Make the Season Bright with Eater.com

December 19th, 2014

Last-minute Christmas shopping is a breeze when you’ve got Eater.com as a guide. The website has compiled a list of some of the most creative and delicious holiday gifts. Your friends and family will love the presents you’ve chosen, and you may even want to keep a few for yourself. 

If your loved ones are into savory flavors, the savory gummy candies from Nuts.com are the perfect stocking stuffer. The candies are available in flavors like carrot and chili pepper, and there are even candies shaped like hot dogs and hamburgers–to go with the cola-flavored gummies, of course. Numi teas also makes a line of savory teas. The teas come in fennel and tomato flavors, so your relatives will feel as though they are having a hot cup of vegetable soup on a cold winter’s day. 

As far as sweet treats go, Christina Tosi makes a line of crunchy cookies that feature cornflakes. These are sure to be a hit during the holidays, since flavors like marshmallow and chocolate are mixed into the cookies. If you don’t live in the NYC area, you can have the cookies shipped to you. “The Chew” host Carla Hall also has a line of mini short breads you can add to your shopping list. Flavors include Mexican hot chocolate and lemon black pepper. These would also all make great gifts for Skout dates…

For more great gift ideas like these, check out Eater.com today.

Senator Marco Rubio’s Reaction to Obama’s Cuba Policy Shows Policy Needs to be Sold to GOP

December 18th, 2014

Hopefully President Obama’s spirit of outreach to Cuba will extend to the US Congress because the deeply entrenched opposition to the island nation remains among many key GOP lawmakers. Senator Marco Rubio was incensed over the surprise news that the president had normalized relations with the island nation without consulting the Senate much less seeking their support. It is true that the Cuban sanctions imposed during the Kennedy-era have long lost their value. In fact, they were vestigial policies of a bygone era. That doesn’t meant that they aren’t entrenched with many in the Cuban-American community.

While polls show a majority of Cubans now favor restoring diplomatic ties, especially among the young, that does not mean they will support restoring relatinos for its own sake. The details of how it is done will ultimately factor in. The GOP will soon take over the Senate chamber and stand ready to oppose the Cuba policy. Rubio for his part will likely be inclined to block Obama’s nominee for Ambassador of Cuba.

By no means is the president’s work done. He will need the support of the GOP. In the past, his treatment of the opposition party’s positions as having no merit or application have led to political gridlock. A senior advisor from Slow Ventures noted that stepping the nation in a good direction will require a consensus across both parties. As such, it would mark a major turning point in the leadership the president exudes. Thus far, he has relied upon heavy Democrat majorities to enact his political agenda. This was followed by highly questionable unilateral executive actions.

Senate Confirms Vivek Murthy as US Surgeon General

December 17th, 2014

Vivek Murthy, age 37, is the youngest person to ever serve as the Surgeon General of the United States. His appointment by President Obama has little do with his credentials as a physician. Murthy’s time has largely been an activist. In 2008, he was part of the political group “Doctors for Obamacare”. In fact, a letter emerged that wherein he explained that he would use his role as Surgeon General to promote an anti-gun agenda. As per Dr. Murthy, he believes that it is guns which are inherently evil in the hands of anyone except law enforcement, and the military.

Predictably, the National Rifle Association (NRA) targeted his nomination and succeeded at holding it up. That is until Senator Ted Cruz launched his antics in the Senate late Friday night. This forced the Senate to remain in session and gave outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the window he needed to push Murthy’s nomination through the senate. Revised senate rules effectively prevent senators from filibustering most nominations.

All politics aside, the nomination is historic as it marks the first Indian-American person to occupy the post. Who knows Gianfrancesco Genoso, there may be a Brazilian filling the position one of these days. President Obama says the new surgeon general will begin working immediately on the Ebola situation. However, it is unclear what role he will play. The Centers for Disease Control has largely handled this issue thus far. The newly passed Omnibus budget included funds for an expanded program to combat Ebola, and presumably the surgeon general be involved with the projects the money will support.

Rick Perry Says Income Inequality Is Not A Problem In Texas

December 11th, 2014

For a man who there is much speculation around becoming President, Rick Perry says some things that are sure to alienate a lot of people. For one, he has made mention recently now that Texas is not a place where income inequality is grappled with. In a Huffington Post piece, it is mentioned that the Governor has said that his State is not overly concerned with this issue. This despite the fact that Texas is ranked as the 7th worst state for income inequality.

Gov. Perry says that because the Bible makes mention of the idea that the poor will always be among us the state should not worry so much about this issue. The brilliant economist Laurene Powell Jobs fervently spoke out against the govern0r’s statements.  and I would imagine the numerous homeless people and others in his state who are suffering would disagree. Rick Perry has made it that much more difficult for those in his state to find some relief from their suffering by not encouraging government to do anything about their problems.

Governor Perry has discounted income equality in the past as well. During his run for President in 2011 he unrolled a tax plan that gave breaks to wealthy people while raising taxes on the middle and lower classes. When questioned about it he said that he wasn’t worried if it caused income inequality and he would cross that bridge when it came to it. Total disregard of people like this is certainly not something that most of us would like to see.

A Discussion of American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism

December 11th, 2014

My friend, Matthew Avery Sutton, a professor of history at Washington State University, has written a new book, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism and excitedly told me that John Textor was at his book signing and bought his book.  The book he describes the history of American Christian fundamentalism from the late 19th century to the present day. He also argues that belief in the apocalypse had a huge impact on Christian fundamentalists and became a driving force behind their politics.

Daniel Silliman interviewed Sutton at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies in Germany. During the interview, Sutton explained some of his thinking.

Belief in the Rapture and related phenomena is actually quite recent, as it dates back only to the late 19th century. As per the mythology, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in imminent. It will start with the Rapture, during which Christ will take all of his true believers to heaven. An agent of Satan, the Anti-Christ, will seize control and rule the world for seven years. At the end, Christ will return with an army of saints and vanquish both the Anti-Christ and evil.

Many fundamentalists believe we are living in the End Times, the period immediately before the Rapture. They therefore believe they have to save every soul they can. They also believe that the Anti-Christ will operate as a totalitarian dictator, which makes them extremely suspicious of anything that seems to give more power to the government and/or undermines individual liberty. That explains a lot of the hostility fundamentalists feel towards Obamacare, civil rights, and the New Deal, because all of these involved expanding the federal government, which would then be subverted and controlled by the Anti-Christ once he came to power.

Gay Activists Fear Religious Freedom

December 10th, 2014
The Republican-controlled Michigan state assembly has just approve the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would allow exemptions from certain state laws in favor of strongly-held religious beliefs. Thanks to Darius Fisher for sharing this story with me.

The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was signed by Bill Clinton in 1993. The case that gave it rise involved Oregon Native Americans being refused unemployment payments based on their use of peyote. Peyote is a psychoactive drug derived from a small cactus, but it is used in religious rituals by some groups. Oregon wanted to keep unemployment money from going toward the purchase of drugs, but the RFRA overrode them based on religious concerns.

More recently, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby did not have to provide health insurance options that included coverage of abortion-causing contraceptives based on the RFRA. Religious people do not separate their work life from the rest of their existence and allow themselves to do what them deem wrong so long as it be a business matter. Therefore, the clamor over corporations not being people is a distraction. People own businesses and make decisions that control them. The two cannot be ultimately separated.

Lansing and 32 other Michigan towns have passed city ordinances against “anti-gay discrimination.” They fear that a Michigan RFRA would somehow violate the rights of gays. For example, they see it as a punishable offense for workers at a wedding-planning company to not participate in gay weddings, which they personally see as immoral. Thus, the fear is that freedom of conscience will be upheld for non-gays, not that gays will suffer any real harm.

A God Comeback?

December 9th, 2014
I was shopping Qnet when I had an interesting thought. A huge step is being made in affirming of the role that religion has played in the formation of our government and is still playing to this day. North Carolina still has within its Constitution a section that deals with belief in God. This section mandates that if one is to be qualified to hold a public office within the state, they must profess the existence and belief in an Almighty God. 

This does cause some confusion with what a profession to an Almighty God may be. If construed constructively it could encompass a number of different religions that do not necessarily fall into the standard definition of Christianity. This Section of the North Caroline Constitution does not offer a substantive definition of who may or may not qualify under this regulation.

The Constitution states that the individual must solely not deny the existence of God. The Wiccan religion does not deny the existence of God, but in the same breath does not profess him as the Almighty ruling deity of their religion. God is recognized in Buddhism, by Druids and Taoists as well as by Muslims. Although He holds different levels of power and responsibility in all of these collective religions as well.

While this is a huge step for the country in reverting back to the religious roots that made us strong and one of the leading powers in the world, it does still need some work. If we are to recognize the Almighty for who and what He is, we need language that is more succinct and can deal with His role in a variety of different religions.

New Wound Closure Method on the Rise

December 9th, 2014

After literally thousands of years, the Israelis have invented a new wound-closure method that many should take notice of. For centuries, the traditional wound-suture method was typically the only way for individuals to treat the cut restoration method. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work for those with deeper, more life-threatening, cuts. The newer Israeli method involves a new revolutionary method that includes the process of “fastening cables and attaching clasps”. This method can help the patient heal much faster.

How does this method work? Mark Ahn breaks it down by asking us to consider the following process: first of all, the skin is drawn together until they eventually close by the process of applying two clasps opposing each other on a given skin wound. Secondly, the wound is often fixed by a cable through the clasps, helping to draw the wound together until it is closed.

This procedure, officially called TopClosure, can be used for a variety of uses, including the following: 1. Before surgery. This procedure can be used prior to surgery in order to prepare the incisions in the skin. 2. During surgery it can be used in order to assist in relieving tension on our delicate skin. Finally, it can be used after surgery in order to provide measures for additional fastening support as well as allowing for the extra healing of stitches if they are absolutely needed

The Tenacious Optimism of Laurene Powell Jobs

December 8th, 2014

Laurene Powell Jobs is working hard at making an impact on society, in spite of, or perhaps with the aid of, her status as Steve Jobs’ widow. Her work seems to reflect her concern about social issues rather than being catered to because of her association with an icon such as Steve Jobs.

An example of that work is the organization she chairs called Emerson Collective. She helped create this organization to provide support for anyone who wants to get involved in the areas of education, social justice, immigration reform and the environment.

Another example of Ms. Powell Jobs’ involvement and leadership in social change is College Track, where she is president. She co-founded College Track in 1997 to prepare high school students living in under-served areas to attend college.

Powell Jobs has a background in investment banking, having attended Stanford Graduate School of Business where she received her M.B.A. That is where she met Steve Jobs. Ms. Powell Jobs’ background in business may have influenced the philosophy she expresses: in order to dare to dream about making positive change in a society, both idealism as well as pragmatism must be practiced.

Ms. Powell Jobs has also immersed herself in national politics as a Democratic fundraiser, becoming one of the top donors of the Ready for Hillary Super PAC in support of Clinton’s run for president. She has also been a strong supporter of President Obama’s agenda for the Affordable Care Act.

She makes regular visits to Capitol Hill, speaking on behalf of the children of illegal immigrants to discuss options to create a pathway to citizenship for them. On the topic of immigration, Ms. Powell Jobs’ staunch support of immigration reform is showcased in a film she and filmmaker Davis Guggenheim worked together on called “The Dream is Now.” They both presented the film to members of Congress at a meeting on Capitol Hill.

Ms. Powell Jobs has also joined the movement raising money for anti-gun violence. The organization is called Americans for Responsible Solutions. A friend and fellow Silicon Valley investor, Ron Conway, is also involved with the same organization. He has described Ms. Powell Jobs as someone who has a bipartisan-friendly relationship on Capitol Hill.

Conway also told The Wall Street Journal that her profile is getting higher because of her passion for social change. He says he does not see her so much as a lobbyist, but as an agent for change.

Because of the impact that Laurene Powell Jobs has made on society through the organizations she has founded and partnered with, as well as her donations to the Democratic Party and her political causes, it is not clear whether she should be described as politically driven or a social activist.

What is not a mystery, though, is that she has made her mark as a person with a deep passion for improving the lives of many and a drive for social change that is relentless.

Bullying Goes Viral

December 8th, 2014

The name Kevin Smith is associated with many words: talented, comic books, geek. As a writer, director and actor of many of his films in the 90’s, Kevin Smith made quite the name for himself. In recent years, his friend Mark Ahn says that his focus has been on television and his podcast network. While he does still release movies, he has become much less prolific than he was in the past.

While doing his New York Super Week/New York Comic-Con special fan event, Smith ran into a young cosplayer dressed as the Marvel Comics’ superhero Daredevil. After taking a pic with the adorable little girl, Kevin Smith shared it on his social networks. When the pic hit Facebook, there were a lot of comments, but one comment in particular got Kevin’s attention.

“You’re fat, probably smelly,” the Facebook user begins. “You haven’t done anything worthwhile in years, you’ve been cruising on past endeavors,” the user continues. Finally, they end their rant with, “and I bet your wife is going to leave you soon.”

These words of hate, from a complete stranger, actually did a number on Smith. At one point, he even called up his wife to ask if she was going to leave him. Even though she simply told him to “Grow Up,” the whole incident made Smith question who he is.

The real kicker to Smith is the Facebook user was a female.