Twenty participants in a walk on burning coals at the San Jose Convention Center, part of a four-day Tony Robbin’s “Unleash the Power Within” seminar held in July, reported second-and-third-degree burns. The walk consisted of 24 lanes, each about eight feet long, of hot coals reaching about 2,000 degrees. There were more than 6,000 participants in the event, and some reported that Robbins worked to prepare people for the walk the night before. Robbins Research International Inc., a coaching company based in San Diego, has been hosting the event under the supervision of medical personnel for more than three decades. According to Sgt. Jason Dwyer, the San Jose Police Department’s public information officer, there are no criminal implications since the participants were volunteers. People paid between $600 and $2,000 to attend the self-improvement seminar.
Source: New York Times
After an internal review in July, the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed their policy banning openly gay boys from their organization and gay or lesbian adults from leadership roles. According to the Boy Scouts, the decision “reflects the beliefs and perspectives” of their organization. Responding to a growing public demand, the Boy Scouts formed a committee in 2010 that consisted of 11 “volunteer and professional leaders to evaluate whether the policy was in the best interests of the organization,” according to their official statement. The Scouts refuse to reveal the committees members or methods. A 2000 Supreme Court ruling upheld the right of the Boy Scouts to expel a gay assistant scoutmaster on the basis that it is a private organization with a right to its own value system. The Girl Scouts, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the 4-H Clubs, and, most recently, the military all forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation. Two members of the Boy Scouts’ executive board said they would push to end the exclusion policy.
Source: New York Times
Canada is no longer superior only in geographic terms. Environics Analytics WealthScapes has reported that the average net value of a Canadian household is $363,202—more than $40,000 greater than the average American. In addition, unemployment rates in Canada have dropped to 7.2 percent, compared to America’s 8.2. The reason for the success of the North may rest on the repercussions of the 2008 housing market crash in the US. Currently, a Canadian home is worth $140,000 more than an American counterpart. While Canadians own twice as much real estate, they have fewer mortgages, and ultimately, when US housing values crashed, real estate in Canada rose.
According to a series of economists interviewed by the Associated Press, additional research by the Brookings Institution, Economic Policy Institute, and Congressional Research Service, US poverty for 2011 will rise to 15.7 percent from 15.1 percent in 2010, resulting in the highest poverty level the US has experienced since 1965. Estimates are that 1 in 6 Americans—47 million people—lived in poverty in 2011. Suburban poverty, part-time work, underemployment, and child poverty rates will also increase according to the report. Cash income of $11,139 per individual or $22,314 for a family of four was the 2010 poverty level. The recession, globalization, automation, outsourcing, immigration, less unionization, and increase of low-wage jobs are considered likely causes for the continued poverty problem.
Source: Associated Press
Nearly half a million pop songs from 1955 to 2010 were analyzed algorithmically for harmonic complexity, timbral diversity, and loudness by the Spanish National Research Council. The study revealed a decrease in harmonic complexity, a decrease in the diversity of timbres—the sound of instruments playing the same note—and an increase in loudness; overall, supporting critiques that pop music has become noisily uncreative in the past half century. Rhythm was not an attribute of the study, however. If it had been, we may have found that while pop music can make us dull and deaf, at least it’s got a strong beat.
After a wave of protest in Qidong, Jiangsu province, China, officials in China have agreed to cancel construction of a pipeline that would lead wastewater directly into Chinese waters. Thousands of people joined the protest, amassing crowds, overturning cars, and occupying a government building. Qidong is haloed by the Yellow Sea and Yangtze River, both of which meet the East Sea and Pacific Ocean. Oji Paper Co., the Japanese-owned paper mill for which the pipeline was proposed, denies that there are any carcinogenic substances in the wastewater it produces. Their purification system, Oji insists, meets China’s standards. Though many photos of the protest had already been posted to the Internet, later that evening, the phrase “Qidong” was blocked on a popular Chinese microblog. Qidong police officials urged residents against further protests, or rumorlike discussion of the event.
Source: Wall Street Journal
A new report by the former chief economist at McKinsey, James Henry, has found that $21 trillion from the world’s wealthiest has been moved offshore in an attempt to evade taxes. According to Henry, select banks help members to move their funds to locations such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, taking advantage of the lack of cross-border tax laws. The $21 trillion is more than the US and Japanese economies combined, and finding a way to tax it could solve the European debt crisis. Top banks participating in the movement include UBS, Credit Suisse, and Goldman Sachs. The customers are an ultrawealthy 0.001 percent of the world’s population. Brendan Barber, general secretary for the Trades Union Congress—a group of 58 British trade unions—suggests eliminating tax loopholes is the best way to stop further offshore hoarding from occurring.
Source: Guardian (UK)
According to a recent poll released by WIN-Gallup International, one in 20 Americans identify themselves as atheists, a fivefold increase since 2005. The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism poll also shows a 13 percent decrease in Americans who identify as religious from 73 percent to 60 percent. Overall, 59 percent of people in the world identify themselves as religious, 23 percent as not religious, and 13 percent as convinced atheists, with China as the most concentrated atheist country at 47 percent and several European and North American countries with double-digit drops in religiosity in recent years.