to be an even distribution, particularly when we have multiple agents on board."

      Mr. May said he believes the air marshal service is trying to make adjustments.

      Marshals are assigned to flights using a scheduling system based on security intelligence and other factors, said Nelson Minerly, spokesman for the Federal Air Marshal Service.

      Mr. Minerly says the practice of placing marshals in first class is essential in an attack in which seconds matter. "Our distinction isn't for a free ride in a fluffy seat. It's based on threat and tactical doctrines," he said. In most cases, the marshal service designates which cabin marshals will fly in, Mr. Minerly said, with seating assigned to "maximize the effectiveness of the team." Move "further and further back in the plane" and "it will take longer and longer to respond."

      By law, airlines must provide seats to marshals at no cost in any cabin requested. With first-class and business-class seats in particular, the revenue loss to airlines can be substantial because they can't sell last-minute tickets or upgrades, and travelers sometimes get bumped to the back or lose out on upgrade opportunities. When travelers do get bumped, airlines are barred from divulging why the first-class seat was unexpectedly taken away, to keep the presence of a marshal a secret. Bumped travelers-airlines can't disclose how many passengers are affected-typically get coach seats and refunds on the cash or miles they paid for the better seat.

      In a recent episode, the Air Transport Association said, a flight from Europe to the U.S. was about to depart with at least six marshals already on board in multiple cabins when a rival carrier canceled a flight. Marshals from that flight came over to demand first-class seats on the flight that was leaving. The airline refused, saying it would cancel the flight rather than empty the first-class cabin. Marshals backed off, airline officials say. Mr. Minerly of the Federal Air Marshal Service said he was unfamiliar with the incident, and that the agency does not comment on specific cases.

      Airlines are reluctant to publicly discuss the marshals program since their activities are classified as sensitive secure information. US Airways (NYSE: LCC - News) Chief Executive Doug Parker did raise the question of whether marshals are too focused on first class at a meeting with reporters in April. When asked for further explanation, Mr. Parker through a spokesman declined to comment. Executives from four other major U.S. carriers echoed his thinking, however, but declined to comment because airlines are prohibited from speaking publicly on the air-marshal program.

      [See IATA Sees Airline Rebound This Year, Warns on 2011]

      TSA declines to disclose how many air marshals there are, but officials have said in the past there are more than 1,000, and some estimates have run as high as 4,000. Airline officials say that since the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, marshals have been assigned to more international trips, sometimes as many as six or more to a flight. Both the shoe-bombing and Christmas Day-bombing attempts occurred in coach.

      Even with thousands of marshals, only a small percentage of U.S. airline flights are covered. The deterrent is largely that terrorists not know which flights might have armed agents on board. Marshals haven't been on board for any of the recent terrorism attempts against U.S. airlines. Air marshals arrested a Qatari diplomat caught smoking in the bathroom on a United Airlines (NasdaqGS: UAUA - News) flight from Washington, D.C., to Denver, and two marshals in Miami shot and killed a man with bipolar disorder in 2005 after he ran through a plane waiting to take off, acted erratically on a jet bridge, claimed to have a bomb in his backpack and refused an order to hit the ground. When the man began moving back toward the airplane, agents fired. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's office ruled the shooting as justified.

      The idea of air marshals on U.S. airline flights has ebbed and flowed over the years depending on threats to airline flights. President Kennedy ordered marshals aboard planes after flights were hijacked to Cuba in the early 1960s. President Nixon ordered deployment of air marshals on Sept. 11, 1970, after terrorists hijacked three New York-bound jets and held them hostage in Egypt and Jordan. In 2001, the U.S. had fewer than 50 air marshals.

      Write to Scott McCartney at middleseat@...


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