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Karen Greenberg: Will the U.S. Go to “War” Against Ebola?

By: Wednesday October 22, 2014 6:37 pm

A mobile lab set up in Guinea early in the epidemic

Sometimes, if you want to catch the essence of a moment, however, grim, you need to turn to humor. Recently, the New Yorker’s resident satirist Andy Borowitz produced one of his patented fake news stories that began this way: “The president of CNN Worldwide, Jeff Zucker, attempted on Wednesday to defuse the brewing controversy over his decision to change the network’s official slogan from ‘The Most Trusted Name in News’ to ‘Holy Crap, We’re All Gonna Die.’”

Can there be any question that a pandemic disease, which may, by December, be spreading at the rate of 10,000 cases per week in West Africa and, in a deeply interconnected world, can head anywhere is worthy of attention, preparation, and planning?  Can there be any question that a major global humanitarian effort to stem Ebola’s course in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea is imperative? Still, you have to wonder whether the second-by-second coverage of the two cases so far transmitted in this country, including the quarantining of a dog, isn’t just the usual media overkill.  It’s a story that, like massive storms and extreme weather, has so many upsides for a media world that feels itself up against the wall: it’s easy to write (or film); there’s no need for “balance”; it’s guaranteed to instantly glue eyeballs at a time when your audience can be elsewhere in no-seconds flat; and it breeds overreaction and the sort of hysteria that brings in yet larger audiences, the sort that Borowitz captured so well.  On the other hand, it makes reality almost impossible to grasp by denying context or perspective.  Think of Ebola as the disease version of ISIS beheading videos. 

Add into the mix an election year in which Republicans are ready to tar Democrats with any kind of prospective disaster (and Democrats eager to blame Republican cost-cutting for the imagined pandemic-to-come).  The result: a growing mood that couldn’t be uglier or less amenable to thinking clearly about the actual dangers we face and what is to be done. 

As TomDispatch regular Karen Greenberg points out today, given an administration already on the ropes over its new war in the Middle East, it would be all too easy for U.S. officials, amid the usual panic, to fall back on that comfortable template of the post-9/11 years, the war on terror, when it comes to Ebola.  After all, it’s already enscribed in the DNA of a national security state that is, effectively, a shadow government.  So no one should be surprised that Washington’s first response to the Ebola crisis was to militarize it.  U.S. boots are already on the ground in West Africa and preparations are underway for a possible future call-up of the reserves and the National Guard.  In other words, in his initial move to contain Ebola, President Obama sent in the U.S. military, an organization as ill equipped to deal with a pandemic disease as it was to deal with “nation-building” in Afghanistan or Iraq.  He also called for the formation of medical “SWAT teams” to fight Ebola in this country — not perhaps your typical image for responding to a disease, but one that fits this American moment to a T.  And the Pentagon has already responded by organizing “a 30-person rapid-response team that could provide quick medical support to civilian healthcare workers if additional cases of the Ebola virus are diagnosed in the United States.”

Since we already live in the United States of Hysteria, TomDispatch sets out on a tour today of possible future front lines as Greenberg explores how, in our strange land, a disease could end up being treated as the latest terror operation against this country.  Tom

Fighting the Last War
Will the War on Terror Be the Template for the Ebola Crisis?
By Karen J. Greenberg

These days, two “wars” are in the headlines: one against the marauding Islamic State and its new caliphate of terror carved out of parts of Iraq and Syria, the other against a marauding disease and potential pandemic, Ebola, spreading across West Africa, with the first cases already reaching the United States and Europe.  Both wars seemed to come out of the blue; both were unpredicted by our vast national security apparatus; both have induced fears bordering on hysteria and, in both cases, those fears have been quickly stirred into the political stew of an American election year. 

The pundits and experts are already pontificating about the threat of 9/11-like attacks on the homeland, fretting about how they might be countered, and in the case of Ebola, raising analogies to the anthrax attacks of 2001. As the medical authorities weigh in, the precedent of 9/11 seems not far from their minds. Meanwhile, Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has tried to calm the country down while openly welcoming “new ideas” in the struggle against the disease.  Given the almost instinctive way references and comparisons to terrorism are arising, it’s hard not to worry that any new ideas will turn out to be eerily similar to those that, in the post-9/11 period, defined the war on terror.

 

WA Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Backpage.com Online Child Sex Trade Case

By: Wednesday October 22, 2014 5:11 pm

In March 2012, 15-year-old “S” was sold in the metro D.C. area as a 19-year-old “Judy.” In June 2012, a 16-year-old from Maryland was trafficked by a pimp who posted her on Backpage.com for a series of days with the subject line “My hour glass body is waiting for you. Apple booty a?? ..” These are examples of underage girls being advertised on Backpage. Three victims have sued, in Washington state. Is Backpage immune from liability for ads placed on its website advertising sex with minors? Yesterday, the WA Supreme Court heard oral arguments on this question.

When Congress passed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, they intended to encourage freedom of expression on the internet rather than limit it. Toward that end, they passed the law to shield from liability providers and users of an “interactive computer service” who publish information provided by others:

In analyzing the availability of the immunity offered by this provision, courts generally apply a three-prong test. A defendant must satisfy each of the three prongs to gain the benefit of the immunity:

1. The defendant must be a “provider or user” of an “interactive computer service.”

2. The cause of action asserted by the plaintiff must “treat” the defendant “as the publisher or speaker” of the harmful information at issue.

3. The information must be “provided by another information content provider,” i.e., the defendant must not be the “information content provider” of the harmful information at issue.

If people could sue a site owner every time they felt like they were mischaracterized, it would create a chilling effect on the free-flow of information on the internet. That makes sense as long as everybody is acting in good faith. The problem is that the owners of Backpage, while they may not have penned the ads themselves, know what is going on, and they are encouraging it, by promoting their “escort” ads. They are the online go-to for prostitution. President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, John D. Ryan writes:

Christ Needs to Tap One of Those Rich Dudes in Heaven

By: Wednesday October 22, 2014 3:48 pm

Guru Ramsey postulates if the commonly held interpretation of Matthew 19:24 is true, “then Jesus’ blood that was spilled at Calvary isn’t powerful enough to get a rich man into heaven, I think that’s called heresy.”

Biblical financial self-help pitchman Dave Ramsay, whose get-rich-scheme to convince followers of the first century homeless preacher called Jesus of Nazareth (who advised cult members to “give up all you own and follow me”) that they can become get-rich-quick-Christians by buying his greed absolving screeds and who is featured weekly on the TV station owned by televangelist-presidential candidate-sect leader Pat Robertson, advised viewers recently that, stunningly, Christ was a heretic.

Ramsay was hawking his latest tract, The Legacy Journey: A Radical View of Biblical Wealth and Generosity when he advised Robertson and his TVland fold that people who interpret the biblical passage, put forth for centuries as the actual words of Jesus; “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” (Matthew 19/23-24) as meaning that it is Christlike to abhor human greed and instead act with humility and charity were “heretics”.

Ramsay said that interpreting the fairly obvious symbols in Christ’s statement as meaning that Christians should not be greedy was not a providing a religious interpretation but rather pushing a “political agenda”.

Using logical available to self-recognized religious interpreters, an elite brand of exegesis that centuries of biblical scholars could not grasp but has been gifted to modern ‘get rich quick’ preachers including Creflo Dollar and Joel Osteen, Ramsey postulated that, if the long standing and commonly held interpretation of Matthew 19:24 is true, “then Jesus’ blood that was spilled at Calvary isn’t powerful enough to get a rich man into heaven, I think that’s called heresy. I’m pretty sure it is, look it up.”

While acknowledging that it is a “melon-scratcher” for regular folks, Ramsay counseled the faithful, “When you start putting limits on the power of the cross and limits on the power of grace that is extended to us from the Father through the son, based on someone’s wealth, then that’s Gnosticism – the worship of spirit versus materialism versus the worship orthodoxy.”

Ramsey assured the audience of TV watching Christians that if a Bible reader interprets Christ’s analogy of camels and eyes of needles as warning against acting greedily (one of Christianity’s “Seven Deadly Sins) “What that means is that someone just doesn’t understand the Bible.”

Ramsey went on to assert that the Bible “is not inconsistent” and actively calls on the faithful to accumulate wealth (some of which Ramsay hopes watchers will be handing to him as payment for one of his “Get Rich With Jesus” wealth accumulation books).

Meanwhile in Lawton Oklahoma, faithful wife Kristi Rhines told the managers at an El Chico Café Mexican restaurant located in the Central Mall that her husband was on his way to pay for the meal and drinks she had ordered and consumed at the establishment.

After some minutes, and not quite understanding the timeframes Rhines was referring to, the café’s managers asked Ms. Rhines to give them the name of her husband. Although Rhines was unable to produce a marriage license, she advised the business owners that her husband, Jesus Christ, had made a promise (some years ago) that he was ‘returning’ and assured them that he was good for the tab.

Not questioning the Christ of Oklahoma’s ability to pay – but certainly understanding how the ‘downturn in the economy’ has impacted mall restaurant diners across America, the restaurant’s owners (perhaps themselves having read the advance reviews of Jesus’ return as detailed in the biblical Book of Revelation and weighing the prospect of the difficulties of seeking reimbursement from the heavenly husband amongst all the predicted rivers of blood and four horsemen and such) decided to contact local police to handle unpaid bill situation.

October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation Is Underway

By: Wednesday October 22, 2014 2:34 pm

The group’s website says that they have been mobilizing every year since 1996 for a National Day of Protest on October 22, bringing together those under the gun and those not under the gun as a powerful voice to expose the epidemic of police brutality.
The Coalition also works on the Stolen Lives Project, which documents cases of killings by law enforcement nationwide. The second edition of the Stolen Lives book documents over 2000 cases in the 1990s alone. Volunteers are needed to help with the research and editing of cases since then.

Vast Majority of Americans Have No Idea How Health Insurance Actually Works

By: Wednesday October 22, 2014 1:29 pm

The American health insurance marketplace is sadly dominated by a bad mix of overconfidence combined with significant ignorance. While a majority of adults under 65 think they understand their policy, only a tiny fraction can even correctly answer a rather basic question about how much a doctor’s visit will cost them.

Kobane May Be an Example, Just Not One That the US Intends

By: Wednesday October 22, 2014 12:24 pm

Only last week, when Turkey refused to assist Kurdish fighters in the Syrian city of Kobane, even as those Kurds were losing ground to ISIS fighters, and the U.S. was directing its airstrikes against far-away targets in Iraq, Secretary of State John Kerry said while the U.S. was deeply concerned about the tragedy in Kobane, Kobane did not define the strategy for the coalition with regard to ISIS.

BREAKING: Shooting Shuts Down Canadian Parliament, Multiple Shooters Reported

By: Wednesday October 22, 2014 11:19 am

Earlier today in Ottawa an unidentified gunman shot and killed a Canadian soldier before entering the Canadian Parliament building and opening fire. Parliament was in session and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was evacuated as law enforcement exchanged gunfire with the assailant who was subsequently killed.

Washington Post Editorial Board Goes Full Reefer Madness

By: Wednesday October 22, 2014 10:14 am

The Washington Post editorial board already came out against Initiative 71, which would legalize marijuana in the D.C., in an error ridden op-ed they still refuse to issue a correction for. Now they are doubling down with this Reefer Madness op-ed against the Council getting ready to fulfill the will of the electorate.

Video Shows ISIS Getting Weapons Meant For Kurds, Pentagon To Investigate

By: Wednesday October 22, 2014 9:09 am

The Department of Defense has launched an investigation into its airdrop program for Syria after a video surfaced on youtube showing ISIS fighters going through an airdrop package meant for Kurdish forces. The airdrop occurred around the contested city of Kobani and included weapons intended to help Kurdish fighters defend the city from ISIS. Instead, the weapons were captured by ISIS and will likely be used against Kurdish forces.

New Poll Gives Republicans Eight Point Lead in Generic Ballot Due to Low Democratic Turnout

By: Wednesday October 22, 2014 8:04 am

The news for Democrats is not looking good. The latest AP-GfK poll found Republicans with an eight point lead in the generic ballot among likely voters. This is the largest lead for Republicans in any generic ballot poll this year.

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