Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jon Stewart Rallies for Sanity

Jon Stewart Rallies for Sanity -- and Against Cable News

The enemy, Jon Stewart told the masses gathered on the Mall in Washington Saturday for his "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear," is not people of faith, or activists, or those who want to have passionate argument, or those on the right, or those on the left.

The enemy, he argued, is not Americans at all. It is instead the false image of Americans being pushed by the cable news-driven media - what he called "the country's 24-hour politico pundit perpetual panic conflictinator - that he said is broken and making the country's problems worse.

"If we amplify everything, we hear nothing," Stewart said, accusing media outlets of fearmongering and spotlighting extremists instead of reasonable Americans. He later added that the press is America's immune system - and "if it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker."

Stewart's comments came toward the end of the three-hour rally that attracted about 215,000 to the Mall, with a message of standing up for reasonable dialogue.

Signs hoisted in the crowd ranged from serious ("I support reasonable conclusions based on supported facts," "Restore Sanity. Fight Fox," "I fought Nazis and they don't look like Obama") to the silly (a picture of the Republican and Democratic mascots and the words "Everyone Poops").

That mix was not unlike the rally itself, a sometimes-uneasy mix of comedy and a call to (metaphorical) arms. Stewart handed out "medals of reasonableness" to pitcher Armando Galarraga, who was kind to an umpire who robbed him of a perfect game; professional wrestler Mick Foley for his work outside the ring, including defending a child mocked for being seen as gay; Velma Hart, who offered polite but critical questions to President Obama at a town hall; and Jacob Isom, the "dude you have no Koran" guy who decided to defuse a Koran burning by taking away the Koran.

His co-host Stephen Colbert, who portrays a fearmongering conservative talk show host seemingly modeled on Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, countered with "Medals for Fear," including one for the media outlets who banned their employees from attending the event unless they were covering it. (CBS News was among those criticized for doing so, though the network did not take that step.)

The event also featured mea culpas from two Americans - former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater and "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Teresa Giudice - offering apologies for their displays of unreasonableness.

People in the crowd hold up homemade signs at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010.
(Credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) "I could have found a more productive way of expressing my time, I'll try to work things through before losing my cool," said Slater.

John and Rita Maffei, a couple in their 50s who had come to the rally from Fairfield, Connecticut, said they were there simply for the opportunity to laugh at a media and political world that turns them off.

"I'm not a fan of politics," said John Maffei. "I think there's a lot of pettiness out there right now. It's ugly all around. I think it's really good to start laughing again. Stop taking ourselves so seriously."

The Maffeis were part of a small but visible contingent of older Americans who joined younger people like 19-year-old Anthony DiSilva of Syosset, New York at the event.

Comedians Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart perform on the National Mall, October 30, 2010 in Washington, D.C.
(Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images) "I mean, I'm not watching CNN or FOX or whatever else," DiSilva said. "I'd like to vote, but I feel like I don't know what's going on. I mean, it's confusing. Trust this guy, hate this other guy. I don't know if I'm going to vote, but today helps a lot. At least I'm not the only one who's confused."

Though the rally was ostensibly non-political, groups like the Democratic National Committee, hoping to capitalize on the gathering ahead of Tuesday's midterm elections, organized events in conjunction with it. Democrats greeted people attending the rally with requests that they get involved with canvassing efforts nationwide.

The event opened with a musical performance by The Roots and John Legend, and musicians performed throughout, among them Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, Tony Bennett, and Jeff Tweedy. Among the celebrity guests were the hosts of "Mythbusters," actor Sam Waterston - who read a poem ostensibly penned by Colbert about all of the bad things that might happen to you - and basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who came onstage to assure Colbert that not all Muslims are terrorists.

At one point, the musician formerly known as Cat Stevens, who know goes by Yusuf, came on to perform "Peace Train" before Colbert interrupted him to bring out Ozzy Osbourne, who performed "Crazy Train." Eventually they both cleared the stage for the O'Jays, who sang "Love Train," a train both Colbert and Stewart agreed they would get on. (Colbert only did so because love could mean sexually transmitted diseases.)

Early in the rally, Stewart joked that there were ten million people there, adding sarcastically that attendance reflected a "perfect demographic sampling of the American people." (It was, in fact, largely white.) He mocked the media for the way they've covered rallies in the past.

"If you have too many white people at a rally, then your cause is racist," he said. "But if you have too many people of color at a rally, then you just must be asking for something."

People attend the Comedy Central "Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear" on the National Mall on October 30, 2010 in Washington, D.C.
(Credit: Jeff Snyder/PictureGroup via AP Images) The rally included references to Glenn Beck, the Fox News host who held his own rally this summer, a rally that some have suggested Stewart's event was an answer to. (Beck also gave out four medals at his rally.) But they were not direct: Instead, Beck was lumped in with both conservative and liberal commentators as part of the reason, in Stewart's eyes, the media is failing America.

Beck, Keith Olbermann and others appeared in montages offering incendiary rhetoric that Stewart deemed dispiriting. (Olbermann did not take kindly to this: "It wasn't a big shark but Jon Stewart jumped one just now with the 'everybody on [24 hour] cable is the same' naivete," he wrote on Twitter.)

Colbert, who was ostensibly there to rally on behalf of fear, celebrated such rhetoric while Stewart condemned it. At one point Stewart quoted Franklin Delano Roosevelt's comment that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Colbert countered that twelve years later, Roosevelt was dead.

Stewart clearly came with a serious message, and toward the end of the rally he nearly dropped his comedic persona altogether. He uttered phrases like "individuals can be scary but you can't generalize about all people," a reference to those who consider all Muslims to be terrorists.

He said it was a mistake to lump in those who aren't bigots -- he mentioned Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez specifically -- with those who are, calling that an insult not only to them "but to racists who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate."

Stewart also said most of the scary stories on cable news are overblown and argued that Americans can overcome the ones that aren't.

"The image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror," he said. He added that it's no surprise that people don't want to reach across the aisle when they are told the other side is made up of Marxists on the left and racists on the right.

"We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it's a shame that we can't work together to get things done," he said. "But the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don't is here [in Washington] or on cable TV. But Americans don't live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done."

Stewart said most Americans don't live as liberals or conservatives or Republicans or Democrats but as "people who are just a little bit late for something they have to do." He used the fact that Americans are willing to merge together into a tunnel, one by one, to illustrate the fact that people can and do work together despite their differences.

"You go, then I'll go, you go, then I'll go," he said. "'Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car, is that an Obama sticker on your car? Ah -that's OK. You go, they I'll go.'"

"And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare, and he is scorned - and not hired as an analyst," Stewart continued.

Shortly after he turned the stage over to Bennett, who closed the event with a rendition of "America the Beautiful" that prompted a "USA" chant from the crowd.

"Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder, and to see you hear to day, and the kind of people that you are, has restored mine," Stewart said.

The rally aired on Comedy Central, where Stewart and Colbert host their late night shows, as well as C-Span. Comedy Central told the New York Times there were four million views of their live rally web stream.

Stewart said after the event that he "stayed up late last night and just wrote until I was done. I wanted to speak a little bit from the heart."

Asked how he expected the event to be covered, Stewart said, "I couldn't care, I just don't care. We're proud of ourselves and proud of the show we did."

"Our currency is not this town's currency," he said. "We're not running for anything. We have TV shows and we just hope people continue to like them."

Added Colbert: "What surprised me most was the joy of seeing the audience out there."

How the battle over credit card swipe fees hits consumers

NEW YORK — The customer isn't always king. Sometimes he's just a pawn.
The feud over the so-called swipe fees merchants pay banks when customers use plastic is reaching a crescendo and will likely hit registers in coming months.

Both sides — merchants and card issuers — insist they're fighting for the best interests of the consumer. At stake are billions of dollars in swipe fees, otherwise known as interchange fees.

Visa and MasterCard agreed earlier this month to let merchants offer customers incentives for paying with cards that have lower swipe fees. Separately, new regulations this year will cap the debit card swipe fees merchants have to pay.

Banks and credit unions warn that they'll need to make up the lost revenue elsewhere.

BEWARE OF FEES: Penalty rates, fees on credit cards not always clear
HOW TO AVOID FEES: Steer clear of checking account fees on the horizon

Where the changes leave consumers isn't yet clear. Here's what you should know:

Q: First off, what are interchange fees and why is there so much talk about them?

A: Let's start by clarifying a common misconception.

Contrary to popular belief, Visa and MasterCard don't issue credit cards; they run the networks that process transactions made using those cards. If it was the cellphone universe, think of the companies as operators of the phone lines and networks over which calls are made.

The use of their networks comes with costs, which are paid for in a complex way.

Every time a customer pays with plastic, the merchant pays a fee to the bank or credit union that issued the card. The fee typically ranges between 1% and 2% of the purchase amount.

Visa and MasterCard don't get a direct cut of this fee. But they make money through separate deals with the 16,000 or so banks and credit unions that issue cards.

So on one side of the battle line, you have card issuers and payment processors such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express arguing that plastic is convenient for businesses and helps drive up sales — a perk they should pay for. On the other side are merchants who say they're paying too much and should be allowed to steer customers toward payment options that cost them less.

Q: So what's different at the register right now?

A: Under regulations that went into effect in July, merchants can legally set a $10 minimum for credit card purchases. This could be inconvenient for anyone who relies on plastic and doesn't carry around cash.

It's not clear how many merchants will take advantage of the option. You're more likely to run into new minimums at the corner deli or other small stores.

Some stores had already required a minimums for credit card purchases, but that was in violation of policies set by Visa and MasterCard.

If you're paying with a debit card, there still shouldn't be any minimum purchase requirement. Of course, merchants can refuse to accept plastic of any type.

Q: What does the Justice Department's settlement with Visa and MasterCard mean for consumers?

A: Earlier this month, Visa and MasterCard agreed to let merchants offer incentives for customers to use a card from a particular network. So, for example, a retailer might offer a discount to anyone who pays with a Discover card, which tends to have lower interchange fees.

Merchants can also state preferences for specific cards within a brand, such as basic Visa cards versus rewards Visa cards, which tend to have higher interchange rates.

The changes are part of a settlement Visa and MasterCard made with the Department of Justice over allegations the companies were trying to insulate themselves from competition with their policies. American Express plans to fight the federal suit.

Note that retailers can already state a preference for debit card purchases, which come with lower interchange fees of about 1%, versus an average of 1.6% for credit cards.

So on a $10 purchase, 10 cents would go to the card issuer with a debit card payment. With a credit card payment, 16 cents would go to the card issuer.

This is why merchants prefer debit cards over credit cards.

Q: Are there any other changes in store that could affect me?

A: The Federal Reserve is expected to propose a new cap on debit card interchange fees in coming months.

Banks and credit unions are already warning that they'll need to make up the lost revenue in other places, perhaps by tacking on new fees or eliminating rewards programs for checking accounts.

On the other side, merchant groups counter that those are empty threats and that banks can't afford to alienate customers in this competitive climate.

Additionally, merchants say all the changes mean consumers will likely start seeing discounts or other perks depending on how they choose to pay. For example, a purchase might cost $5 if you pay with a credit card or $4.75 if you pay with a debit card. Or a grocery store might offer free delivery if you pay with a debit card.

It's still too early to say how it will play out, since many merchants are waiting for the Fed's proposed cap on debit card swipe fees before they strategize.

Q: Does this mean merchants will stop accepting credit cards, or maybe rewards cards, because they have higher interchange fees?

A: No. Visa and MasterCard can still require merchants that use their networks to accept all their branded card. It's just that retailers can now offer incentives for lower-cost cards.

Merchants already have the right to refuse acceptance of cards from an entire payment network, of course. American Express and Discover for example, aren't as widely accepted as Visa and MasterCard. But Visa and MasterCard are so universal that merchants generally agree to the companies' terms.

2010 The Associated Press.

Things Super-Happy Couples Do Every Day to stay together and happy.

Lord knows this is not the sort of thing guys brag about. But my wife and I have a ridiculously happy marriage. Really, it's almost disgusting.

We paw each other in public. We goof around like a pair of simpletons. We basically act like giddy newlyweds in the middle of happy hour. Sometimes we'll do something so revolting, like sitting on the couch and drawing smiley faces on the bottoms of each other's feet, that we're forced to make hacking, gagging noises to maintain our dignity. Actually, this happened just last week.

See, I told you it was disgusting.

It hasn't always been this way. In fact, I'm not ashamed to admit that our current marital bliss is the result of almost a year of counseling, a desperate effort undertaken several years ago, when we appeared destined for doom. What we learned then is something all happy couples eventually discover: A good marriage is a bit like a pet boa constrictor: either you feed it every day or bad things happen. Daily habits are extremely helpful in forging solid marriages, says couples therapist Tina Tessina, author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free. "If you're really interested in making your relationship work, little rituals are a great way to do it."

Want examples? Look no further than Tessina and her husband, Richard, who have developed an array of daily relationship builders during their 19 years of marriage: Every morning, they repeat their wedding vows to each other; they hold regular state-of-the-union meetings; and (my personal favorite) Tina routinely leaves Post-it Notes for Richard ("Hi, honey! Have a great day!") stuck to the underside of the toilet seat (think about it).

"Every marriage has what I call a relationship reservoir, or the stored-up emotional energy of the relationship," says Tessina. And although these daily habits are all very simple things, they help fill that reservoir. When there's a lot of positive energy there, you give each other a little pat on the butt or say, "I'm so glad I'm sharing my life with you," and you're storing it up. Then when the relationship is under stress, you'll have the energy you need to get through.

We asked happy couples across the United States to tell us about marriage-strengthening solutions they've developed. Try your hand at incorporating a few into your daily life and maybe you can be as ridiculously, embarrassingly, revoltingly happily married as I am.

Want to know the one thing that's most important to a successful marriage? That's easy. Walk up to your husband and surprise him with this one-question relationship quiz:

You: "Honey, what do you think is the one thing most important to a successful marriage?"

Him: "Umm, uh did you say something?"

And, well, there you have it.

Happily married couples typically say their relationships work better when they can sit down and gab one-on-one, like thinking, feeling adults. But who's got time for that? Actually, anybody who sleeps at night, if you follow the lead of Julie and Thom and their nightly visits to their "igloo."

"It all started one winter night years ago, when Julie had had a really bad day," says Thom, 33, a marketing director in Columbus, Ohio. "We were huddled under the covers of our bed, and Julie was describing how all the people who made her day miserable were 'bad polar bears' and how she didn't want any of the bad polar bears coming into the bedroom and how the bed was our refuge from them. You realize how embarrassing it is to admit this, right? Anyway, that's when we started calling the bed the igloo."

"The igloo is a place to retreat to," says Julie, 31. "It's our little sanctuary; only nice things happen in the igloo."

Eventually Julie and Thom began holding a powwow in the igloo at the end of every day, making a nightly excursion that Julie says has become a vital part of their five-year marriage.

"It's funny, because I always thought that when you lived with somebody, you'd automatically know everything that was going on," she says. "But we find that if we don't take that time to connect with each other, it's really easy for life to get in the way. The igloo offers one of the few times in the day where there's not a whole heck of a lot else going on, so you're able to focus on each other in a deeper way."

Of course, you don't need to christen major pieces of furniture with cute nicknames to improve the communication in your marriage. You simply have to set aside a few minutes every day to remind each other of why you got married in the first place. And there are as many ways to do that as there are marriages in America.

Lori and Joe, who are happily married in Philadelphia, have a nightly ritual they call crook time. That's when Lori cuddles up in the "crook" of Joe's shoulder and they talk. "The name's a little sappy," Lori admits, "but it's always a nice way for us to catch up."

Every night, Angie and Bob walk their pet Chihuahua, Chachi, through the streets of Brookline, Massachusetts. In addition to keeping Chachi from picking dogfights he could never win ("He has a bit of a Napoleon complex," Bob says), they use the time to strengthen their 11-year marriage.

It may be going a bit far to emulate Tim and Jill, a Connecticut couple who somewhat sheepishly admit that they check in with each other from work "six, maybe seven times a day," Tim says, "sometimes a dozen times when we're really being crazy." (Jill says, slightly more defiantly, "He's just my best friend, and our marriage is a great partnership, and there's no one I'd rather talk to.")

Then again, if you've been married 10 years and still want to talk to each other 10 times a day, you must be doing something right.

Back when you were 14 years old, you probably figured that once you got married, you'd have sex just about every day. (Well, maybe teenage girls don't think that way. But let me tell you, 14-year-old boys sure do.) And why not? Sex is free. It's fun. And it doesn't require the purchase of any equipment, besides the occasional bottle of vegetable oil and about 20 feet of nylon rope.

But as they get older, most couples realize that having sex every night isn't possible, let alone a worthy goal. Indeed, a 1994 University of Chicago survey of Americans' sexual habits found that only about a third of adults have sex more than once a week. Granted, that number might have been higher if all the couples having sex more frequently had stopped to take the surveyor's phone call, but clearly, sex for most married couples is far from a daily reality.

That doesn't mean, though, that you can't at least talk sexy every day, and that's the approach that Ed and Stephanie have taken in the more than six years they've been together.

"It's funny," says Ed, a 33-year-old San Francisco cab driver, "because we know plenty of married couples who fight, a lot, about how often they have sex. The wife's upset because all he ever wants to do is have sex; the husband's upset because he doesn't think they have sex enough. But this has never really been a problem with us, and I think it has a lot do with the fact that we're always talking sexy to each other."

"Absolutely," says Stephanie, a 32-year-old massage therapist. "We're always complimenting each other, tossing out fantasies, telling each other we're hot. He gets to feel like he can have sexual feelings, and I feel like I don't have to have sex all the time to appear attractive.

"Let's put it this way: The way I see it, sex is like chocolate cake. After five days of eating chocolate cake, even chocolate cake doesn't taste that great."

"Right," Ed says, "but after five days of talking about chocolate cake?"

"That cake tastes damn good."

Eavesdrop on a conversation between Bob and Angie concerning their favorite shared pastime.

"We are so disgusting. This is so pathetic. It's like a sickness."

"But it makes us happy!"

"It's so stupid it makes us laugh."

"We're yelling at people. High-fiving each other."

"Look, we get a kick out of it because it's so ridiculous. It's our guilty pleasure."

Forgive them if they seem somewhat shy, but they're merely ashamed to admit that the daily ritual that brings such joy to their 12-year marriage is none other than reality TV. That's right. They lived and died with Survivor. They've adopted Big Brother. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? They do. Not to mention TemptationIsland, The Weakest Link, The Real World, Chains of Love, Fear Factor, The Mole (yes, really, The Mole).

"Honestly, I think we just need to be dumb for a while," says Bob, 37, a shoe designer for Reebok in Boston. "We're both very into our careers. And when you're at work, with any job there's going to be a certain amount of professional stress. You like to come home sometimes and, for that lousy hour or whatever, kick back and relax."

Or as Angie, 36, a marketing executive, says, "Life is serious enough, isn't it? Sometimes you need to do something stupid. And if you can't be stupid with your husband, who can you be stupid with?

So hold on, then: Is domestic joy found in partners smothering each other in obsessive daily rituals ("Honey, don't forget, at 7:15 we have our nightly cuddle, followed by the affirmation of our vows, our 7:35 spontaneous flirtation, and then, of course, a new episode of Moesha at eight")?

Hardly. In fact, Tessina says that sleepwalking through a series of hollow routines (although probably an apt description of your day job) is worse for your marriage than having no routines at all. The solution, she says, is to also make a daily habit of getting away from each other.

"You know that old saying, 'How can I miss you if you don't go away?'" Tessina asks. "Doing things separately gives you a chance to fill in the blanks that your partner can't fill in for you, for example, one of you likes classical music, the other one likes sports. Plus, taking a break from each other gives you more things to talk about, because when you're joined at the hip, what's to talk about? You've already seen it all."

The point, naturally, is not to make space for each other in that I-can't-wait-to-get-away-from-you sort of way but to pursue your own hobbies and interests. It's a distinction that Joe tried hard to make to Lori during their delicate pre-engagement negotiations four years ago.

"As a woman, you get this message that when you get married, you spend every single waking second with your husband and you're so unbelievably happy," says Lori, 34. "And my parents actually do spend every single waking second together, and oddly enough, they are happy. So that's how I grew up thinking you were supposed to be. But when I told him this, Joe was like, 'I-don't-think-so.'"

"Because I watched my parents," says Joe, 29, whose parents divorced when he was 22, "and yeah, they spent every moment together, but they spent every moment together at each other's throats."

"So Joe had to convince me that having our own lives was a good idea," Lori explains. "I'm thankful he did."

These days Lori and Joe are practically poster children for the power of independence. Joe, who works for a nonprofit agency, spends his nights taking painting classes, building youth centers, and recording his guitar sessions. Lori, a college professor, spends hers directing community-theater musicals and indulging in trashy movies on cable television, a passion that Joe (go figure) doesn't seem to share.

"It all brings a freshness to our marriage because we both continue to grow as people," Joe says.

"Plus," says Lori, "getting out of the house and out of each other's hair keeps us from going crazy."

And — we asked the experts, so we know — going crazy is definitely not one of the secrets of a happy marriage.

In another University of Chicago survey, this one of married couples, 75 percent of the Americans who pray with their spouses reported that their marriages are "very happy" (compared to 57 percent of those who don't). Those who pray together are also more likely to say they respect each other, discuss their marriage together, and — stop the presses — rate their spouses as skilled lovers.

Not to say that prayer is a cure for all that ails you (were that the case, my beloved Oakland Raiders would have won the Super Bowl years ago). But whether they're talking about a simple grace at dinnertime or some soul-searching meditation, couples routinely say that a shared spiritual life helps keep them close. And as Doug and Beth say, even couples who are on different sides of the theological fence can benefit from praying together daily.

"We have been married for seven years, but praying together is something we didn't start doing until about a year ago," says Doug, a 32-year-old Salt Lake City biochemist. "In the past, whenever we faced big decisions, we'd have discussion after discussion about them, but we'd never really come to a resolution."

After two 1,000-mile moves, the birth of three children, and two job changes, all in the past four years, those difficult decisions had begun to take a toll. So when Beth asked Doug, a nonreligious and self-proclaimed man of science, to try praying with her, he figured they had nothing to lose.

"I soon found that praying together brings out a real sense of selflessness and humility," Doug says. "When you're praying for each other, not yourself, you're focused together and speaking from the heart on a whole different level. I would never have predicted this for us, but it really works."

"As bad as any problem may seem at that moment," agrees Beth, "prayer always helps us see beyond it. It doesn't have to be a long-drawn-out scripture reading, just a few minutes a day. When we pray, it brings another level of honesty to our conversations. I think it's the most intimate thing you can do with another person."

Now they pray together every night, once the "urchins" are in bed, which puts them in the company of the 32 percent of American married couples who say they pray together regularly. It also puts them in the company of Julie and Thom, when the other couple isn't holed up in their igloo, of course.

"It's pretty short and not at all scripted," says Julie about their giving thanks before each meal. "We just join hands and let it rip. Whether we're asking for forgiveness or giving thanks, saying it out loud holds a lot of power.

"Besides, regardless of religion or spiritual preference, I think that most marriages require a ton of faith," Julie sums up. "You've got to believe that somehow the two of you are going to make it through things. You've got to believe that you're being blessed with this person. And even if the power we feel just comes from the strength of our love, even if we don't believe that it's God who is helping us, I still think that it's good to acknowledge that there's a force between the two of us that's helping us out."



U.N. Tries to Curb Extinctions

Species haven’t died off this fast since the dinosaurs were wiped off the face earth. With species of fauna and flora currently disappearing at a rate 100 to 1,000 greater than the historical averages, environment ministers from 190 countries met in Japan to set out new measures to preserve biodiversity.

The objective of the Nagoya Protocol, as it is known, is to reduce the extinction rate by half between now and 2020. Over that period, the amount of protected land will grow to 17 percent from about 12.5 percent, while 10 percent of oceans will be protected, growing from less than one percent.

“We would have liked to see more ambitious targets in protected area goals and the financing,” said a representative from The Nature Conservancy. “But the fact that they were able to reach an agreement is a big deal.” The delegates also set up a profit-sharing scheme for rich and poor nations to benefit from new pharmaceutical products derived from genetic material.

Read it at The New York Times

F A C T S from various scoures I've collected for whatever reason(s)?

** 98,000 patients are killed annually by medical errors. Tort law changes won't fix health care. Tell Congress to put patients first.**

Republicans will also be judged by the voters. If they want to obstruct and filibuster while the economy is in free fall, the president should call their bluff and let them go at it. In the first four years after F.D.R. took over from Hoover, the already decimated ranks of Republicans in Congress fell from 36 to 16 in the Senate and from 117 to 88 in the House.

A simple pucker involves two muscles, and a real hot sweaty smooch involves all 34 facial muscles. Each burns 26 calories a minute.

Democrats have won back-to-back victories, picking up at least 12 Senate seats and more than 50 House seats. They now have bigger majorities in both houses than the G.O.P. ever achieved in its 12-year reign.

The accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm.

all those terrified Jews who reportedly abandoned their progressive heritage to buy into the smears libeling Obama as an Israel-hating terrorist? Obama drew a larger percentage of Jews nationally (78) than Kerry had (74)

United States is the only country in the industrialized world where children are less likely to graduate from high school than their parents were, according to a new study by the Education Trust

Britain had 27 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 between 2000 and 2005, according to a report published by Population Action International. Comparable figures are 10 per 1,000 for Spain , 8 in 1,000 for France , and 5 in 1,000 for The Netherlands.

Britain's teen pregnancy rate, however, is still far below that of the United States, which registers 44 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 and are more line with English-speaking countries such as Australia and New Zealand, which respectively have 17 and 27 births per 1,000 women between 15 and 19, according to the report.

there’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information — but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber.

The money that foreign workers send home will shrink by $15 billion this year, as the global economy limps along, the World Bank projects.

Such remittances, or money transfers, will fall from last year's high of $305 billion to $290 billion in 2009, the World Bank said in a report released this week.

Money transfers are among the largest sources of external financing in developing countries, often used to buy basic necessities in areas with rampant poverty.

"Because they flow directly from people to people, remittances become especially important for poor people," said Dilip Ratha, an economist at the World Bank and lead author of the report. "Many people use remittances as their only lifeline."

The main reason for the drop is the weakening of economies in "destination" countries where migrant and immigrant workers live, the report found.

"This time, the crisis did not start in the developing countries," Ratha said. "It started in the rich countries like the U.S. and in Europe."

There are an estimated 150 million migrants worldwide, many of who send part of their paychecks home each month, according to a 2006 U.N. report.

some defenses of the President. At Swampland, Michael Scherer wrote after the press conference:

I don’t really get all this gabbing about Obama and his teleprompter. Does anyone really doubt Obama’s ability to speak cogently and in detail without notes, after winning three presidential debates and slaying just about every press availability he gets? So he likes reading from a screen and not a piece of paper.

Yesterday in the Atlantic , James Fallows wrote :
The whole ‘Obama can’t talk on his own’ concept is bizarre, given his performance through two years of stump speeches and debates during the campaign. But it seems to have gotten so much credence in the right-wing world that it is worth addressing head on.”

More support for the president’s ability to extemporize also came to light on Tuesday, the day of the press conference. Following up on the St. Patrick’s Day incident, Telegraph reporter Toby Harnden tracked down a reporter who was there, listened to his audio tape of the event and concluded, as per the reporter he talked to, that when Obama was thanking Obama, he was making a joke at the Irish Prime Minister’s expense.

Or, as Harnden put it, “Ironically, therefore, Obama was ad-libbing rather than mindlessly reading the wrong speech from a teleprompter.”

According to the KlaasKids Foundation run by Marc Klaas, whose daughter Polly was kidnapped and killed in 1993, 96 percent of those who abduct and kill children are male. Seventy-six percent of the victims in such cases are dead within three hours of being kidnapped, and the majority of those who kill children are acquaintances of the child.

9-17/09The United States lost 216,000 jobs in August, the department said earlier this month, down from 276,000 in July. Employers have eliminated 6.9 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007.

All truth goes through three phases.
1. First, it is ridiculed.
2. Second, it is violently opposed.
3. Third, it is accepted as being self evident.

Just some of the things I dislike people do.

People eating fruit while shopping in a supermarket –stealing & unhealthy

People yawing in public without covering their mouth and worst is letting a noisy scream with their mouth open like the Grand Canyon

Young people just yelling out just to be loud and draw attention they have nothing to say

People using cliché and catch phrases from TV & movies and think they are original, like ‘winner winner chicken dinner’?

Public bathroom attendants stuffing towel dispensers too full you can’t pull a towel out

You either get none, bits & pieces or a wasteful mass clump

Hate that most all TV channels have synchronized their commercial breaks so you can no longer click and catch bits & pieces of other program which may catch your interest

People have no clue on how to walk in public areas!

Walking rules should be similar to driving basics - How about keeping oncoming walkers to your left?! No left turns in front of straight ahead walkers?


Cooking with Tropical Oils – Your Healthiest Alternative
I have, for many years now, recommended coconut oil on the basis and the supposition that it doesn't contain much unsaturated fat. As a result, it's not going to be damaged by heat and create trans fats like some other oils. (Another tropical oil that is very similar is palm oil.)

Dr. Moerck agrees, saying:

"I would say that coconut oil is okay to cook with. It's a saturated fat. Your body will burn it as fuel or it will get rid of it some other way. It won't store it in your body.. So from that point of view, if you're going to use oil then that's a good one to use."

Interestingly, unlike carbohydrates, which can also deliver quick energy to your body, coconut oil does this without producing an insulin spike. Yes, it acts like a carbohydrate, but without any of the debilitating insulin-related effects associated with long-term high carbohydrate consumption.

But that's merely the beginning.

Earlier this week I published an entire special report on the health benefits of coconut oil, which include:

•Promoting heart health
•Promoting weight loss, when needed
•Supporting your immune system health
•Supporting a healthy metabolism
•Providing you with an immediate energy source
•Keeping your skin healthy and youthful looking
•Supporting the proper functioning of your thyroid gland
Part of what makes coconut oil such a healthful oil for cooking is that 50 percent of the fat content in coconut oil is a fat rarely found in nature called lauric acid. This is also one of the features that distinguishes coconut oil from other saturated fats.

Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which has potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties.

In addition, coconut oil is about 2/3 medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), also called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. These types of fatty acids also produce a host of health benefits.

Best of all, coconut oil is stable enough to resist heat-induced damage, which you cannot say for other oils. In fact, it's so stable you can even use if for frying (although I don't recommend frying your food for a number of health reasons).

I recommend using coconut oil in lieu of every other oil, whether your recipe calls for butter, olive oil, vegetable oil or margarine.

Important, New Information about Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is a good monounsaturated fat that is also well-known for its health benefits. It's a staple in healthful diets such as Mediterranean-style diets.

However, it's important to realize it is NOT good for cooking. It should really only be used cold, typically drizzled on salads and other food.

Due to its chemical structure and a large amount of unsaturated fats, cooking makes extra-virgin olive oil very susceptible to oxidative damage. However, during this interview I learned that extra-virgin olive oil has a significant draw-back even when used cold – it's still extremely perishable!

As it turns out, extra-virgin olive oil contains chlorophyll that accelerates decomposition and makes the oil go rancid rather quickly.

In fact, Dr. Moerck actually prefers using almost tasteless, semi-refined olive oil rather than extra-virgin olive oil for this reason.

If you're like most people, you're probably leaving your bottle of olive oil right on the counter, opening and closing it multiple times a week. Remember, any time the oil is exposed to air and/or light, it oxidizes, and as it turns out, the chlorophyll in extra virgin olive oil accelerates the oxidation of the unsaturated fats.

Clearly, consuming spoiled oil (of any kind) will likely do more harm than good.

To protect the oil, Dr. Moerck recommends treating it with the same care as you would other sensitive omega-3 oils:

•Keep in a cool, dark place
•Purchase smaller bottles rather than larger to ensure freshness
•Immediately replace the cap after each pour
To help protect extra virgin olive oil from oxidation, Dr. Moerck suggests putting one drop of astaxanthin into the bottle. You can purchase astaxanthin, which is an extremely potent antioxidant, in soft gel capsules. Just prick it with a pin and squeeze the capsule into the oil.

The beautiful thing about using astaxanthin instead of another antioxidant such as vitamin E, is that it is naturally red, whereas vitamin E is colorless, so you can tell the oil still has astaxanthin in it by its color.

As the olive oil starts to pale in color, you know it's time to throw it away.

You can also use one drop of lutein in your olive oil. Lutein imparts an orange color and will also protect against oxidation. Again, once the orange color fades, your oil is no longer protected against rancidity and should be tossed.

This method is yet another reason for buying SMALL bottles. If you have a large bottle, you may be tempted to keep it even though it has begun to oxidize.

The Worst Cooking Oils of All
Polyunsaturated fats are the absolute WORST oils to use when cooking because these omega-6-rich oils are highly susceptible to heat damage.

This category includes common vegetable oils such as:

Damaged omega-6 fats are disastrous to your health, and are responsible for far more health problems than saturated fats ever were.

Trans fat is the artery-clogging, highly damaged omega-6 polyunsaturated fat that is formed when vegetable oils are hardened into margarine or shortening.

I strongly recommend never using margarine or shortening when cooking. I guarantee you you're already getting far too much of this damaging fat if you consume any kind of processed foods, whether it be potato chips, pre-made cookies, or microwave dinners...

Trans fat is the most consumed type of fat in the US, despite the fact that there is no safe level of trans fat consumption, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine.

Trans fat raises your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels while lowering your HDL (good cholesterol) levels, which of course is the complete opposite of what you want. In fact, trans fats -- as opposed to saturated fats -- have been repeatedly linked to heart disease. They can also cause major clogging of your arteries, type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems.

So, cleaning these oils out of your kitchen cupboard is definitely recommended if you value your health.

ON THIS DAY 'Rumble in the Jungle' MAKES ME FEEL OLDER and BETTER!

On Oct. 30, 1974,
Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in the eighth round of a 15-round bout in Kinshasa, Zaire, to regain his world heavyweight title.
My favorite fighter of all time.
STILL. Everytime I think of Ali I smile!

'The Exorcist' 20 things you may not have known about the 'The Exorcist'

A few weeks ago saw the Blu-ray release of the Extended Director's Cut of 1973's infamous 'The Exorcist.'
The film, directed by William Friedkin, tells the story of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), a seemingly-innocent young girl who begins to experience strange and increasingly violent and disturbing behavior.
After her mother (Ellen Burstyn) tries every medical intervention to save her, she realizes that Regan may be controlled by an other-worldly and evil power.

Desperate for help, she calls on Father Karras (Jason Miller) and Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) to perform an exorcism on her daughter. As Regan displays more and more frightening abilities, the priests realize they may in fact be dealing with the Devil himself.

'The Exorcist' became an immediate -- and controversial -- sensation and, over the years, a variety of modern myths have developed around the film. To celebrate the arrival of the Blu-Ray version of the film -- featuring restored footage not seen on its first release -- here are 20 things you may not have known about the 'The Exorcist' -- and its legend.

1. A True Story?
The novel that the film is based on supposedly comes from true events. The author, William Peter Blatty, a 1950 graduate of Georgetown University, based it on a rumored 1949 exorcism that occurred on school grounds. Legend persists that a 14-year-old boy, given the pseudonym "Robbie Manheim," was possessed after attempting to contact his deceased aunt via a Ouija Board.

2. Terrifying From the First Moment
The original teaser trailer, featuring a series of flashing black and white images, was banned from many theaters for being "too frightening."

3. The Power of Faith
Father Karras' friend in the film, Joseph Dyer, is played by Father William O'Malley, an actual priest and teacher at Fordham University, where part of the film was shot. He still teaches at the school and screens the film to his students, referring to it as a "pornographic horror film." However, he also admits that it is approximately "80 percent true" in regards to the real events it was inspired by.

4. Disgusting Dedication
Mercedes McCambridge provided the demonic voice of Regan. She achieved the gravelly tone by chain-smoking and forcing herself to vomit up a mixture of raw eggs and mushed apples.

5. Shocking Language
On the first day of shooting the exorcism sequence, von Sydow was so disturbed by the profanities coming from Blair's character that he forgot his lines.

6. A Cursed Set?
The set for the McNeil home burned down during a studio fire. The only room that remained untouched was Regan's bedroom.

7. Shocked Audiences
Theaters screening the movie came equipped with "Exorcist barf bags."

8. Literal Suffering
During a 1974 screening, an audience member fainted and broke his jaw on the seat in front of him. He claimed the movie's subliminal imagery caused him to lose consciousness, and subsequently sued Warner Bros. They settled out of court, for an undisclosed sum.

9. Acting Controversy
McCambridge was never given a screen credit for providing the voice of the demon. She had to sue Warner Bros. to get her credit. The lawsuit broke out during the Oscar season -- when Blair received a nomination for her performance. Critics speculate that that controversy is what ruined Blair's chances for success.

10. The Evil Inside the Film Itself
The evangelist Billy Graham claimed that an actual demon lived inside the celluloid reels of the film.

11. Out-of-Control Viewers
Blair received death threats following the release of the film because people believed she was "glorifying Satan." As a result, Warner Bros. had to hire bodyguards to accompany her for sixth months.

12. An International Scandal
Town councils throughout the UK banned screenings of the film, prompting travel companies to create "Exorcist Bus Trips" for citizens hoping to find a theater that actually played the movie. It was never officially released on video in the UK until 1999.

13. Believing in the Curse
Father Karras' room was filmed at the residence of Friar Thomas King. After a series of mysterious events troubled the New York shoot of the film, Blatty asked King to bless the Washington, D.C., set.

14. Intense Direction
In order to get specific reactions out of his actors, Friedkin went to extreme lengths: He slapped O'Malley in the face right before shooting an emotional scene, he fired a gun without warning behind Miller in order to get a shocked response from the actor and he had Regan's bedroom put inside a freezer to make it appear appropriately cold. The temperature was so low that snow actually started to form around Blair, who was only allowed to wear her nightgown.

15. Physically Demanding Performances
Blair and Burstyn both suffered back injuries from stunts where their characters are thrown around the room. Burstyn received permanent spinal damage and her character's scream in the film is her actual painful shriek.

16. An Eerie Coincidence
Post-production for the film was done at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

17. Gruesome Sound Effects
The sounds that are made when the demon leaves Regan's body come from an audio clip of pigs being herded to slaughter.

18. The Macabre Epilogue
Urban legend maintains that anyone involved in the production will be cursed for life. Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros, who play Burke the director and Karras' mother respectively, both died before the film's release. They are also the two characters who die during the course of the film.

19. Controversy Creates Cash
Until 'Jaws' came along, this was the highest-grossing movie of all time. If you adjust for inflation, it still remains the highest-grossing R-rated film ever.

20. Critical Acclaim
'The Exorcist' received 10 Oscar nominations, and won for Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is the first horror film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The McRIB IS BACK! Just after the pumpkin milk shake!!

McDonald's almost got one by us.

Earlier this month, we announced that the McRib would be returning to menus for a short time only, starting November 2nd.
But we kept spotting massive McRib ads posted in the windows of various McDonald's locations, and our curiosity spiked.
So we hit the McRib locator, made a couple of phone calls, and it was confirmed: McDonald's has sent the McRib into the world (at some locations) a week early.

For those of you who have been hiding under a rock, the McRib is a pork sandwich (not actually boneless ribs, so don't get your hopes up) slathered in BBQ sauce and topped with onions and pickles.
After it made its last and brief appearance back in 2006, the McRib has gathered a cult following.

We admit that many of us at Slashfood were McRib virgins until today. And while we all agreed that the pork-patty sandwich was slathered with way too much BBQ sauce (so much so that the bun was soggy), it was actually a pretty pleasant nosh.
To take it one step further, check out the McRib deconstructed.

McDonald's McRib Sandwich
Grade: B
Nutritional Information: 500 calories, 26 grams fat, 980 mg sodium
Our testers said:
"Ok, while it wasn't a true BBQ sandwich, it was tasty and I found myself wanting more."
"If I closed my eyes and you didn't tell me what it was, I could have mistaken this for a BBQ burger."
"The onions and pickles get lost, but that could be because of the BBQ sauce."
"The pork itself was moist, I would eat this again."