Odor of marijuana smoke wafting from neighbor’s apartment not legally “offensive,” appeals court rules

The Oregon Court of Appeals on Wednesday refused to declare the smell of marijuana smoke wafting into neighbors’ homes “unpleasant.”

The appeals court ruled that although rotten eggs or raw sewage are “physically offensive” odors to all, marijuana smoke isn’t necessarily so.

“We are not prepared to declare that the odor of marijuana smoke is equivalent to the odor of garbage. Indeed, some people undoubtedly find the scent pleasing,” the appeals court wrote in throwing out the second-degree criminal mischief convictions of a Philomath man whose home was searched in 2012 because of the aroma of pot drifting from it.

The ruling is sure to strike a chord with some Oregonians who involuntarily have become familiar with the smell of cannabis originating from neighboring houses or apartments with the legalization of recreational marijuana on July 1. Given the appeals court ruling, recreational users may rest assured that smoking pot at home shouldn’t draw any hassles from police.

The appeals court considered the case of Jared William Lang. He was 34 in November 2012 when a Philomath police officer visited his apartment after neighbors on both sides reported the smell of marijuana coming from his unit. One person told the officer “that the smell was especially difficult for him because he was currently attending rehabilitation for drug abuse and the smell of marijuana was a ‘trigger’ for him,” according to the appeals court summary of the case.

Another neighbor said that he’d lived in his unit for eight years and that “the neighbors in the middle rental (had) gotten worse and worse,” according to the summary. Two more neighbors said they smelled pot coming from Lang’s unit two to three times per a week.

The officer noted that he could smell burnt marijuana upon arrival at Lang’s apartment. The officer asked a Benton County judge for a search warrant of Lang’s unit — on the grounds that Lang might have committed second-degree disorderly conduct by creating a “physically offensive” smell.

The judge granted the warrant and the officer found evidence of a completely unrelated crime — aerosol paint cans and stencils that indicated Lang had been spraying graffiti on street signs, walls, fences and other property in Philomath.

Lang was found guilty of three counts of misdemeanor second-degree criminal mischief after a trial in the vandalism case. He was fined $440 and sentenced to several months in jail.

Lang appealed the convictions, arguing that the grounds police used to search his home were bogus. The appeals court found that it couldn’t declare the odor of marijuana smoke offensive — or not — to the average person. The appeals court ruled that depends on the “intensity, duration, or frequency” of the smoke.

At some point, the smell could be considered offensive to a reasonable neighbor, especially if the neighbor is in the sanctuary of his or her own home, the apeals court found.

But the court ruled that the officer who applied for the search warrant of Lang’s home hadn’t sufficiently described an intense, long or frequent odor of pot emanating from Lang’s home.

“(A)n odor that is very intense and persistent could reasonably be regarded as offensive even if it ordinarily might be considered pleasant — perfume, for example, or pungent spices,” the appeals court wrote.

“Who determines whether a particular odor is offensive?” the appeals court added. “Although some odors are objectively unpleasant — rotten eggs or raw sewage come to mind — others are more subjective in nature.”

Seth MacFarlane brutally rips Phil Robertson and ‘Duck Dynasty’ during acceptance speech

Seth MacFarlane, creator of the Emmy Award winning series “Family Guy,” is a pretty outspoken critic of religious fundamentalism along with being a vocal proponent of LGBT rights. During his acceptance speech at Sunday night’s Critics’ Choice TV Awards, he took an opportunity to rip into the celebrity daddy of hellfire preachers and homophobes, Phil Robertson.

MacFarlane made the comments after he was given the Louis XIII Genius Award at the fifth annual award show, aired on A&E Network, which also airs Robertson’s show “Duck Dynasty.”

“Let’s not forget I’m being declared a genius on a network that airs ‘Duck Dynasty,’ a show whose cast members believe hurricanes are created by gay marriage,” MacFarlane said. “I wish I was joking.”

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Nearly Half Of Americans Have Less Than $500 In Savings: Survey

Nearly half of Americans don’t have more than $500 saved up, according to a recent study by CreditDonkey.com, a credit card comparison company. Of the roughly 1,100 Americans polled, 41 percent reported having less than half a grand of readily-accessible savings at hand.

With the country struggling to recover income lost during the recession, the study isn’t the first to make clear the desperate state of so many Americans’ finances. Back in March, it was estimated that less than a third of American workers had savings of $1,000 or less, according to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

That lack of savings means most Americans have little in the way of a backup plan when things get tough. Indeed, over two thirds of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, a survey by the American Payroll Association found last month.

Perhaps that explains the retirement anxiety, which has begun to afflict some people still in their thirties. Many Americans have even more pressing concerns: 45 percent told CreditDonkey.com that they fear they’ll never be able to save much money at all.

TTIP is a corporatist scam and not a real free trade deal, says Ukip’s Douglas Carswell

A proposed deal between the United States and European Union is a “corporatist scam”, Ukip’s MP has said.

Douglas Carswell said that TTIP, which stands for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, was not what its proponents made it out to be.

“Ukip [is] making clear we are the most staunchly free trade party in the UK,” he tweeted. “TTIP is not free trade. It’s a corporatist scam.”

Tellingly, the message was retweeted by Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, a leading contender for his party’s nomination for Mayor of London.

TTIP’s proponents say it is a free trade deal that would benefit both the United States and European Union.

One controversial aspect of drafts of the deal would be to establish a quasi-judicial trade court to which the two blocs would be subject.

This could allow large corporations to ‘sue’ national governments for enacting any policy that potentially harmed their profits. Critics say that this would erode democracy and increase corporate power.

The deal is also controversial because of the secret way in which it is been negotiated, with press and campaigners relying heavily on leaks to determine its direction.

A Ukip spokesperson told the Independent that the party feared the destruction of public services by the deal.

“Ukip is a party that believes that free trade between people is the surest way to greater prosperity,” he said.

“However the TTIP agreement is not a free trade deal, but one that favours big multinational corporates over the interests of smaller businesses, and most importantly the democratic right of people to set policy through elections.

“TTIP as it currently stands could hand the NHS lock, stock, and barrel to huge corporations against the wishes of the British people.”

Labour said at the election that it supports TTIP in principle but that it would seek exemptions for the NHS and other public services to ensure they were not privatised under new rules.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have expressed strong support for TTIP. Both parties dispute that the NHS would be affected.

The Green Party also opposes TTIP.

In recent weeks Ukip has stepped up campaigning against the deal. Earlier this month the party’s MEPs staged a protest in the European Parliament over the deal that saw the chamber descend into chaos.

At the European Parliament level the deal tends to be opposed by parties from the Left and Right, while centre-left and centre-right parties tend to be more positive about it.

The European Commission currently has a centre-right aligned president.

Susan G. Komen Foundation Elbows Out Charities Over Use Of The Word ‘Cure’

In addition to raising millions of dollars a year for breast cancer research, fundraising giant Susan G. Komen for the Cure has a lesser-known mission that eats up donor funds: patrolling the waters for other charities and events around the country that use any variation of “for the cure” in their names.

So far, Komen has identified and filed legal trademark oppositions against more than a hundred of these Mom and Pop charities, including Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure—and many of the organizations are too small and underfunded to hold their ground.

“It happened to my family,” said Roxanne Donovan, whose sister runs Kites for a Cure, a family kite-flying event that raises money for lung cancer research. “They came after us ferociously with a big law firm. They said they own ‘cure’ in a name and we had to stop using it, even though we were raising money for an entirely different cause.”

Donovan’s sister, Mary Ann Tighe, said the Komen foundation sent her a letter asking her to stop using the phrase “for a cure” in their title and to never use the color pink in conjunction with their fundraising. What bothered her most about the whole ordeal, she said, was that Komen forced her to spend money and time on legal fees and proceedings instead of raising funds for cancer.

“We were certainly taken aback by it,” she told HuffPost. “We have partners running these kite events around the country. What if one of them uses, say, magenta? Is that pink? I mean, where are we going with this? We just want to raise money for cancer. What we don’t want is to have our energy misplaced by having our charity partners trying to police the good work that we’re doing.”

Sue Prom, who started a small dog sledding fundraiser for breast cancer called “Mush for the Cure” in Grand Marais, Minn., said she was shocked to hear from Komen’s lawyers this summer asking that she change the name of her event or face legal proceedings.

“I had to call the trademark helpline, because I had no idea what I was doing,” said Prom, who runs the annual sled race with her husband and friend. “We pay for the expenses out of our pockets, and we’ve never personally made a dime from it. We have t-shirts, sweatshirts, domain names, posters, stationery, all with ‘Mush for the Cure’ on it. What do we do with all the materials now? How are we gonna defend ourselves? We’re not like Komen.”

Prom said she’s been running the event for six years, and the most she has raised for the National Breast Cancer Foundation is $25,000. Before the NBCF could accept the money, they warned her to file for a trademark to protect her event legally against the Komen Foundation. But now that Komen has opposed Mush’s trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Prom is looking for a pro bono lawyer to help her figure out what to do next.

“I think it’s a shame,” she said. “It’s not okay. People don’t give their money to the Komen Foundation and they don’t do their races and events so that Komen can squash any other fundraising efforts by individuals. That’s not what it’s about.”

Komen’s general counsel, Jonathan Blum, told HuffPost that the fundraising powerhouse tries to be reasonable when dealing with small charities and nonprofits, but that it has a legal duty to protect its more than 200 registered trademarks.

“It’s never our goal to shut down a nonprofit,” he said, “and we try very hard to be reasonable, but it’s still our obligation to make sure that our trademarks are used appropriately so there’s no confusion in the marketplace over where people’s money is going.”

Blum told HuffPost that legal fees comprise a “very small part” of Komen’s budget, but according to Komen’s financial statements, such costs add up to almost a million dollars a year in donor funds.

“I think it’s important that charities protect their brand, but on the other hand, I don’t think the donors’ intent in giving their money was to fund a turf war,” said Sandra Minuitti, a spokesperson for Charity Navigator. “It’s very important that Komen treads carefully and is very transparent about how they’re spending money on these legal battles.”

Michael Mercanti, an intellectual property lawyer, said he is surprised by the large number of oppositions Komen has filed against other charities—a number he would expect from a company like Toys”R”Us or McDonalds, but not a charitable fundraising organization.

“They seem to be very aggressive in policing their mark, or what they’re claiming to be their mark,” he told HuffPost. “I guess there are a lot of ways to captain a ship, but it seems like there are ways they could protect and police their trademarks and also allow other charities to coexist.”

Mercanti said filing hundreds of oppositions is not only damaging to other charities, but could also be counterproductive for Komen’s brand.

“They could actually be seen as being a bully,” he said. “They’re going to alienate some donors who don’t appreciate them stepping on smaller, worthwhile charities.”

With the help of a team of pro bono lawyers, Kites for a Cure was able to reach a settlement with Komen: They agreed to only use the phrase “for a Cure” in conjunction with the words “lung cancer” to make the distinction clear. But Tighe said they reached a settlement only after many, many months of a free legal team working long hours each day.

“We were very fortunate because we had strong support from knowledgeable pro bono counsel, but it did seem like a misdirection of a lot of people’s energy,” she told HuffPost. “I don’t know what smaller organizations do without free representation.”

Sue Prom said Tighe has already put her in touch with her pro bono legal team, and she is prepared to fight for the name of her sledding event in court. The ordeal has changed her opinion of Komen.

“I used to give money to Komen all the time, but now I’m just kind of wary of them,” she said. “I’m not buying Yoplait yogurt or anything that has the word ‘Komen’ on it. They seem to have forgotten what charity is about.”

Rothschild inherits Patent after 4 co-owners disappear on MH 370

The disappearance of four members of a patent semiconductor traveling on Malaysia Airlines MH370

The disappearance of four members of a patent semiconductor traveling on Malaysia Airlines MH370 makes the famous billionaire Jacob Rothschild the sole owner of a very important patent.

The mystery surrounding the Malaysian Airlines MH-370 is growing as each day passes with more mysterious silence shadowing the disappearance of the airline. More and more theories are beginning to emerge.

We have heard of black holes swallowing the airliner (likely the least intelligent thing ever said on TV), deranged pilots taking it over… But no media outlet has mentioned anything about who was on that plane.

Absolutely nothing! Well, for starters, the people who owned the patent to Freescale Semiconductor’s ARM microcontroller ‘KL-03′ which is a new improvised version of an older microcontroller KL-02 were on the MH-370 flight.

This report has caught legs across dozens of European based news outlets. Did Rothschild exploited the airlines to gain full Patent Rights of an incredible KL-03 micro-chip? According to the reports, Jacob Rothschild is dubbed as the “evil master plotter”.

A US technolofy company which had 20 senior staff on board Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 had just launched a new electronic warfare gadget for military radar systems in the days before the Boeing 777 went missing.

Freescale Semiconductor has been developing microprocessors, sensors and other technology for the past 50 years. The technology it creates is commonly referred to as embedded processors, which according to the firm are “stand-alone semiconductors that perform dedicated computing functions in electronic systems”.

Why were so many Freescale employees traveling together? What were their jobs. Were they on a mission and if so what was this mission? Can these employees be the cause of the disappearance of this plane? Could the plane have been then hijacked and these people kidnapped?

Did these employees hold valuable information, did they have any valuable cargo with them? Did they know company and technological secrets? With all the might of technology why cant this plane be located? Where is this plane where are these people?”

The 20 Freescale employees, among 239 people on flight MH370, were mostly engineers and other experts working to make the company’s chip facilities in Tianjin, China, and Kuala Lumpur more efficient, said Mitch Haws, vice president, global communications and investor relations.

“These were people with a lot of experience and technical background and they were very important people,” Haws said. “It’s definitely a loss for the company.”

In Malaysia, Freescale’s modern operations facility that manufactures and tests integrated circuits (IC) is based in Petaling Jaya.
Based on information obtained from Freescale’s website, the facility began operations in 1972 covering an eight hectare site and is specifically designed for the manufacturing and testing of microprocessors, digital signal processors and integrated radio frequency circuits.
It also owns Freescale RF which is involved in creating solutions for Aerospace and Defence listed below.

1. Battlefield communication
2. Avionics
3. HF Radar – Band L- and S-
4. Missile Guidance
5. Electronic Warfare
6. Identification, friend or foe (IFF)

Freescale’s shareholders include the Carlyle Group of private equity investors whose past advisers have included ex-US president George Bush Sr and former British Prime Minister John Major.

Carlyle’s previous heavyweight clients include the Saudi Binladin Group, the construction firm owned by the family of Osama bin Laden.
The fact that Freescale had so many highly qualified staff on board the Boeing 777 had already prompted wild conspiracy theories about what might have happened.

The company says they were flying to China to improve its consumer products operations, but Freescale’s fresh links to electronic warfare technology is likely to trigger more speculation and deepen the mystery.

Experts have been baffled how a large passenger jet seems to have flown undetected and possibly beaten military radar systems for up to six hours even though today’s satellites can take a crystal clear picture of someone crossing a street. /

Five Big Banks Plead Guilty to Rigging Currency Markets

James S. Henry is a leading economist, attorney and investigative journalist who has written extensively about global issues. James served as Chief Economist at the international consultancy firm McKinsey & Co. As an investigative journalist his work has appeared in numerous publications like Forbes, The Nation and The New York Times. He was the lead researcher of the recently released report titled ‘The Price of Offshore Revisited.’

SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

The five biggest banks, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, The Royal Bank of Scotland, and UBS, have all pleaded guilty to multiple crimes involving foreign currencies, interest rates, and collusion. The traders, according to the New York Times, had formed a, quote, “an invitation-only club where the stakes were so high that newcomers were warned: mess this up, and sleep with one eye open.” The pleas are expected to be heard this afternoon in federal court. Joining us now from Sag Harbor, New York to discuss all of this is James S. Henry. James is a leading economist, attorney, and investigative journalist.

Thank you so much for joining us today, James.


PERIES: James, so let’s start off, and can you explain to us exactly what these banks were involved in?

HENRY: They set up a cartel to rig one of the largest financial markets in the world. The $5.3 trillion per day foreign exchange market. And some of them, most of them were also involved in rigging what’s called the LIBOR interest rate market, as well. Which is a–.

PERIES: Explain that.

HENRY: –of fundamental importance for all kinds of interest rate markets all over the world.

PERIES: Explain the LIBOR scandal.

HENRY: Well, the LIBOR scandal was very similar to the foreign exchange scandal. You had traders who were involved in colluding on pricing financial securities and agreeing on what interest rate they would bid on the part of their banks, rather than compete on an arm’s-length basis. So this is a clear cut [inaud.] case of where the invisible hand was nowhere to be seen.

These are critical markets for all kinds of corporate investors, financial investors of all kinds, housing markets, you know. It’s trade–anyone involved in international trade. This is absolutely outrageous, and it’s an example of really bad behavior by essentially a cartel of very large institutions that have been behaving as if they are too big to jail, too big to penalize.

PERIES: Now, explain further in terms of what this pleading guilty actually means, and what is expected in terms of the next steps in this case.

HENRY: Well, they’ve agreed under this settlement to pay $5.89 billion in fines in disgorgement of profit. But they’ve also, the five institutions here, four of them have pleaded guilty. Which is a corporate plea submission. And that’s really unusual. The problem is that in advance of this settlement, essentially the collateral consequences that would have applied to a guilty plea by a corporate institution such as losing the right to be a prime dealer for Federal Reserve securities, or losing other rights to represent the pension funds and the U.S. pension fund system, those rights were all shielded, protected. So essentially this is a plea that has been deprived of any collateral consequences.

So we also see nobody going to jail here. The traders involved may have lost their jobs. But the profits from this activity were recorded by these banks years ago, and now finally after six or seven years, lots of litigation, they have finally come to this settlement.

You know, you have to ask whether the settlement has any real impact on their bottom lines. And I think the best answer to that is given by today’s stock market price. Which, for this bank group as a whole, their market capitalization actually rose. In the case of UBS the stock price rose 3 percent. In the case of Barclays it rose 3.7 percent.

PERIES: What’s the calculation there? Why is that happening?

HENRY: I think investors are looking at this as a light, as a kind of slap on the wrist. I mean, if you look at JP Morgan for example. JP Morgan is being fined under this agreement about a billion dollars. Little bit less than that. About $900 million. But JP Morgan in the first quarter of 2015, this largest U.S. bank, had net income of $5.9 billion. On a year basis–I mean, if they describe this penalty as less than 3 percent of JP Morgan net income last year, it would come off as a more realistic appraisal of how light the penalty is.

And this is an important thing for us to look at. These 22 largest global banks, in general, I have compiled a database of all the corporate crimes they’ve been fined or had to pay penalties for, or settle private lawsuits for from 1998 to 2015. There’s a grand total of 255 felony-scale offenses. Not only LIBOR rigging and currency markets, but money laundering, bribery, mortgage fraud, financial sanctions and [inaud.], wrongful foreclosures. Total of 14 different offenses, and a grand total of, for this group of the largest 20 banks in the world, more than 650 such fines. For which they received a grand total of $246 billion of fines.

But it hasn’t affected their behavior.

PERIES: And it’ll continue to not affect their behavior, unless key leaders of these organizations or banks are held accountable. Now, I know in other countries like Ireland actually took the bankers to court and convicted them. Why is that not happening here?

HENRY: I think there’s a mentality in the part of the Justice Department that they really can’t hold senior bankers responsible. In the 1980s under the first Bush administration something like 880 bankers went to jail in the United States for the savings and loan crisis and the financial fraud that was committed there. Here we have banks that are engaged in much more damaging global activity, costing tens of billions of dollars to financial markets, and no one’s going to jail.

There may be jail for lower-level traders going forward. But none of the CEOs at these institutions have experienced any kind of penalties. In fact, their payment schedules are going up as the stock market increases. JP Morgan’s stock price has appreciated 20 percent in the last year alone.

The main point about this is that if you look at this strictly on a business basis, this is a very profitable kind of crime. Because the profits are all realized five or six years ago, at least, from this kind of activity. It’s been going on for a long time. And finally, after a lot of litigation, a lot of settlement negotiations, maybe five to six years after the fact, they finally have to pay a fine. So on a net present value basis, putting aside the ethics or the morality of this, it’s been a profitable business for the banks and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be expected to continue doing it.

PERIES: And the Department of Justice here in this case, why haven’t they moved more swiftly?

HENRY: These are institutions that are not without influence in Washington. Eric Holder, if he goes back to Covington and Burling, joining Lanny Breuer, who used to be head of the white-collar crimes unit of the Department of Justice, that’s a big law firm at Covington. They represent all of these institutions. There’s a tremendous amount of political influence on the part of the large institutions and, and Jamie Dimon basically taunted Elizabeth Warren back in the fall, saying you know, go ahead, fine us. He’s been complaining about being targeted by the regulators. But the history is that these banks have not changed their behavior. And these fines are just passed along to customers. They’re not borne by the executives involved at all. And the behavior goes on.

PERIES: James, do you think Loretta Lynch, the new Department of Justice head, will have anything to add to this case, and bring it to greater conclusion?

HENRY: I think going forward you’d like to believe that she would have a tougher stance towards the banks than her predecessor. But she was deeply involved in the slap on the wrist settlement with HSBC in 2012, which was, where HSBC was caught red-handed laundering billions for the cartels in Mexico, and also busting sanctions against U.S.–sanctions that have been imposed on countries like Iran and North Korea.

The track record suggests that she will be as accommodating as her predecessors. But that’s not the way we’re going to bring these–essentially banking has become a kind of criminal enterprise. And we’re talking about multiple crimes over multiple years, committed by the same institutions under the administration of the same senior executives. So it isn’t a quick case of one or two rogue traders or bad actors here. We have an institutional problem, a real culture of crime and opportunism within these financial institutions.

PERIES: And in spite of what we have seen over the years since 2007 and 2008 crises, things really haven’t changed. There has really been no reform of the system in any way.

HENRY: Well, I think the banks are very busy right now trying to undermine the reforms that were made. There were some efforts on the part of Congress to toughen up on bank regulation, to establish new bank regulators. But right now they’re spending a lot of money on lobbyists to undermine that and to roll it back, and I don’t think there’s much support for tougher regulation in Congress, on the part of this Congress.

I think we’re, the problem is that we’re looking at a situation that hasn’t fundamentally changed from a standpoint of tough penalties. What you need to stop this kind of behavior is proactive regulation. This kind of ex-, post-facto, cleaning up after the fact takes years, it imposes a fine that is a fraction of profits or cash flow or trivial, and I think the behavior underlying it just goes on.

Kraft Reveals Revamped Mac and Cheese, 50 Million Boxes Later

USUALLY when companies come out with a new and improved formula, they want the public to know. But when the item in question is an iconic food product, the calculus gets tougher. Every marketer remembers with a shudder the cautionary tale of New Coke.

So when Kraft Heinz reached inside the blue box to tweak the recipe for its macaroni and cheese, it chose to whisper rather than shout the results.

A new formula that removed artificial preservatives and swapped out artificial dyes for a combination of paprika, annatto and turmeric had been under development for three years, and last April Kraft announced that it planned to make the switch. But when the reformulated version hit shelves in December, only customers paying careful attention to the ingredients listed on the side of the box would have known. Even the orangeish color of the mac and cheese remained the same.

“We’ve sold well over 50 million boxes with essentially no one noticing,” said Greg Guidotti, vice president for meal solutions at Kraft Heinz.
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Kraft to Drop Preservatives From Its Macaroni and Cheese APRIL 20, 2015


“This was absolutely brilliant of them to change it and not say anything,” said Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at the market research firm Mintel.

Now Kraft is getting a little more vocal.

A new ad campaign plays up the element of surprise involved with the company’s new mac and cheese formula, with 15- and 30-second broadcast and online video spots featuring the former late-night television host Craig Kilborn and the tag line, “It’s changed. But it hasn’t.”

Kraft was concerned that people would perceive a change in flavor that wasn’t really there if it made too big a deal about the different formula as soon as it started using it. In fact, when the company made the announcement last spring that it would be tweaking the ingredients, Mr. Guidotti said, people began posting on social media their concerns that the mac and cheese would taste different.

“We knew we wanted to address that tension,” he said.

Some on social media even said, shortly after the April announcement, that they thought the mac and cheese tasted different when, in reality, they were still eating the previous version. This is a psychological quirk, well known to food manufacturers, that can stymie well-meaning attempts to make processed foods healthier.

“Anytime there’s a suggestion of what something should taste like, some aspect of taste, when we try that food, we’re looking for it,” said David Just, a professor of behavioral economics at Cornell University who is affiliated with the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. “Whenever you have labels like ‘healthier’ or ‘reformulated,’ people are looking for the absence of a taste they really like.”

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Ms. Dornblaser added, “Normally, consumers are going to expect when there’s going to be a reformulation of whatever kind, they’re going to expect it to taste different and to look different.”

Overcoming such a hard-wired preconception required stealth.

“Our first advice to them was not to tell anyone about it, which is unusual for an ad agency,” said Adam Chasnow, vice president and executive creative director for Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Kraft’s partner in developing the campaign. “We’re going to focus on the fact that things are still the same.”

In addition to the commercials with Mr. Kilborn, the campaign includes a two-and-a-half-minute online video that takes a more serious, documentary-style look at the change; digital display ads; and promotions through Pandora online radio, Snapchat and ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” Print ads in 20 magazines, including Southern Living, US Weekly and Essence, cheekily tell readers things like, “We’d invite you to try it, but you already have.”

Kraft is also encouraging fans to post on social media with the hashtag #didntnotice by offering giveaways, including a pillow shaped like Kraft’s curved macaroni noodle.

Mr. Guidotti said that since the company revealed that it had been using the new formula for some time, customer feedback has been generally positive, although there was a spate of posts from customers claiming that they actually had noticed the change. “When you say something, people will say, ‘Oh yeah, I knew that,’ ” he said. “There’s psychology involved in there as well.”

Before the campaign began, Kraft and Crispin Porter & Bogusky worried that a sharp-eyed fan or a food blogger would notice the changes to the ingredients list and act as a spoiler.

“We were always concerned,” Mr. Guidotti said. “Should consumers find out sooner, we had contingencies. We had a lot of different ways of launching our advertising sooner, launching our social sooner, having more specific responses.”

None of that proved to be necessary, not that Mr. Guidotti or his team are complaining.

“I think we probably did five times as much work, but it was all worth it,” he said.

Against Authoritarianism, For Democracy: Secular Humanism’s Crusades Against Civil Inequality in India

India is no stranger to irreligion and humanism, and never genuinely has been. Through its vibrant history, the nation has been host to a plethora of notable freethinkers and skeptics, and has served as an enriched mausoleum of humanistic thinking and culture. In spite of its dismally low number of atheists, Indian skeptics such as author Salman Rushdie, filmmaker Satyajit Ray, astrophysicist Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru are well-known not only in the Indian subcontinent but across the globe as well. No slackers on that list!

But the civil state of India has been ravaged by systematic discrimination and division into class systems that disparage human equality, promulgated by religious traditions and beliefs in the caste system (a key component of traditional Hinduism). This has manifested itself as the maintenance of the “untouchables” (or dalit, as is widely known), which is a level on the caste system that is regarded to be “below” others. In fact, here’s a gripping description of their plight, from National Geographic:

Untouchables are outcasts—people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings. Prejudice defines their lives, particularly in the rural areas, where nearly three-quarters of India’s people live. Untouchables are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down.

The ancient belief system that created the Untouchables overpowers modern law. While India’s constitution forbids caste discrimination and specifically abolishes Untouchability, Hinduism, the religion of 80 percent of India’s population, governs daily life with its hierarchies and rigid social codes. Under its strictures, an Untouchable parent gives birth to an Untouchable child, condemned as unclean from the first breath.

In fact, dalit in Sanskrit means “suppressed” or “broken.”

“It’s like you are born with a stamp on your forehead and you can never get rid of it,” says Amit, one of the community correspondents and an activist for dalit rights.

Also plaguing India is superstition deeply embedded in its religious culture. Fear of ghosts, demons, haunted houses, and otherworldly specters runs rampant. Prevailing paradigms dictated that pregnant women should not view solar eclipses (with no scientific reasons whatsoever to affirm). Sustained and fueled by fear and misunderstanding of the unknown, this superstitious nature suffused in Indian culture has yet to be decimated.

Humanism Overturning Prejudice and Superstition

Near the forefront at the battle for combating the forces of prejudice, irrationality, and the awful, derogatory caste system is a fresh wave of secular humanism, spearheaded by two late heroes: Goparaju Rao (nicknamed in India as Gora) and Saraswathi Gora. The husband and wife served and died as icons of social progress and harbingers of an age of reason–an age that deemed India capable of relieving itself of past misapprehended beliefs lacking logical basis, and firmly rooting in its place respect for science and critical evaluation. After he was forced to resign from his profession due to expression his atheism, Gora devoted himself to dispelling the superstition and irrationality institutionalized and revered in his nation; he and his spouse established the Atheist Center, a home for the expression and discourse of thoughts pertaining to religion and disbelief. The Atheist Center was awarded the International Humanist Award in 1986.

Together, the couple crusaded without relent against the strain of anti-intellectualism that had rooted itself in the culture of India, surreptitiously poisoning the irrational beliefs and practices of the masses beyond the point of even recognizing the baselessness of the notions held. In fact, he and his wife publicly viewed solar eclipses, as there was a superstitious belief that pregnant women should not do so. They resided in haunted houses to dismiss the myths about such places. Every full moon night marked the periodical “cosmopolitan dinner”, hosted by Gora, in which Indians of all religions and castes were warmly invited to dine together, signifying the harmonic ideals they strove to achieve. As an act of dissent from the government, the couple additionally organized “beef and pork” parties, shattering proposed laws prohibiting such items due to religious reasons. Always the contrarians, this couple rose to fame as valiant social reformers working to unburden India of its baseless faith and superstition.

Gora and Saraswathi viewed the caste system with abhorrence. They regularly conducted inter-caste and inter-religious marriages to dispel prejudices amongst civil groups. In fact, their own daughter was wed to a dalit, or “untouchable”.

From The Hans India:

The atheist movement in South India is a fertile ground for the onward march of atheism and rationalism. It was a citadel of the freedom struggle and social reform movements, challenging colonialism, imperialism and the oppressive Nizam rule.

It fought against caste system and untouchability with democratic approach and egalitarian value system. It champions castelessness and strives for a post-religious society. It became a role model to the world in its commitment.

Gora engaged in a series of profound and thoughtful conversations with the well-known Mohandas Gandhi. Their conversations have been recorded in a book titled An Atheist With Gandhi. This collection of excerpts from discourse between the two, has often been described as “brief” but “eliciting wonderful thoughts and analysis.”

The Wonderfulness of Thought

In a nation suffused with a culture that espouses irrationality, that sings hymns to otherworldly spirits no one has put forth a morsel of evidence for, that prizes blind submission over critical discourse and dissent, that is–simply put–superstitious and proud of it, it takes quite some valor to take a stand and challenge the roots of the dogma that is draped over the minds of your peers, your parents, and your society.

Saraswathi Gora and Goparaju Rao. A couple shaped in the flames of irrationality gripping India, searing and decimating the grains of critical thought in favor of silence and faith. A couple that managed to not only escape from these flames, but to strive to smother the kindle of injustice and unreason. Consistently an adversary of authoritarian illiberalism and unscientific convictions, this pair of social reformers are not to be trifed with when it comes to matters of social progress and the advancement of logical thinking.

I rightfully suppose I speak for all humanists when I applaud the paramount and rousing bravery demonstrated by the paragon of brilliance and intellectual virtue that is Saraswathi Gora and Goparaju Rao, working to combat the bastion of unreason in south India.

Matt Damon vs. Sarah Palin and the Dinosaurs

On September 10, 2008, a video of actor Matt Damon was released to the press that quickly got posted on YouTube, and has now gotten over two million hits. Here’s what he said:

I think there’s a really good chance that Sarah Palin could be president, and I think that’s a really scary thing because I don’t know anything about her. I don’t think in eight weeks I’m gonna know anything about her. I know that she was a mayor of a really, really small town, and she’s governor of Alaska for less than two years. I just don’t understand. I think the pick was made for political purposes, but in terms of governance, it’s a disaster. You do the actuary tables, you know, there’s a one out of three chance, if not more, that McCain doesn’t survive his first term, and it’ll be President Palin. And it really, you know, I was talking about it earlier, it’s like a really bad Disney movie, you know, the hockey mom, you know, “I’m just a hockey mom from Alaska”—and she’s the president. And it’s like she’s facing down Vladimir Putin and, you know, using the folksy stuff she learned at the hockey rink, you know, it’s just absurd. It’s totally absurd, and I don’t understand why more people aren’t talking about how absurd it is. I … it’s a really terrifying possibility.

The fact that we’ve gotten this far and we’re that close to this being a reality is crazy. Crazy. I mean, did she really—I need to know if she really thinks dinosaurs were here 4,000 years ago. That’s an important … I want to know that. I really do. Because she’s gonna have the nuclear codes, you know. I wanna know if she thinks dinosaurs were here 4,000 years ago or if she banned books or tried to ban books. I mean, you know, we can’t have that.

Before I was a Christian, I could have easily said the same kind of things as Matt Damon. In fact, I probably did say similar things, often—and especially to Christians. Like: “How can these people believe in things like, ‘in the beginning God,’ Adam and Eve, Noah’s ark and that man walked around with dinosaurs a few thousand years ago?” I can still hear myself mocking Christianity as I type on my laptop.

But the truth is, Matt Damon, like so many people (and like me) was probably never given a chance to hear the case for Christianity. A sizable cross-section of our country hears only the case against Christianity—presented in nearly every classroom across America, from grammar school to university. Matt Damon has the added benefit of his “education” within the Hollywood elite.

Generally speaking, Matt is opposed to anyone who is not a liberal. Therefore, he’s opposed to anyone opposed to Obama. But he claims to oppose Sarah Palin due to her lack of experience and her young earth views. I bet he’d be bothered by me having the nuclear codes as well. I, too, believe the earth is thousands—not millions—of years old. But I don’t believe many Christians today believe in a strict 4,000-year age of the earth. That number is rooted in something known as Ussher’s chronology from the 17th century, in which James Ussher argued the date of creation was October 23, 4004 B.C. It has now been discredited.

Let me say that most of the Christian leaders and pastors I know are “young earthers” who also believe the earth is thousands, not millions, of years old. There are a number of “old earthers” that I still respect. I just disagree with them. What I especially oppose are the improper motives of people on both sides who say, essentially, “It’s got to be my way or it’s heresy.” I know young earthers who say, “If you believe the earth is more than 10,000 years old, then you’re not taking the Bible literally, you probably don’t believe in inerrancy and you might not even really be saved.” I’ve met old earthers who say, “If you don’t believe the Earth is billions of years old, then you’re rejecting God’s second book—that of general revelation—and since you’re unwilling to synthesize your beliefs about theology with the facts of science, then you’re the Christian equivalent of a flat earther or a Holocaust denier.

There are good cases to be made for both sides. And, based upon evidence and argument, I could be persuaded out of my young earth position. In my view nothing essential rests upon it. I can believe in a young man on and old earth thesis (as does Hugh Ross), and have no problem with it biblically or scientifically. I’m just not there.

Let’s face it, the impetus for the “old man, old earth” thesis is the time necessary for man to evolve from an ape. But, if you believe God created man a few thousand years ago, then all the skull and tooth fragments from any alleged “missing link” (that’s still missing) will never prove modern man is the descendant of apes. It can only prove similar design, not common descent.

The biggest problem for my young earth view is the age of light and, in critical terms, what I call the level of “the divine deception.” Ask a Christian junior high group if God can make trees out of nothing and you’ll get a quick agreement. Ask them to suppose that God creates a giant sequoia right in front of them right now. Ask if the tree would have bark, limbs, roots, and leaves. Again, a hearty yes. Then ask about whether there would be tree rings inside and some of the kids drop off. Why? Because tree rings mean time and time can’t have transpired if He just created the tree in front of you. Ask those who accept the tree rings why they think so, and you’ll hear, “Because God can create with the appearance of age.”

In fact, there’s almost nothing you can think of that doesn’t have the “tree ring” element to it. To create something means you must give it an age—and it always could have been younger. Even light. I’m no astrophysicist, but I read that light itself has elements of age to it and that distant starlight has these elements of decay or age. I used to say about distant starlight that “God had created the light in transit”—and I was intellectually satisfied, with no reservations. Now, however, I learn that the divine deception extends to the atomic level; the light is “aged” at the level of infinitesimal minutia. For many, that is a level of divine deception too great for their plausibility level. They’d prefer to believe there is no “deception”—that the universe is billions of years old (the earth too) and perhaps that man is millions of years old rather than thousands.

I, on the other hand, prefer to think of it not as deception, but as consistency. Adam could have been created a toddler, those trees in the Garden could have been seeds and those animals could have been newborns. But none of this would have served God’s perfect will and purposes. He was concerned with the “Who” not the “how.” The repeated refrain in Genesis 1—“and God said”—doesn’t give much detail on the how. God spoke. At the end of His creative work, God looked at it all and saw that “it was very good.” When you have infinite material and infinite energy, the “how” isn’t really an issue.

For me, once I was persuaded there was a Creator, the “how” of the creation became a matter of reduced importance. I wonder if Matt Damon’s God could have created man and the dinosaurs and allowed them to be contemporaneous. If not, why not?

More than likely, Matt doesn’t believe in God at all. In that case, he’s not really against Sarah Palin—or even Christians. He’s against the Creator himself.