Thoughts on young black men

by: DeniseVelez

Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 16:07:33 PM EDT

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Yesterday I was reading Kwik's "Black Male Teen Unemployment Astronomical; Indicator Of How Society Stigmatizes, Rejects Them" which opened with:

My son is 19 and has been trying to get a job for three years...but nobody will hire him. I don't want to believe it's because he's black, but...
When my son hit 16 in March of 2011, I told him: "Welcome to the work force!" I took him around to various fast food joints and grocery stores where he put in applications for basically any and every entry level job you can name from dishwasher to bus boy to bagger to stocker to janitor. We both thought it would be a matter of time before he got an interview and then a job. However, here it is over three years later and in spite of our continued efforts to find a job for him, he still hasn't been hired.

My son is a great young man. He graduated from high school last year, made good grades and never got into trouble. Right now, he's attending the local community college, where he continues to do well. To put it bluntly, he's a model citizen.
One thing that really exasperates me is that one of his best friends of the Caucasion persuasion who I know well because he lives down the street from us and is roughly the same age, has already been hired at three different nearby places.  All of which are places where my son also applied, including the place with the golden arches, which generally hires almost anyone white that walks in without a prison record. That young man from down the street is not nearly as intelligent, responsible, well-mannered, well-groomed or well-spoken as my son. Not even close. Yet, he gets hired repeatedly?  And by the way, the reason he's had at least three jobs is because he keeps getting fired.

We all are aware of the school-to-prison-pipeline, for profit-prisons, the targeting of young males of color in police programs like Stop and Frisk...and the death statistics for far too many of our youth cut down by gun violence and police. We also know that this nation has a long history of stereotyping black males into the roles of animals, and 'wilding' rapists, and thugs.  

Wherever there is a narrative, there are also efforts to build counter narratives. These young brothers have a video they would like you to see.

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President Obama: "... the Affordable Care Act repeal debate is, and should be, over"

by: JanF

Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 10:46:30 AM EDT

President Obama held an impromptu press conference yesterday. Among the topics were the success of the Affordable Care Act and Republican intransigence ... in both Congress and statehouses.

From the remarks:

I find it strange that the Republican position on this law is still stuck in the same place that it has always been.

They still can't bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working.  They said nobody would sign up; they were wrong about that.  They said it would be unaffordable for the country; they were wrong about that.  They were wrong to keep trying to repeal a law that is working when they have no alternative answer for millions of Americans with preexisting conditions who would be denied coverage again, or every woman who would be charged more for just being a woman again.

Wrong. Wrong. And Wrong.


I'm going to say one last thing about this, just because this does frustrate me:  States that have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite.  You've got 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now at no cost to these states -- zero cost to these states -- other than ideological reasons.  They have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens. That's wrong.  It should stop.  Those folks should be able to get health insurance like everybody else.

Political spite ... bordering on criminal negligence.

Transcript below the fold ...

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Working Boats

by: Ronk

Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 19:19:27 PM EDT

WA Ferry - The Issaquah - Mt. Baker
A Washington State Ferry plying between the San Juan Islands and Anacortes with Mt. Baker in Background

Working boats are those that haul our freight, catch our fish, transport us where bridges don't go, and rescue us when we are either unlucky or foolhardy at sea. These are hard working craft with hard working captains and crews.

Pleasure boats are often elegant and great for sport. We've all seen the graceful sailboats with their colorful billowing spinnakers and sailors' hair blowing in the breeze. And then there are the really big giant multimillion dollar yachts that for many of us elicit varying parts of envy and repugnance. I believe that far too little attention is paid to the real boating troopers who toil daily in all kinds of tides and weather. In this photo diary I highlight these intrepid mules of the waterways. No fair weather sailors here.  

I live on a bay at the edge of the Salish Sea. We have a wonderful harbor that moors both pleasure craft and working boats, including a sizeable fishing fleet that fishes both locally and in the waters of Alaska.

Most of these photos are taken on or around Bellingham Bay including Squalicum and Fairhaven Harbors. A few photos are from the nearby San Juan Islands and the Northern Puget Sound, all parts of the Salish Sea. Some boats are at dock while others are underway carrying out their various nautical occupations.

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Underestimating Ted Cruz

by: Shaun Appleby

Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 22:09:35 PM EDT

It seems that what passes for conventional wisdom has pretty much written off the stormy, incandescent career of the junior senator from Texas, "Tailgunner" Ted Cruz. The "tactical error" of bringing the country to the brink of default earned him the disapprobation of his party and enough condemnation by our collective thought leaders that we seem to have dismissed him from further consideration as a figure of national significance and appeal. And the sigh of relief and hopeful finality attending this dismissal is notably one of the few truly bipartisan undertakings of our otherwise sharply polarised politics and conflicted media commentary.

But let's set aside, for the moment, the convenient notion that we have survived this political asteroid. His meteoric career impacted squarely on the fault line dividing the modern Republican party at a crucial moment. Is this accidental?

Just as the leadership prepared to abandon the single, defining policy issue which had been used to demonise the administration and whip support for almost four years, Cruz weighs in and makes a perfect riot out of what the party was hoping to quietly concede.  In the process he wins a Gungam style volume of earned media, unimpeachable 'outsider' status in spite of having trod the corridors of power in Washington for a decade and a distant fourth in the history of filibusters.

He has also captured the unswerving loyalty of a significant cohort of disgruntled, activist Republicans who were the true believers. Sorry, folks, but this is no accident, it is the calculated, if somewhat volatile, opening gambit of a presidential nomination campaign.

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On moving the race conversation forward

by: DeniseVelez

Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 16:12:00 PM EDT

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I make no secret about being a fan of Jay Smooth's. I regularly use his video commentaries about race and other social justice issues in the classroom.  

"Jay Smooth" is the deejay moniker of John Randolph, who founded and hosts New York City's longest running hip-hop radio program "Underground Railroad" on Pacifica Radio station WBAI-FM. He's a blogger at, and Ill Doctrine, and probably best known for his widely distributed video commentary "How To Tell Someone They Sound Racist"

I'm always looking for new tools to use to encourage thoughtful discussion about race, racism and racial relations, and browsing Jay Smooth alerted me to the report issued this year by Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation , entitled "Moving the Race Conversation Forward" which is something I recommend you read and pass on to others if you haven't read it already.

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President Obama speaks at the Civil Rights Summit

by: DeniseVelez

Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 17:20:54 PM EDT

Transcript below

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Income disparities between whites and people of color-black folks are at the bottom

by: DeniseVelez

Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 16:06:39 PM EDT

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Why am I not surprised?  

The National Urban League has released its 38th edition of the "State of Black America® - One Nation Underemployed: Jobs Rebuild America" report. (read full press release here) You can read the book online.

From AP:

The underemployment rate for African-American workers was 20.5 percent, the report said, compared to 18.4 percent for Hispanic workers and 11.8 percent for white workers. Underemployment is defined as those who are jobless or working part-time jobs but desiring full-time work.
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Today is the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda

by: rb137

Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 23:42:25 PM EDT

KuangSi2Well, the start of the genocide, anyway. It lasted 100 days and took roughly 800,000 lives. What most of us in the west do not realize is that this was a particular instance of extreme violence that flairs up from time to time in a much larger scale war that is still playing out today.

This war goes by many names, and sometimes the names people use point to wars that supposedly ended some time ago. But make no mistake -- this war is still going full throttle, and it's currently most widely recognized as playing out inside the borders of Democratic Republic of the Congo.

But that isn't what I am writing about today. War is one story that comes from that part of the world, no doubt. But it isn't the only story. There is love and hope and community. There is a collective conscious that wants a different future, and there are brilliant people who know how to make it work.

But not with a gun.

And when I think of all the western people who lament that we didn't do something different to help the people in Rwanda twenty years so, I wonder if they want to know that it still isn't too late. We can still act in this world to make a difference in that conflict.

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Weekly Address: President Obama - Opportunity Agenda vs Republican Budget

by: JanF

Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 06:27:12 AM EDT

The President's Weekly Address post is also the Weekend Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.


From the White House -

In this week's address, the President highlighted the important differences between the budget he's put forward - built on opportunity for all - and the budget House Republicans are advocating for, which stacks the deck against the middle class.

While the President is focused on building lasting economic security and ensuring that hard-working Americans have the opportunity to get ahead, Republicans are advancing the same old top-down approach of cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans and slashing important investments in education, infrastructure, and research and development.

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President Obama on the Affordable Care Act: "7.1 million Americans"

by: JanF

Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 07:03:29 AM EDT

From the Rose Garden, Tuesday, April 1, 2014:

Email blast "7.1 million Americans":

... Now, millions of our fellow Americans have the comfort and peace of mind that comes with knowing they're no longer leaving their health and well-being to chance. For many of them, quality health insurance wasn't an option until this year -- maybe because they couldn't afford it, or because a pre-existing condition kept them locked out of a discriminatory system.

Today, that's changed. And while our long-broken health care system may not be completely fixed, it's without question a lot better. That's something to be proud of -- and there's no good reason to go back.

Regardless of your politics, or your feelings about the Affordable Care Act, millions more Americans with health coverage is something that's good for our economy and our country.

At the end of the day, that is what this law -- and the other reforms we're fighting for, from a 21st-century immigration system to a fairer wage for every American who's willing to work for it -- are all about:

Making sure our country lives up to our highest ideals.

I am thankful to be your President today, and every day. And I am proud that this law will continue to make life better for millions of Americans in the years to come

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Africa, Black art and politics, and memories of my father

by: DeniseVelez

Tue Apr 01, 2014 at 16:08:44 PM EDT

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I woke up this morning thinking of my father, who was born on April 1, 1919. I've written about him here in the past. He was responsible for ensuring that though the schools I attended during my growing up period did not teach black history, culture, arts, literature and drama (most still don't) that I would get a well-rounded education at home. So, I became just as familiar with African and Caribbean writers and thinkers, as I was with the work of Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright.

In my teenage and young adult years there were ideological schisms within the various black movements in the U.S.-cultural nationalism, revolutionary nationalism, pacifistic militancy and integrationism, separatism, black power, Pan-Africanism, the Black Arts movement...all of which would affect how I viewed the world and experienced myself as a black person. Later I realized that much of this theoretical and ideological push and pull and influences, which was so critical to my development is still virtually unknown and unacknowledged by the majority, who have neatly packaged black history into a nice tidy Martin Luther King package, rarely including Africa and the diaspora, except to tie it to slavery. Unless one is a student in black or african studies, the struggles against colonialism and neocolonialism in politics and culture are also absent from the curricula.  

I remember talking to my dad about his interest in attending a cultural festival in Africa, and that the U.S. delegation was being headed by Langston Hughes, but I gave it little thought-I was away at school at the time, and my parents didn't make the trip to Africa until several years later. I only recently realized that the festival he had spoken of was launched on his birthday.    

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No fooling - Paul Ryan will release his budget again.

by: JanF

Tue Apr 01, 2014 at 07:45:52 AM EDT

The Ryan Republican budget to be released today is not an April Fools Day joke. It is Paul Ryan's vision for a puny America ... a vision formed by the Ayn Rand philosophy which believes that there is virtue in selfishness.

Ryanism - It's baaaaack!

Paul Ryan Will Release His New Budget On Tuesday

The proposal will be an updated version of the 10-year fiscal vision that Ryan has proposed each year since 2011, and is expected to include a partial privatization of Medicare, large tax cuts and steep cuts to social programs.

It seems like just yesterday that Rep. Ryan released his 2011 budget, the one that President Obama shredded.

More ...

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Weekly Address: Vice-President Biden - Raise The Minimum Wage

by: JanF

Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 06:50:59 AM EDT

The President's Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.


From the White House - Weekly Address

In this week's address, Vice President Biden discusses the importance of raising the federal minimum wage. It's good for workers, it's good for business, and it would help close the gender pay gap, as women make up more than half of the workers who stand to benefit from a raise. And as the Vice President highlights, Congress should boost the federal minimum wage because it is what a majority of the American people want.

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Denise Oliver-Velez Honored by NAACP

by: JanF

Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 22:25:08 PM EDT

From the NAACP Facebook Page

Denise Oliver Velez--applied cultural anthropologist, writer and revolutionary--was a part of the Young Lord's Party, which rallied a crew of women that fought for open enrollment in the City Colleges of New York, for the formation of Puerto Rican Studies Programs and bi-lingual education in grade schools. #‎WHM2014

Congratulations, Sis Dee!
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President Obama Speaks in Brussels: Reject the "old ways" of militarism

by: JanF

Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 06:03:07 AM EDT

President Obama spoke to the youth of Europe at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Belgium.

President Barack Obama:

Your Majesties, Mr. Prime Minister, and the people of Belgium -- on behalf of the American people, we are grateful for your friendship.  We stand together as inseparable allies, and I thank you for your wonderful hospitality.  I have to admit it is easy to love a country famous for chocolate and beer. [...]

Throughout human history, societies have grappled with fundamental questions of how to organize themselves, the proper relationship between the individual and the state, the best means to resolve inevitable conflicts between states.  And it was here in Europe, through centuries of struggle -- through war and Enlightenment, repression and revolution -- that a particular set of ideals began to emerge:  The belief that through conscience and free will, each of us has the right to live as we choose.  The belief that power is derived from the consent of the governed, and that laws and institutions should be established to protect that understanding.  And those ideas eventually inspired a band of colonialists across an ocean, and they wrote them into the founding documents that still guide America today, including the simple truth that all men -- and women -- are created equal.[...]

So I come here today to insist that we must never take for granted the progress that has been won here in Europe and advanced around the world, because the contest of ideas continues for your generation. [...]

There will always be voices who say that what happens in the wider world is not our concern, nor our responsibility.  But we must never forget that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom.  Our democracy, our individual opportunity only exists because those who came before us had the wisdom and the courage to recognize that our ideals will only endure if we see our self-interest in the success of other peoples and other nations. [...]

To be honest, if we defined our interests narrowly, if we applied a cold-hearted calculus, we might decide to look the other way. Our economy is not deeply integrated with Ukraine's. Our people and our homeland face no direct threat from the invasion of Crimea.  Our own borders are not threatened by Russia's annexation.  But that kind of casual indifference would ignore the lessons that are written in the cemeteries of this continent.  It would allow the old way of doing things to regain a foothold in this young century. And that message would be heard not just in Europe, but in Asia and the Americas, in Africa and the Middle East. [...]

In the end, the success of our ideals comes down to us -- including the example of our own lives, our own societies.  We know that there will always be intolerance.  But instead of fearing the immigrant, we can welcome him.  We can insist on policies that benefit the many, not just the few; that an age of globalization and dizzying change opens the door of opportunity to the marginalized, and not just a privileged few.

Full transcript below the fold ...

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Happy Birthday to the Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin

by: DeniseVelez

Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 16:10:12 PM EDT

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I want to rock the porch, and the pond,  with music today, on the last Tuesday of Women's History Month 2014, and can't find a better way to do it, than to celebrate with the sounds of our Sister Aretha Franklin, on her birthday.

I feel like every period of my life, from my high school years till now, has had her voice as part of the soundtrack.  

Aretha Louise Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 25, 1942. She was the  daughter of Barbara Siggers and Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, better known as Rev. C.L Franklin, who founded Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit Michigan, when he and his daughters relocated there in 1948.

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Court Watch: Sebelius v Hobby Lobby Stores - UPDATED with Transcript Link

by: JanF

Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 09:23:21 AM EDT

Today the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Sebelius v Hobby Lobby Stores case, a matter that may decide whether of not the religious beliefs of the shareholders of a corporation allow the corporation itself protection from the provisions of federal statutes.

Hobby Lobby is a for-profit corporation, employing over 16,000 people, which is claiming an Affordable Care Act exemption that protects religious organizations from having to provide contraception as part of its employer-based health insurance plan.

The laws of incorporation are generally in place to protect the shareholders from personal liability and in this case, the Green family is seeking to claw back their personal right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees while leaving the other protections of incorporation intact.

The hearing will start at 10am Eastern and will include 2 hours of arguments, expanded from the normal 90 minutes.

The lawyer for Hobby Lobby is Paul D. Clement and the lawyer for the United States government is Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. Over 2 dozen briefs have been filed in support of the government's position and over 5 dozen in support of Hobby Lobby and the other party, Conestoga Wood Specialties. Two additional briefs were filed that take no side but which discuss the constitutional issues involved.

UPDATE: Transcript  13-354. Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (PDF)

From Lyle Denniston at the SCOTUSblog:

For the first time since the broad new federal health care law partially survived its most sweeping constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court nearly two years ago, the Affordable Care Act comes up for a new test before the Justices.  This time, the Court will be examining whether the government may enforce against private businesses owned by religiously devout owners the requirement that employee health plans provide no-cost coverage for women's pregnancy-related services, including birth control.

More ...

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Four years ago, this happened

by: JanF

Sun Mar 23, 2014 at 06:33:16 AM EDT

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. For over 60 years, Democrats had been trying to pass a law that finally and firmly declared that health care was a right and not a privilege.

This historic piece of legislation was possible because we had Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress and a Democratic president.

It is why Elections Matter ... and why all the rest is noise.

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Weekly Address: President Obama - Rewarding Women's Hard Work and Increasing the Minimum Wage

by: JanF

Sat Mar 22, 2014 at 06:41:54 AM EDT

The President's Weekly Address post is also the Weekend Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.


From the White House - Weekly Address

In this week's address, President Obama highlights the importance of making sure our economy rewards the hard work of every American - including America's women.

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Republican "Tsunami" begins by washing away reality

by: JanF

Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 07:59:43 AM EDT

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is boasting that the 2014 midterm election will be a "tsunami", a mere "wave" not being big enough to show all the awesomeness of the predicted GOP WIN this fall.

Maybe "tsunami" is the new Etch-a-Sketch because it clearly has Reinced away the reality of the 2012 presidential election for the Republicans:

Forget the final results. Priebus told MSNBC's Chuck Todd that voters thought Mitt Romney had the better presidential chops.

"I mean, the fact of the matter is Mitt Romney won on the message," Priebus said. "He won on jobs, he won on the economy, he won on the question of, 'Who do you actually think would make a better president?' But where he lost was on the question of, 'Who cares about you?'".[...]

But it's unclear from the exit polling what led Priebus to believe that Romney "won on jobs" and even more inexplicable why the chairman believes that voters said Romney "would make a better president."

Speaking of "who cares about you?", something that they may have trouble tsunami-ing away this fall, here is Speaker John Boehner showing his empathy gap: Boehner Rejects Senate Deal To Revive Jobless Benefits

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Wednesday came out against a bipartisan Senate deal to revive emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed, a sign that the Republican-led House intends to nix the proposal.

Boehner didn't offer a counter-proposal on jobless benefits. "Frankly," he said, "a better use of the Senate's time would be taking up and passing the dozens of House-passed jobs bills still awaiting action."

What's this? The Republican House of Representatives passed some jobs bills??? Oh that's right: each of the 51 "repeal Obamacare" votes was in order to save GOP freshmen's jobs, guys who need to burnish their tea party credentials.

More ...

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Moral Monday and Rev. Barber in Madison WI

by: DeniseVelez

Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 16:03:50 PM EDT

I've been waiting for video of this speech to be posted. You already know how I feel about Moral Monday and how it is moving through and gaining strength in the south.  It's great to be able to share a coming together of the progressive fighters in Wisconsin with Moral Monday from North Carolina.  

Yara Allen, from the NC NAACP and a Moral Monday arrestee opened with song, introducing Rev. Barber to the enthusiastic crowd gathered in the Bethel Lutheran Church on March 13, 2014.

Many thanks to the blue chedder blog, for documenting this. Check out the site for lots of photos.

They posted a preview of a piece by Glenn Schmidt, soon to be posted to Union Labor News:

In the vibrating crowd of at least 800 people in the pews of Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison on March 13, Barber's call and response was not at all out of place. "Moral dissent," the crowd repeated after him, "is the pathway," here they paused again, "to higher ground," pause, "in our nation."

Isaiah and Ezekial soon found their way into the conversation. So did Rush Limbaugh, as Barber called out the radio talk show extremist, "Caring for the poor and workers' rights is not Communism. It's the Gospel."

Barber reinforced the connection between North Carolina and Wisconsin by invoking the name of Father James Groppi, the Wisconsin priest who led civil rights marches in the sixties. "Many people saw Milwaukee as the Selma of the North," Barber said.

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Weekly Address: President Obama - Rewarding Hard Work by Strengthening Overtime Pay Protections

by: JanF

Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 06:35:12 AM EDT

The President's Weekly Address post is also the Weekend Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.


From the White House - Weekly Address

In this week's address, President Obama highlighted the action he took this week to reward hard work by strengthening overtime pay protections. As part of this year of action, the President has ordered the Secretary of Labor to modernize our country's overtime rules to ensure that millions of American workers are paid a fair wage for a hard day's work.

While our economy is moving forward, the middle class and those fighting to get into it are still struggling and too many Americans are working harder than ever just to keep up, let alone get ahead. So, in consultation with workers and business, the Obama administration will update and simplify the rules to reward hard work and responsibility.

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by: JanF

Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 05:21:20 AM EDT

Today's topic is pi: that glorious number that is more than a number. It is a phenomenon.

Some people think of pi as 3.14.
Some people think of pi as π.
Some people think of pi as

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