Study suggests Americans are changing their diets for the better but not fast enough.

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Study suggests Americans are changing their diets for the better but not fast enough.

Americans are adding more whole grains, nuts and seeds to their diets and cutting back on sodas and sugary drinks, a U.S. study suggests.

While these changes point to some improvements in U.S. eating habits over the past decade, many people still consume too much sugar and processed food and not enough whole fruits and vegetables, the study scheduled for online publication June 21 in JAMA found.

“The overall diet is still far from optimal – less than one-third of American adults meet guidelines for most foods,” said senior study author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston.

“The single biggest focus should be on reducing highly processed foods rich in refined grains, starch, added sugars and salt; and increasing minimally processed healthful foods such as fruits, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, fish and yogurt,” Mozaffarian added by email.

Researchers looked at trends in eating habits for almost 34,000 adults aged 20 or older who participated in seven nationally representative surveys from 1999 to 2012.

The study team scored diets based, among other things, on how well people followed recommendations from the American Heart Association (AHA) that are designed to help prevent chronic health problems like cardiovascular disease.

Under these guidelines, a healthy diet includes at least 4.5 cups a day of fruits and vegetables, at least three ounces a day of fiber-rich whole grains and at least seven ounces a week of fish. It also caps sodium intake at 1,500 mg a day, the amount in three quarters of a teaspoon (3.75 g) of salt, and limits sodas and sugary juices at 36 ounces (1 liter) a week.

Overall, the percentage of Americans with poor diets based on these AHA standards dropped from 56 percent to 46 percent during the study period. The proportion of people with ideal diets was low but inched up to 1.5 percent from less than 1 percent.

Racial disparities in eating habits persisted throughout the study period. The proportion of white people with poor diets declined, while remaining little changed among black and Hispanic adults.

More affluent adults saw greater improvements in diet than lower-income people, the study also found.

For some eating patterns – including consumption of total vegetables, whole grains, unprocessed red meat and milk – trends over time were similar regardless of race, ethnicity, income or education levels. Intake of these things was consistently higher for more affluent people and white people and lower for poor people and black and Hispanic adults.

At the same time, salt intake was unchanged for white people but increased for black and Hispanic people during the study period.

Refined grain consumption dropped for white and black adults while increasing for Hispanics.

Limitations of the study include its reliance on survey participants to accurately recall and report what they ate and drank, as well as the potential for diet fads or food trends in popular culture to influence how people described their diets, the authors note.

Even so, the findings suggest that doctors need to do a better job educating patients about how to eat and how food choices influence their health, Dr. Margo Denke, a former researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas noted in an accompanying editorial.

Physicians also have to recognize that improving diets may be not be just a question of education, but of access and affordability, Denke added by email. While it’s possible some people are confused about what to eat, the bigger problem is that they aren’t sure what to do when fresh produce isn’t at their local store.

“The import of less expensive fruits and vegetables I believe drove improved intake among those who have higher incomes,” Denke said. “How can we pass this on to those who are financially struggling?”


Apparently “alien abductions” are down dramatically.

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Apparently “alien abductions” are down dramatically.

Denise Stoner was 2½ years old the first time she remembers the alien taking her. She was at home in Hartford with her grandfather. Her mother was at the hospital giving birth to her younger sister. She remembers staring out a large picture window and seeing an egg-shaped object in the sky, hovering over some power lines. “What’s Humpty Dumpty doing up in the sky?” she asked. She remembers the fear in her grandfather’s face when he suggested it was time for bed.

Later that night, as she lay staring at her nursery rhyme-themed wallpaper, an entity walked through her wall. “He looked like a monk, he had a robe, and he was carrying a light. I wasn’t afraid of him,” she said. “He put out his other hand for me to take it, and I did. We walked out into the hallway.” The alien pointed his light at the wall, and they disappeared through it; she remembers being in a large, dome-shaped room with a lot of other children, and they seemed to be learning something. In the morning, she was back in her bed.

Since then, she says, she has been taken more than 50 times, from her home, from the street, from her car, the last time only three years ago, driving through the mountains in Colorado. Each time, it’s the same being responsible. “He looks like your typical gray [alien], but he’s one of the tall ones. It’s just the very subtle shape of his face, his chin is a little wider,” she explained. She calls him her escort. “There’s no friendship. . . . He comes to get me, and I know I’m going to be safe,” she said. “He’s also going to oversee whatever is done.”

Stoner, 68, lives in Florida with her husband. Now retired, she works with fellow “experiencers,” people who feel they have had contact with intelligent nonhuman entities. She also conducts investigations on behalf of the Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON. Being an experiencer is very much part of her identity. Her story is coherent, she doesn’t ramble or get lost in the telling.


If you said yes, then you might be among the 77 percent of Americans, according to a 2012 National Geographic poll, who believe that aliens have visited Earth, or the 30 percent of Americans who believe that the government has covered up evidence of alien visitation, according to a 2015 YouGov poll. Or maybe it’s happened to you: There are few hard numbers, however, a 2014 survey for a British talk show found that one in 25 respondents believed they’d been abducted by aliens.

Belief that alien life exists on other planets is persuasive, sensible; nearly 80 percent of Americans do believe it, according to a 2015 poll. But belief that the aliens are already here feels like something else, largely because it requires a leap of faith longer than agreeing that the universe is a vast, unknowable place. Abduction and contact stories aren’t quite the fodder for daytime talk show and New York Times bestsellers they were a few decades ago. The Weekly World News is no longer peddling stories about Hillary Clinton’s alien baby at the supermarket checkout line. Today, credulous stories of alien visitation rarely crack the mainstream media, however much they thrive on niche TV channels and Internet forums. But we also still want to believe in accounts that scientists, skeptics, and psychologists say there is no credible evidence to support.

The abduction phenomenon began with strange case of Betty and Barney Hill. On Sept. 19, 1961, the Hills were driving from Montreal to their home in Portsmouth, N.H. Betty spotted a UFO following them. Barney stopped the car on the highway, near Indian Head in the White Mountains, and got out to look at the craft through binoculars. Seeing humanoid figures in Nazi-like uniforms peering through its windows, he ran back to the car, screaming, “Oh my God, we’re going to be captured!” They drove off, but two hours later, they found themselves 35 miles from the spot where they’d first seen the craft (there is now a commemorative marker at the site), with little memory of how they’d gotten there. Soon after, Betty began having nightmares.

In 1964, the Hills underwent hypnotherapy. Under hypnotic regression — hypnosis with the intent to help a subject recall certain events with more clarity — the couple said that they had actually been pulled on board the vessel by aliens and subjected to invasive experiments. The Hills’ story, revealed to the public in 1965 with an article in the Boston Traveler and a year later in the book “The Interrupted Journey,” launched a flurry of public fascination with abductions.

Barney died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1969, but Betty went on to become a kind of sage of paranormal experiences. Their story became the blueprint for alien abduction experiences in the years that followed, especially after the airing of the 1975 made-for-TV film “The UFO Incident,” starring James Earl Jones as Barney Hill. Subsequent experiencers would describe similar missing time or have bizarre dreams and flashbacks of things they couldn’t understand. Many would use hypnotic regression to recall their experiences.

Over the next two decades, the alien abduction narrative wound its way into the American consciousness, fed by science fiction films like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and breathless news reports of mysterious incidents. In 1966, a Gallup poll asked Americans if they’d ever seen a UFO; 5 percent said they had, but they meant it in the literal sense of an unidentified flying object — only 7 percent of Americans believed that the UFOs were from outer space. By 1986, a Public Opinion Laboratory poll found that 43 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: “It is likely that some of the UFOs that have been reported are really space vehicles from other civilizations.”

Some experiencers said the aliens were here to save us and study us, some said they were here to harvest our organs and enslave us. But by the late 1980s, people whose stories would have been dismissed as delusional a generation earlier were being interviewed by Oprah and “true stories” of alien experience, such as Whitley Strieber’s “Communion” and Budd Hopkins’s “Intruders,” were bestsellers. By the 1990s, those who believed in the literal truth of alien abduction stories gained an important ally in John Mack, a Harvard professor and psychiatrist who compiled his study of the phenomenon into a 1994 book titled “Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens.” He later told the BBC, “I would never say there are aliens taking people away . . . but I would say there is a compelling, powerful phenomenon here that I can’t account for in any other way.”

“These books sold really, really well, they were on book racks in airports and railway stations. You couldn’t really avoid it,” said Dr. Chris French, head of the anomalistic psychology department at Goldsmiths College in London and author of a study on alien abductees. And it wasn’t just books — one of the most popular television shows of the 1990s was devoted almost entirely to alien conspiracy theory: “The X-Files.” “All of these things influence people’s beliefs about what might be true, what might be plausible,” said French.

Other social currents, some of them peculiarly American, informed these stories and our interest in them. Space exploration in the 1950s and ’60s forced the country to admit that a vast unknown lay beyond our atmosphere — at the same time, the Cold War inspired existential fear of invasion. The 1960s and ’70s were attended by horizon-broadening mysticism, publicized experimentation with drugs — people talked about out-of-body experiences. The 1980s saw an explosion of angst around “stranger danger,” with a near-constant reports of child abduction and sexual molestation, and then, recovered and repressed memory. Alien abduction stories absorbed those strains, re-inventing them as anal probes and sinister hybrid breeding programs.

Meanwhile, psychologists like French were examining alien abduction narratives from a more skeptical perspective. And what they found is that the truth wasn’t so much out there as it was in our heads. “People have weird experiences in all societies, given that our nervous systems are the same the world over,” explained French. “It’s the interpretations that might differ.”

A small but stubborn percentage of alien abduction experiences defy clear scientific explanation, but many of the rest can have a number of different physiological or psychological explanations, including epilepsy, which can be preceded by visual disruptions, narcolepsy, or sleep paralysis.

In normal sleep, your body is relaxed nearly to the point of paralysis, presumably to keep you from acting out your dreams. Sleep paralysis is a disruption of lucid dreaming in which the mind partially wakes but finds that the body has not. It can be terrifying: Individuals report sensing entities in the room with them and being unable to move, pressure on their chests, out-of-body-like sensations coupled with intense, heightened emotions. In the past and in other cultural contexts, this experience was attributed to demons or evil spirits or a religious phenomenon. In America, science fiction was increasingly part of mainstream entertainment, and stories about alien contact experiences were covered as news, so aliens seemed like a plausible explanation for these experiences.

Then there’s the slippery nature of memory itself. The richness of a remembered experience is no guarantee of its objective reality, even less so if that memory was “recalled” through hypnotic regression. Though now largely dismissed by mainstream psychology, hypnotic regression remains popular with experiencers. Psychologists say that discerning true memories of actual events from true memories of imagined events is impossible, especially if the individual was predisposed to believe in paranormal or alien experiences.

Additionally, there’s old-fashioned hallucination. A recent international survey of more than 30,000 people, none of who were diagnosed with schizophrenia or other mental health issues, found that 6 percent of them reported experiencing a hallucination unrelated to drugs, alcohol, or sleep. Finally, Michael Shermer, prominent American skeptic and columnist for Scientific American, notes, “Sometimes people just make stuff up.”

By the end of the 1990s, the alien abduction bubble had burst. Ratings fell for the “The X-Files.” In April 2001, reports (later denied) circulated that the British Flying Saucer Bureau, 1,500 members strong at its peak, was shutting down after a long dry spell of no sightings. Five months later, two planes crashed into the Twin Towers and no one cared about little green men anymore. “X-Files” director Chris Carter, at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con, declared that after 9/11, the mood just wasn’t right anymore. In 2006, Ben Macintyre, columnist for The Times, declared that the Internet had undermined belief in UFOs and alien visitation: “The unidentified flying object has been identified, and cannot fly any more. ET has gone home.” Skepticism, it seemed, had killed the UFO.

Except that it hadn’t. Not really.

David Clarke is a UFO researcher who investigated the British government’s UFO files — a former believer, he’s now a skeptic and author of several books, including “How UFOs Conquered the World.” In his view, the Internet didn’t kill alien belief so much as offer up hundreds of echo chambers for it to thrive in. “I think there are just as many people who believe that these things happen, but I think that they’ve retreated from public view and they just talk to themselves,” said Clarke. “In order for you to be a party to that, you need to buy into that reality.”

Skeptics want to believe that fewer people believe, that more people are aware of explanations like sleep paralysis or false memories. “People are capable of these fantastic experiences without them being real outside of the brain,” said Shermer, adding, too, that the camera-phone age is increasing the burden of evidence on experiencers.

Experiencers want to believe that public skepticism is subsiding. Rosemary Ellen Guiley, a prolific American writer about paranormal and mystical experiences, explained, “More people are willing to talk about their experiences because media has opened the door, because there has been a lot of media attention on all kinds of experiences, positive and negative. . . . This is validating, that they can talk about it and not be ridiculed.”

Yet if periodic polls are any indication, Americans have remained consistent on the subject of aliens for the last three decades. At any given moment, roughly 10 percent of Americans believe they’ve seen a UFO. A Gallup poll from 1990 found that 47 percent of respondents believed UFOs were “real,” as in alien. A 2015 Ipsos poll found that 56 percent of Americans believed in UFOs. American disbelief of the government line on UFOs has also remained steady. In 1996, 71 percent thought the government was hiding something; it was 79 percent in 2012, according to a National Geographic Survey. In other words, more people believe that the US government is covering up evidence of alien life than believe that Jesus is the son of God (a 2013 Harris Poll survey found that 68 percent of respondents believed Christianity’s central tenet). That makes Hillary Clinton’s campaign promise to open up files on Area 51 look all the more canny.

It also points to a strange moment for us humans, for how our understanding of our place in the universe has changed over the last 50 years. “We’ve become more materialistic, scientific, secular, and yet we are exactly the same human beings . . . with the same physiological and psychological makeup. Our brains are hard-wired to believe in something other than ourselves,” said Clarke. “People will carry on believing it because I think it’s just a natural part of what we are.”

On that point, some skeptics and some believers agree. There’s a long history of anomalous experiences attributed to angels, fairies, gods, and monsters — nonhuman contact experiences made to fit a cultural context. Those experiences point to something common in human consciousness. “We have had experiences throughout history that demonstrate that we are connected to something greater than ourselves,” Guiley said.

Or maybe not. In 1979, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill published “Mirabell: Books of Number,” a work transcribing the poet’s conversations with spirits using a Ouija board. “If the spirits aren’t external, how astonishing the mediums become!” he said in an interview. The implication is perhaps disappointing — it’s not spirits, it’s not aliens, it’s just us — but also beautiful. And useful. “Investing time and money into why people have these kinds of extraordinary experiences might help us to answer fundamental questions that we don’t have answers for, like why do we have consciousness? I don’t believe in aliens, but I do believe that something unusual is happening to these people and it ought to be studied,” said Clarke.

Solving those riddles takes a lot of serious work, leads to a lot of dead ends, and might not prove satisfying even if we arrive at answers. Which is why, in the end, it may just be easier to attribute to aliens all the many wonderful things that we simply do not understand about the condition of being human.


Lonely Men In China Are Having Relationships With Life-Sized Dolls.

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Lonely Men In China Are Having Relationships With Life-Sized Dolls.

An increasing number of singletons in China are choosing to opt for silicone over flesh as they enter into loving relationships with life-sized dolls.

With over 50 kinds of realistic dolls now on the market, the realistic toys differ depending on what the customer is looking for – different figures, eye and hair colours, and even different skin textures.

Buyers of the dolls are predominately male and some have even fallen in love with their dolls, giving them names, personalities and “souls” to match.

View photos

Relationships: Men are treating their dolls like humans (CEN)

View photos

Love: Song Bo treats his doll as if she was his daughter (CEN)

Not everyone uses them as a girlfriend, however – Song Bo, one of China’s most well-known doll enthusiasts from Beijing, bought his after being diagnosed with a cyst in his head.

He claimed he did not want to risk marriage or having children, and instead now keeps the doll as a daughter.

Song can often be seen spending time with his ‘child’ – who cost over £1,500 – in parks and riding trains on the underground in his hometown.

Zhang Fan, 36, who works as a stock broker in the Chinese capital, is another doll owner who claims his plastic friend is not just a toy or any random woman, but is in fact the female version of himself.


30+ people reported burned in Tony Robbins’ motivational hot-coals walk.

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30+ people reported burned in Tony Robbins’ motivational hot-coals walk.

More than 30 people who attended an event with motivational speaker Tony Robbins have been treated for burns after Robbins encouraged them to walk on hot coals as a way of conquering their fears, Dallas fire officials said.

Five people were taken to a hospital Thursday night, while the rest were treated at the scene for burns to their feet and lower extremities, Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said.

The hot coals were spread outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center as part of a four-day Robbins seminar called “Unleash the Power Within.”

Representatives for Robbins didn’t immediately return messages Friday, but in a statement provided to KTVT-TV organizers said about 7,000 people walked across the coals and only five “requested any examination beyond what was readily available on site.”

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins attends the screening of 'Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru' during the 2016 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Paramount Theatre on March 14, 2016 in Austin, Texas. © Mike Windle/Getty Images for SXSW Motivational speaker Tony Robbins attends the screening of ‘Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru’ during the 2016 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Paramount Theatre on March 14, 2016 in Austin, Texas.

“Someone not familiar with the fire walk observed the event and called 911 erroneously reporting hundreds of people requiring medical attention for severe burns,” according to the statement.

Tad Schinke, an event trainer, told WFAA-TV: “We always have a few people that have some discomfort afterwards and we do our best to take care of them.”

Such fire walks are not uncommon at Robbins’ seminars: More than 20 people were treated for foot burns after a similar event in 2012 in San Jose, California.

One participant, Jacqueline Luxemberg, told WFAA that some people were not concentrating on walking across the coals because they were taking selfies and asking others to take video of them.

Fire officials used a city bus to hold many of the injured people; others were carried to ambulances or back inside the convention center to be evaluated.


8 killed in Mexico during clashes between residents, teachers and police.

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8 killed in Mexico during clashes between residents, teachers and police.

Eight people have died after teacher protests turned violent in the Mexican state of Oaxaca over the weekend, authorities said. The clashes between teachers, state police and local residents also left 53 civilians and 55 police officers injured, according to the Oaxaca state government.

Wave of protests

Teachers across Mexico have been protesting national education reforms that would change the way they’re evaluated.

The latest wave of protests in Oaxaca picked up steam after authorities arrested several leadersof a division of the national teacher’s union, one of the most powerful and well-known organizations in Mexico. On Monday, the union condemned the violence. “Education is the only weapon of the people, those of the government are the instruments of death and repression,” a tweet from the union said. “Who is the criminal?”

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto vowed that authorities would investigate.
“I lament the loss of human life. My solidarity with your families, and with the people who were injured,” he said on Twitter.

Journalist killed

Local journalist Elpidio Ramos Zárate, who worked for the newspaper “El Sur del Istmo,” was among those killed, according to the Mexican National Commission of Human Rights.View image on TwitterView image on Twitter
The clashes could also affect the region’s fuel supply. State oil company Pemex operates a refinery in the region. It issued a statement Friday saying if the road blockages continued, there could be a shortage of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel in the region.


Misguided Protesters Target NYC’s Chinatown Over Dog Meat Festival in China

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Misguided Protesters Target NYC’s Chinatown Over Dog Meat Festival in China.

Since 2009, one festival in China has caused a stir in the animal rights community. The festival — the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival — was inaugurated that year, and immediately resurrected controversy over the ethics of consuming dog meat. Pictures of dogs crammed into tiny wire cages have shocked netizens for the last several years, along with reports that as many as 10,000 dogs are slaughtered annually at the festival.

The festival — which is not sanctioned by the local government — is intended to celebrate a centuries-old tradition in parts of China where dog meat is considered a delicacy. Government officials insist that the festival is attended by a small minority of local residents. This doesn’t stop outraged animal rights activists, however, from protesting the festival as outrageous and unethical.

The question of dog meat consumption is, I think, a weighty one. While I have never consumed dog meat, I can find nothing more (or less) unethical about eating canines than any other meat considered acceptable for consumption in the West. Animals are not by nature categorized as “food animals” or “companion animals” — this is a human conceit. Dogs are no smarter than pigs, which are routinely raised and slaughtered for food in America. Cuteness is subjective. Other animals that Americans typically consider to be cherished pets are traditionally eaten in other Western nations, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and horses. Dogs slaughtered in Yulin are not treated less humanely than some livestock raised for consumption in America, where cows, pigs and chicken are routinely housed in deplorable and unsanitary conditions.

Let’s be real: for some activists, this really just boils down to an “ick” factor. Yet, cultural qualms about eating dog meat are just that — our qualms. Other cultures are equally as disgusted by how we view some animals — cow, for example — as totally acceptable all-American food sources. I may not be really up for eating dog, but I have little business telling someone else that they should abide by my disgust. It is culturally imperialist to assert that food sources I might find unappetizing has no business being on someone else’s plate.

Yet, animal rights activists rarely confront — or even acknowledge — how their actions blur the lines between a reasonable conversation about animal rights and historic anti-Asian stereotypes. This is not just a conversation about the ethical treatment of dogs. This is also a conversation about race, ethnicity, privilege, and stereotypes.

For centuries, anti-Asian stereotypes have included portrayals of Chinese as barbaric consumers of dirty and unimaginable food sources. The stereotype of the “Heathen Chinee” typically associated Chinese immigrants with the frequent eating of rat or dog as evidence of their cultural and moral inferiority to Whiteness, thereby co-opting a cultural culinary tradition to rationalize white supremacy. Meanwhile, we rarely consider how the development of traditions around “unconventional” meat sources is also as much about institutionalized poverty as it is about culinary interest. Itshould come as little surprise that the parts of China where canine meat is consumed are also predominantly rural areas where livestock may have been historically and seasonally scarce. In America, anti-Asian stereotypes about dog and rat meat were further reinforced by the fact that early East Asian immigrants to America were often trapped in indentured servitude and ghettoized to ethnic enclaves where more conventional food sources were simply inaccessible and unavailable. There is a certain economic privilege in moralizing about certain food sources, when the tradition may have its roots in systemic hunger and poverty.

Today’s animal rights activists ignore Asian Americans’ history of enduring stereotypes of the “Heathen Chinee” when they confuse the enjoyment of dog meat by some Chinese people as endemic to all Chinese people. Last Friday, roughly twenty misguided animal rights activists took to the streets of New York City’s Chinatown to protest the consumption of dog meat in Southern China. The animal rights activists claim they are interested in advocating that China ban dog meat festivals. Yet, to accomplish this, they spent a day harassing Chinese American restaurant owners and patrons, most of whom have zero connection with the Yulin dog meat festival, with a message of cultural intolerance and nativism.

Said one protester to the New York Daily News:

“That’s not how we roll in our country. If they … bring that tradition to our country, they’ll be investigated and will go to jail,” he said.

This protest was a clusterfuck of compounding stereotypes. The activists invoked the “Heathen Chinee” stereotype with their assumption that the consumption of dog meat is widespread in China. The activists invoked the Perpetual Foreigner stereotype with their organizing of a protest targeting Chinese Americans about the goings-on in parts of Southern China. The activists reinforced a White-normative framework of what is, and what isn’t, considered “acceptably American”. The activists even implicitly reference the Model Minority stereotype with their bizarre assumption that the actions of White animal rights activists are needed to galvanize Chinese people to political action.

Never mind, of course, that animal rights are increasingly an important issue for Chinese citizens, amid rising dog ownership among China’s wealthy and middle class. Since the festival’s inception in 2009, it has faced profound public backlash within China as activists gather at the festival and purchase and save dogs destined for slaughter. A recent poll suggests that as many as two-thirds of Chinese people oppose animal cruelty and support animal products produced humanely.

Yet, last week’s animal rights protesters in New York City ignored the burgeoning Chinese animal rights movement, and in so doing erased their work. Instead, they assumed that the West’s moral superiority regarding the ethical treatment of animals is needed to save Chinese people from our own barbarism.

I get that activists angered about the Yulin festival wanted to do something about it. But they could have raised money or posted selfies supporting the work of Chinese animal rights groups. They could have written letters to the Chinese government, or even protested outside of New York City’s Chinese consulate where they could speak to the actual Chinese government. They didn’t need to confuse the difference between Chinese and Chinese American with their moral scolding. They didn’t need to trample over the work of Chinese animal rights activists by reinforcing the narrative of Eastern backwards-ness and Western enlightenment.

And they sure didn’t need to invoke the language of xenophobia with their “don’t bring this to our country” rhetoric. Chinese Americans are Americans. Most of us aren’t really down to eat dog; and oh, by the way, this is our country too.


Ultra-rich man warns his fellow American millionaires and billionaires: “The Pitchforks Are Coming”

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Ultra-rich man warns his fellow American millionaires and billionaires: “The Pitchforks Are Coming”

You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family’s business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud. But I saw pretty quickly, even back then, that many of my customers, the big department store chains, were already doomed. I knew that as soon as the Internet became fast and trustworthy enough—and that time wasn’t far off—people were going to shop online like crazy. Goodbye, Caldor. And Filene’s. And Borders. And on and on.

Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff—Bezos—called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren’t yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don’t vary in quality—Bezos’ great insight). Cybershop didn’t make it, just another dot-com bust. Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument; I’ve had many of you tell me to my face I’m completely bonkers. And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.

The model for us rich guys here should be Henry Ford, who realized that all his autoworkers in Michigan weren’t only cheap labor to be exploited; they were consumers, too. Ford figured that if he raised their wages, to a then-exorbitant $5 a day, they’d be able to afford his Model Ts.

What a great idea. My suggestion to you is: Let’s do it all over again. We’ve got to try something. These idiotic trickle-down policies are destroying my customer base. And yours too.

It’s when I realized this that I decided I had to leave my insulated world of the super-rich and get involved in politics. Not directly, by running for office or becoming one of the big-money billionaires who back candidates in an election. Instead, I wanted to try to change the conversation with ideas—by advancing what my co-author, Eric Liu, and I call “middle-out” economics. It’s the long-overdue rebuttal to the trickle-down economics worldview that has become economic orthodoxy across party lines—and has so screwed the American middle class and our economy generally. Middle-out economics rejects the old misconception that an economy is a perfectly efficient, mechanistic system and embraces the much more accurate idea of an economy as a complex ecosystem made up of real people who are dependent on one another.

Which is why the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators. Which means a thriving middle class is the source of American prosperity, not a consequence of it. The middle class creates us rich people, not the other way around.

On June 19, 2013, Bloomberg published an article I wrote called “The Capitalist’s Case for a $15 Minimum Wage.” Forbes labeled it “Nick Hanauer’s near insane” proposal. And yet, just weeks after it was published, my friend David Rolf, a Service Employees International Union organizer, roused fast-food workers to go on strike around the country for a $15 living wage. Nearly a year later, the city of Seattle passed a $15 minimum wage. And just 350 days after my article was published, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed that ordinance into law. How could this happen, you ask?

It happened because we reminded the masses that they are the source of growth and prosperity, not us rich guys. We reminded them that when workers have more money, businesses have more customers—and need more employees. We reminded them that if businesses paid workers a living wage rather than poverty wages, taxpayers wouldn’t have to make up the difference. And when we got done, 74 percent of likely Seattle voters in a recent poll agreed that a $15 minimum wage was a swell idea.

The standard response in the minimum-wage debate, made by Republicans and their business backers and plenty of Democrats as well, is that raising the minimum wage costs jobs. Businesses will have to lay off workers. This argument reflects the orthodox economics that most people had in college. If you took Econ 101, then you literally were taught that if wages go up, employment must go down. The law of supply and demand and all that. That’s why you’ve got John Boehner and other Republicans in Congress insisting that if you price employment higher, you get less of it. Really?

The thing about us businesspeople is that we love our customers rich and our employees poor.

Because here’s an odd thing. During the past three decades, compensation for CEOs grew 127 times faster than it did for workers. Since 1950, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio has increased 1,000 percent, and that is not a typo. CEOs used to earn 30 times the median wage; now they rake in 500 times. Yet no company I know of has eliminated its senior managers, or outsourced them to China or automated their jobs. Instead, we now have more CEOs and senior executives than ever before. So, too, for financial services workers and technology workers. These folks earn multiples of the median wage, yet we somehow have more and more of them.

The thing about us businesspeople is that we love our customers rich and our employees poor. So for as long as there has been capitalism, capitalists have said the same thing about any effort to raise wages. We’ve had 75 years of complaints from big business—when the minimum wage was instituted, when women had to be paid equitable amounts, when child labor laws were created. Every time the capitalists said exactly the same thing in the same way: We’re all going to go bankrupt. I’ll have to close. I’ll have to lay everyone off. It hasn’t happened. In fact, the data show that when workers are better treated, business gets better. The naysayers are just wrong.

Most of you probably think that the $15 minimum wage in Seattle is an insane departure from rational policy that puts our economy at great risk. But in Seattle, our current minimum wage of $9.32 is already nearly 30 percent higher than the federal minimum wage. And has it ruined our economy yet? Well, trickle-downers, look at the data here: The two cities in the nation with the highest rate of job growth by small businesses are San Francisco and Seattle. Guess which cities have the highest minimum wage? San Francisco and Seattle. The fastest-growing big city in America? Seattle. Fifteen dollars isn’t a risky untried policy for us. It’s doubling down on the strategy that’s already allowing our city to kick your city’s ass.

It makes perfect sense if you think about it: If a worker earns $7.25 an hour, which isnow the national minimum wage, what proportion of that person’s income do you think ends up in the cash registers of local small businesses? Hardly any. That person is paying rent, ideally going out to get subsistence groceries at Safeway, and, if really lucky, has a bus pass. But she’s not going out to eat at restaurants. Not browsing for new clothes. Not buying flowers on Mother’s Day.

Is this issue more complicated than I’m making out? Of course. Are there many factors at play determining the dynamics of employment? Yup. But please, please stop insisting that if we pay low-wage workers more, unemployment will skyrocket and it will destroy the economy. It’s utter nonsense. The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics isn’t believing that if the rich get richer, it’s good for the economy. It’s believing that if the poor get richer, it’s bad for the economy.

I know that virtually all of you feel that compelling our businesses to pay workers more is somehow unfair, or is too much government interference. Most of you think that we should just let good examples like Costco or Gap lead the way. Or let the market set the price. But here’s the thing. When those who set bad examples, like the owners of Wal-Mart or McDonald’s, pay their workers close to the minimum wage, what they’re really saying is that they’d pay even less if it weren’t illegal. (Thankfully both companies have recently said they would not oppose a hike in the minimum wage.) In any large group, some people absolutely will not do the right thing. That’s why our economy can only be safe and effective if it is governed by the same kinds of rules as, say, the transportation system, with its speed limits and stop signs.

Wal-Mart is our nation’s largest employer with some 1.4 million employees in the United States and more than $25 billion in pre-tax profit. So why are Wal-Mart employees the largest group of Medicaid recipients in many states? Wal-Mart could, say, pay each of its 1 million lowest-paid workers an extra $10,000 per year, raise them all out of poverty and enable them to, of all things, afford to shop at Wal-Mart. Not only would this also save us all the expense of the food stamps, Medicaid and rent assistance that they currently require, but Wal-Mart would still earn more than $15 billion pre-tax per year. Wal-Mart won’t (and shouldn’t) volunteer to pay its workers more than their competitors. In order for us to have an economy that works for everyone, we should compel all retailers to pay living wages—not just ask politely.

We rich people have been falsely persuaded by our schooling and the affirmation of society, and have convinced ourselves, that we are the main job creators. It’s simply not true. There can never be enough super-rich Americans to power a great economy. I earn about 1,000 times the median American annually, but I don’t buy thousands of times more stuff. My family purchased three cars over the past few years, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. I bought two pairs of the fancy wool pants I am wearing as I write, what my partner Mike calls my “manager pants.” I guess I could have bought 1,000 pairs. But why would I? Instead, I sock my extra money away in savings, where it doesn’t do the country much good.

So forget all that rhetoric about how America is great because of people like you and me and Steve Jobs. You know the truth even if you won’t admit it: If any of us had been born in Somalia or the Congo, all we’d be is some guy standing barefoot next to a dirt road selling fruit. It’s not that Somalia and Congo don’t have good entrepreneurs. It’s just that the best ones are selling their wares off crates by the side of the road because that’s all their customers can afford.

So why not talk about a different kind of New Deal for the American people, one that could appeal to the right as well as left—to libertarians as well as liberals? First, I’d ask my Republican friends to get real about reducing the size of government. Yes, yes and yes, you guys are all correct: The federal government is too big in some ways. But no way can you cut government substantially, not the way things are now. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush each had eight years to do it, and they failed miserably.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress can’t shrink government with wishful thinking. The only way to slash government for real is to go back to basic economic principles: You have to reduce the demand for government. If people are getting $15 an hour or more, they don’t need food stamps. They don’t need rent assistance. They don’t need you and me to pay for their medical care. If the consumer middle class is back, buying and shopping, then it stands to reason you won’t need as large a welfare state. And at the same time, revenues from payroll and sales taxes would rise, reducing the deficit.

This is, in other words, an economic approach that can unite left and right. Perhaps that’s one reason the right is beginning, inexorably, to wake up to this reality as well. Even Republicans as diverse as Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum recently came out in favor of raising the minimum wage, in defiance of the Republicans in Congress.


One thing we can agree on—I’m sure of this—is that the change isn’t going to start in Washington. Thinking is stale, arguments even more so. On both sides.

But the way I see it, that’s all right. Most major social movements have seen their earliest victories at the state and municipal levels. The fight over the eight-hour workday, which ended in Washington, D.C., in 1938, began in places like Illinois and Massachusetts in the late 1800s. The movement for social security began in California in the 1930s. Even the Affordable Health Care Act—Obamacare—would have been hard to imagine without Mitt Romney’s model in Massachusetts to lead the way.

Sadly, no Republicans and few Democrats get this. President Obama doesn’t seem to either, though his heart is in the right place. In his State of the Union speech this year, he mentioned the need for a higher minimum wage but failed to make the case that less inequality and a renewed middle class would promote faster economic growth. Instead, the arguments we hear from most Democrats are the same old social-justice claims. The only reason to help workers is because we feel sorry for them. These fairness arguments feed right into every stereotype of Obama and the Democrats as bleeding hearts. Republicans say growth. Democrats say fairness—and lose every time.

But just because the two parties in Washington haven’t figured it out yet doesn’t mean we rich folks can just keep going. The conversation is already changing, even if the billionaires aren’t onto it. I know what you think: You think that Occupy Wall Street and all the other capitalism-is-the-problem protesters disappeared without a trace. But that’s not true. Of course, it’s hard to get people to sleep in a park in the cause of social justice. But the protests we had in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis really did help to change the debate in this country from death panels and debt ceilings to inequality.

It’s just that so many of you plutocrats didn’t get the message.

Dear 1%ers, many of our fellow citizens are starting to believe that capitalism itself is the problem. I disagree, and I’m sure you do too. Capitalism, when well managed, is the greatest social technology ever invented to create prosperity in human societies. But capitalism left unchecked tends toward concentration and collapse. It can be managed either to benefit the few in the near term or the many in the long term. The work of democracies is to bend it to the latter. That is why investments in the middle class work. And tax breaks for rich people like us don’t. Balancing the power of workers and billionaires by raising the minimum wage isn’t bad for capitalism. It’s an indispensable tool smart capitalists use to make capitalism stable and sustainable. And no one has a bigger stake in that than zillionaires like us.

The oldest and most important conflict in human societies is the battle over the concentration of wealth and power. The folks like us at the top have always told those at the bottom that our respective positions are righteous and good for all. Historically, we called that divine right. Today we have trickle-down economics.

What nonsense this is. Am I really such a superior person? Do I belong at the center of the moral as well as economic universe? Do you?

My family, the Hanauers, started in Germany selling feathers and pillows. They got chased out of Germany by Hitler and ended up in Seattle owning another pillow company. Three generations later, I benefited from that. Then I got as lucky as a person could possibly get in the Internet age by having a buddy in Seattle named Bezos. I look at the average Joe on the street, and I say, “There but for the grace of Jeff go I.” Even the best of us, in the worst of circumstances, are barefoot, standing by a dirt road, selling fruit. We should never forget that, or forget that the United States of America and its middle class made us, rather than the other way around.

Or we could sit back, do nothing, enjoy our yachts. And wait for the pitchforks.