April 2010 Archives

The Mess Moves Ashore

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So not only will this 210,000 gallon per day catastrophe (now considered to be potentially worse than the Valdez experience) cost us billions in cleanup...wait to see where your gas prices go in the next few weeks. And don't forget to add hurricanes to the mix. Yikes.
Must be Obama's fault....wait for it.

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Oil spill is the 'bad one' experts feared

If conditions don't change quickly, devastation is headed for the U.S. coast, federal scientist says.

Recipe for devastation

It hasn't quite become a total disaster yet. But it's hard to imagine it not being devastating, said Ed Overton, who heads a federal chemical hazard assessment team for oil spills. The Louisiana State University professor has been testing samples of the spilled crude.

He compared what's brewing to another all-too-familiar Gulf Coast threat: "This has got all the characteristics of a Category 5 hurricane."

If conditions don't change quickly, devastation of the highest magnitude is headed for somewhere along the coast, said Overton, who works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

'This is relentless'

Experts in oil spills have drills every few years to practice their response for spills of "national significance." One of those practice runs took place just last month in Maine. The Gulf of Mexico leak is a "combination of all the bad things happening" and makes it far worse than any disaster imagined in the drills, said Nancy Kinner, director of the Coastal Response Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.


Wildlife officials say as many as 400 species could be affected by the oil spill.
"This is relentless," Kinner said.

Most Americans think of Exxon Valdez when it comes to spills. But the potential and likelihood here "is well beyond that," said University of Rhode Island ocean engineering professor Malcolm Spaulding. Because the Deepwater Horizon well has not been capped and may flow for months more, it should be compared to a bigger more dangerous one from a well explosion in 1979, said Tunnell. That was Ixtoc 1, off the coast of Mexico. It was the worst peacetime oil spill on record.

The current spill "is kind of a worst-case scenario," Tunnell said.

What makes this spill relentless and most similar to Ixtoc 1 is that it's an active well that keeps flowing. The Exxon Valdez was a tanker with a limited supply of oil. The rig 40 miles from the Gulf Coast may leak for months before a relief well can be drilled to stop the flow, Kinner said.

And LSU's Overton said: "I'm not very optimistic that they'll be drilling a relief well in three months."

Type of oil also a problem

The type of oil involved is also a major problem. While most of the oil drilled off Louisiana is a lighter crude, this isn't. It's a heavier blend because it comes from deep under the ocean surface, Overton said.

"If I had to pick a bad oil, I'd put this right up there. The only thing that's not bad about this is that it doesn't have a lot of sulfur in it and the high sulfur really smells bad."

The first analysis of oil spill samples showed it contains asphalt-like substances that make a major sticky mess, he said. This is because the oil is older than most oil in the region and is very dense.

This oil also emulsifies well, Overton said. Emulsification is when oil and water mix thoroughly together, like a shampoo, which is mostly water, said Penn State engineering professor Anil Kulkarni.

It "makes a thick gooey chocolate mousse type of mix," Kulkarni said.

And once it becomes that kind of mix, it no longer evaporates as quickly as regular oil, doesn't rinse off as easily, can't be eaten by oil-munching microbes as easily, and doesn't burn as well, experts said.

That type of mixture essentially removes all the best oil clean-up weapons, Overton and others said.

Under better circumstances, with calmer winds and water, the oil might have a chance of rising without immediately emulsifying, but that's not happening here, Kulkarni said. It's pretty much mixed by the time it gets to the surface.

Winds and waves

The wind and waves are also pushing the oil directly toward some of the most sensitive coastal areas: the marshlands of Louisiana and surrounding states.

And there are three types of beaches: sandy, rocky and marshy. Sandy beaches, like those in Florida, are the easiest to clean, Overton said. By far the hardest are marshlands and that's where the oil is heading first.

Marshes are so delicate that just trying to clean them causes damage, Kinner said. Once the oily mess penetrates, grasses must be cut. But it also penetrates the soil and that is extremely difficult to get out, she said.

The normal bacteria that eats oil needs oxygen to work, and in the soils of the marsh, there's not enough oxygen for that process, she said.

It's also the time of year in the Gulf of Mexico when fish spawn, plankton bloom and the delicate ecosystem is at a vulnerable stage.

Lexx is Back

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One of the most imaginative series ever shown on TV. All 60 episodes can now be streamed on Hulu.

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Lexx, the most powerful spaceship in the two universes.

The Lexx is a bio-engineered, Manhattan-sized, planet-destroying bioship in the shape of a giant wingless dragonfly. It was grown by ingesting organ collections from the protein bank on the Cluster, the seat of the Divine Order, for use by His Divine Shadow. The Lexx was originally intended as the ultimate deterrent: the threat of a weapon that could instantly obliterate any planet would keep the remaining "Heretic" worlds of the Light Universe in line, and those that refused to capitulate would be summarily destroyed to reinforce the point. This plan was foiled when the crew commandeered it to escape from the Cluster.

The most important function of the Lexx is its ability to destroy entire planets with a single, high-powered blast. Its only weapon is initiated by command from the captain only, followed by a highly dramatic sequence when the Ocular Parabola found on the surface of its eye tissue flips from a smooth surfaced dome into a complex array of satellite dish-like structures. Huge amounts of yellowish-orange particles are released en masse from the array and focused by Lexx's nervous system to a point just above its mouth. Once focused, the particles burst into a massive, forward-moving, planar wave which expands ahead of the Lexx exponentially until colliding with an object of sufficient mass to disperse it, usually a planet. The wave instantly vaporizes smaller ships without losing momentum. Though the Lexx is designed to destroy entire planets, it can fire less intense blasts to hit smaller targets; however, the smallest area it seems capable of destroying is roughly the size of an entire city such as Orlando.

A special living energy being known as the "key" is required to control the Lexx, and it will usually only respond to the one who has it, however, if the ship is in a deficient mental state, it may respond to anyone. A special holographic hand-scanner on the bridge confirms that the captain of the ship possesses the key, but captain can control the Lexx through voice commands.

The Lexx itself is sentient, but not very intelligent. The show's creators have it compared to a dog. The Lexx often takes orders literally, even when it's not being addressed directly (Stan accidentally orders the Lexx to destroy a planet when he explains its function to some astronauts). It acknowledges commands and comments with a droning, simple male voice; for example, "As you command, Stan." The Lexx has emotions (it actively enjoys destroying planets, for instance, and becomes rather petulant when denied the opportunity), and is, to a small extent, capable of acting of its own accord when in defense of itself. In the final episode of the show, as the Lexx is dying, it tells Stan that he was always its favorite captain, since they both enjoy destroying planets.

Being alive, the Lexx needs to eat to function. It can digest any form of organic matter, and will usually land on a planet's surface to scoop up suitable organic foodstuffs; however, it is content to simply blow-up a planet and feast on the sizable chunks. When denied food, the Lexx can become rather cranky, but will always attempt to follow orders no matter what is happening. The moral dilemma of destroying inhabited worlds for Lexx's functioning and survival is a recurring plot theme, and occasionally Lexx will swallow passing ships without informing the crew. Another means of collecting energy is to "resorb" discarded items left on its floors.

This is what it and the rest of the manic drill,baby,drill morons who can't be bothered thinking things through or considering reality until they've maximized their idiocy's potential for social and environmental damage looks like :

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It's being estimated landfall of the oil will begin in 2-3 days, at which point we can start reliving the horrors of the Valdez...remember that cute little episode?

42,000 Gallons Per Day

The Coast Guard said a new leak was found at the site where an oil platform exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rear Adm. Mary Landry gave a new estimate of 5,000 barrels a day leaking. Officials had been saying for days that it was 1,000 barrels a day.

She also said the Secretary of Homeland Security briefed the president on the new information. She said the government offered to have the Department of Defense help contain the spill.

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A graphic posted by the Coast Guard and the industry task force fighting the slick showed it covering an area about 100 miles long and 45 miles across at its widest point.

Amid several of the thicker streaks, four gray whales could be seen swimming, and one of them appeared to be rolling and curling as if struggling or disoriented. It was not clear if the whale was in danger.

More than two dozen vessels moved about in the heart of the slick pulling oil-sopping booms.

Earlier Wednesday, Louisiana State Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham told lawmakers that federal government projections show a "high probability" oil could reach the Pass a Loutre wildlife area Friday night, Breton Sound on Saturday and the Chandeleur Islands on Sunday.

As the task force worked far offshore, local officials prepared for the worst in case the oil reaches land.

Zealotry Always Ruins Lives

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He spent 44 years in prison for ending the life of a man who died at 39.

Malcolm X killer freed after 44 years

By Wayne Drash

t.hagan.jpgThomas Hagan, the only man who admitted his role in the 1965 assassination of iconic black leader Malcolm X, was paroled Tuesday.

Hagan was freed a day earlier than planned because his paperwork was processed more quickly than anticipated, according to the New York State Department of Correctional Services.

Hagan, 69, walked out of the minimum-security Lincoln Correctional Facility at 11 a.m. The facility is located at the intersection of West 110th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard.

Hagan had been in a full-time work-release program since March 1992 that allowed him to live at home with his family in Brooklyn five days a week while reporting to the prison just two days.

Last month, Hagan pleaded his case for freedom: To return to his family, to become a substance abuse counselor and to make his mark on what time he has left in this world.

He was dressed in prison greens as he addressed the parole board. He had been before that body 14 other times since 1984. Each time, he was rejected.

Hagan was no ordinary prisoner. He is the only man to have confessed in the killing of Malcolm X, who was gunned down while giving a speech in New York's Audubon Ballroom in 1965.

"I have deep regrets about my participation in that," he told the parole board on March 3, according to a transcript. "I don't think it should ever have happened."

Hagan had been sentenced to 20 years to life imprisonment after being found guilty at trial with two others in 1966. The other two men were released in the 1980s and have long denied involvement in the killing.

TBTF is the weapon

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A lot of days

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As of today I have been around for 22,280 days.

A Great Comment

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In response to Frank Rich's piece posted earlier:

Greg Austin, TX, USA April 25th, 2010 6:21 am


Thanks for mentioning the outstanding This American Life episode last week. My eyes welled up as I listened to it.

One reason was the disgusting heist committed by those sociopaths, one that decimated the retirement funds of my father, the railroad man, and my Peace Corps volunteer/public school teacher mother. They are the collateral damage of this whole fiasco.

Adding insult to injury, they're the ones the Wall Street "masters of the universe" look down their noses at, regarding them as simpletons who could have also made money hand over fist if only they were as smart as they.

Free country, right? Equal opportunity and blah blah, but hey, the cream always rises to the top!

The only simple thing about them, however, is their moral code. As for brains, they too have it going on, and they passed it on to my climate scientist brother and medical school instructor sister. The only thing that differentiates them from the "masters" is their functioning consciences.

That and producing something of value to society.

Which brings me to the other reason I got so depressed listening to This American Life: NPR and ProPublica too have it going on, cerebrally and morally, but they are a dying breed. True journalism, the kind that drills down deep into a story and lays it all out on our doorstep, is withering.

A major cause, of course, is that Americans need it in a sound bite, if that (because they've already adopted a narrative anyway, one that doesn't need your interference, thank you very much). So there's not a lot of advertising money to be had around a half-hour-long investigative piece. The negative feedback loop escalates and, next thing you know, it's nothing but Rick Sanchez or Fox & Friends blabbering on about concocted crap while Rome burns.

Yes, Ira Glass and everyone at NPR, along with the ProPublica reporters, are the real heroes of our society -- congrats to ProPublica for their Pulitzer! -- simply because they are the last to not get tilled under by the giant combine of neutered homogenization driven by corporate profits. Alas, if they finally succumb to the forces arrayed against them, maybe they can switch to investment banking. They're sure smart enough, and God knows I'd rather have Ira Glass managing my portfolio than Lloyd Blankfein any day.

Dog Eat Dog

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Literally. I see this as incredibly perverse and wrong.

Coyote vs. Greyhound: The Battle Lines Are Drawn

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ELGIN, Okla. -- One morning in an otherwise quiet corner of the Great Plains, high-pitched yips and deep growls sprang from a cluster of trees. Two greyhounds were fighting a pack of coyotes.

One greyhound was bitten on a front paw and a back leg. The other was bitten in the jaw, and blood soaked its muzzle. But two of the seven coyotes died. The greyhounds, wild-eyed and wet with slobber, trotted to their owner, John Hardzog, a cattle rancher who was waiting nearby.

"Greyhounds are calm, gentle dogs, but they're also pretty efficient killers," Hardzog said as he picked a clump of tawny coyote hair from one dog's teeth. "This is exactly what they're born and bred to do. Yep, this is what they live for."

Unlike the greyhounds familiar to most Americans as racers and pets, Hardzog's are trained only to chase and kill coyotes for sport.

Hunting coyotes with greyhounds goes back generations. President Theodore Roosevelt did so on this land, about 70 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, in the early 1900s. It remains largely a regional pursuit that is part of the area's lore, like the cattle drives along the Chisholm Trail.

Ranchers and farmers have long viewed coyotes as pests because they kill livestock. Yet hunting coyotes with greyhounds -- all members of the Canidae family -- is banned in some states, including Washington and Colorado. Some animal-rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, say it is inhumane, for coyotes and for greyhounds.

"It was not thought of as sporting by a majority of citizens in our state because the coyotes were getting killed by dogs, not by people," Miranda Wecker, the chairwoman of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, said of last year's decision to ban the sport. "This was dogs ripping apart other dogs. Thinking about it that way, it became very close to dogfighting."

Origins of Mud Slinging

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Common Thieves Is Really All They Are

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And really not even clever ones at that. The wall street boys never would have gotten away with any of it without the opacity of the dark blanket of secrecy they threw over the whole act, like really bad magicians. Masters of the universe my ass, they're nothing but existential sucks pushing a bully snake oil huckster bravado and incompetent slaves to their own blind and short term greed.

Fight On, Goldman Sachs!

by Frank Rich

Maybe Lloyd Blankfein was doing "God's work" after all.

When the Goldman Sachs chief executive made that tone-deaf remark to an interviewer in November, he became the butt of a million insults, the ultimate symbol of Wall Street's abdication of responsibility for its sleazy role in the Great Crash of '08. But now we've learned that Blankfein was actually, if inadvertently, on the side of the angels. It's his myopic, unrepentant truculence that left Goldman exposed to a Securities and Exchange Commission accusation of fraud that will be litigated in public rather than bought off in private. And it's that S.E.C. legal action that has, in a single week, radically transformed the politics and prospects for financial reform in America.

In just that week, the Party of No's intransigent campaign of obstruction and obfuscation went belly up. The Obama White House moved to get its act together with an alacrity lacking in its health care campaign, abruptly adding Thursday's New York speech to the president's schedule. The bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission at last issued its first subpoena -- to Moody's, one of the rating agencies that for a fat fee slapped AAA ratings on the toxic garbage Goldman packaged and sold to benighted suckers on the other end of a huge bet placed by a favored client, the hedge fund player John Paulson.

Salutary as this rush of events is, it still adds up so far to just one small step for mankind. We don't yet know how many loopholes lobbyists will slip into the bill-in-progress. We don't yet know the outcome of the S.E.C. case, let alone what other much-needed legal pursuit of Wall Street may follow it. And we still don't know what, if any, true correction lies ahead for the financial sector's runaway casino culture -- much of it legal -- that turned a subprime-mortgage bubble in a handful of overheated American states into an international economic meltdown.

But before we get to those gloomy caveats, let's smell a few roses.

Care to try luxury airships?

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37 hours London to NY as an alternative to jet lag.

FAT Tax?

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What a good idea - in both a literal sense and as an analogy.

Don't Cry for Wall Street

By Paul Krugman

On Thursday, President Obama went to Manhattan, where he urged an audience drawn largely from Wall Street to back financial reform. "I believe," he declared, "that these reforms are, in the end, not only in the best interest of our country, but in the best interest of the financial sector."

Well, I wish he hadn't said that -- and not just because he really needs, as a political matter, to take a populist stance, to put some public distance between himself and the bankers. The fact is that Mr. Obama should be trying to do what's right for the country -- full stop. If doing so hurts the bankers, that's O.K.

More than that, reform actually should hurt the bankers. A growing body of analysis suggests that an oversized financial industry is hurting the broader economy. Shrinking that oversized industry won't make Wall Street happy, but what's bad for Wall Street would be good for America.

Now, the reforms currently on the table -- which I support -- might end up being good for the financial industry as well as for the rest of us. But that's because they only deal with part of the problem: they would make finance safer, but they might not make it smaller.

What's the matter with finance? Start with the fact that the modern financial industry generates huge profits and paychecks, yet delivers few tangible benefits.

Remember the 1987 movie "Wall Street," in which Gordon Gekko declared: Greed is good? By today's standards, Gekko was a piker. In the years leading up to the 2008 crisis, the financial industry accounted for a third of total domestic profits -- about twice its share two decades earlier.

These profits were justified, we were told, because the industry was doing great things for the economy. It was channeling capital to productive uses; it was spreading risk; it was enhancing financial stability. None of those were true. Capital was channeled not to job-creating innovators, but into an unsustainable housing bubble; risk was concentrated, not spread; and when the housing bubble burst, the supposedly stable financial system imploded, with the worst global slump since the Great Depression as collateral damage.

Earth Day Sermonette

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Putting your problems in perspective

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Of course, when you're being water-boarded by life, the relative scale of things isn't really the point is it?

New NASA pix of sun released

Scale:

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Laughter the Best Medicine?

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Sometimes the level of dumb from the right is truly entertaining. The obvious question here regarding this candidate's proposal for controlling health care costs by way of barter is "How many chickens will it take to cover an appendectomy or how many houses to paint for a bypass surgery?"

UPDATE: Oh wait...someone has bothered to make a site that calculates how many chickens for various medical procedures...click the pic for the site.

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Top GOP Senate Candidate Lowden Favors "Chickens For Checkups" Health Care Plan

by Matt Finkelstein

On her campaign website, Sue Lowden (R-NV), the leading Republican challenger to Sen. Harry Reid, lays out four planks of her health care platform: tort reform, purchasing insurance across state lines, small business pools, and portability. Those ideas, of course, closely mirror what congressional Republicans put forward throughout the health care debate. However, Lowden's site fails to mention her fifth -- and most interesting -- idea:

"I'm telling you that this works," the Republican candidate explained. "You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say, 'I'll paint your house.' I mean, that's the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I'm not backing down from that system."

That's right: Lowden wants to impose a medieval bartering system for health care services.

Oops...they did it again.

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I haven't used McAfee for years and try to talk my customers out of using it... this is why.

McAfee program goes berserk, reboots PCs

Hospitals, schools, company computers around the world affected by error

Computers in companies, hospitals and schools around the world got stuck repeatedly rebooting themselves Wednesday after an antivirus program identified a normal Windows file as a virus.

McAfee confirmed that a software update it posted at 9 a.m. Eastern time caused its antivirus program for corporate customers to misidentify a harmless file. It has posted a replacement update for download.

McAfee could not say how many computers were affected, but judging by online postings, the number was at least in the thousands and possibly in the hundreds of thousands.

McAfee said it did not appear that consumer versions of its software caused similar problems. It is investigating how the error happened "and will take measures" to prevent it from recurring, the company said in a statement.

The computer problem forced about a third of the hospitals in Rhode Island to postpone elective surgeries and stop treating patients without traumas in emergency rooms, said Nancy Jean, a spokeswoman for the Lifespan system of hospitals. The system includes Rhode Island Hospital, the state's largest, and Newport Hospital. Jean said patients who required treatment for gunshot wounds, car accidents, blunt trauma and other potentially fatal injuries were still being admitted to the emergency rooms.

Drill, baby, Drill

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Or as or as Palin would have it:

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Workers Missing After Oil-Rig Explosion

By GUY CHAZAN , RUSSELL GOLD And BEN CASSELMAN

Twelve people were missing and seven critically injured after an explosion and fire at an oil-drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

oil-rig.jpgThe rig, about 41 miles off the Louisiana coast, is owned and operated by Transocean Ltd. and contracted to British oil major BP PLC. A spokesman for Transocean said most of the 126 people on board were safe. A Coast Guard spokeswoman said 12 were still missing but said reports indicated that all 126 people got off the rig. The rig was still burning and listing.

Four Coast Guard helicopters and an airplane are being used in rescue operations and five Coast Guard cutters are also responding, the Coast Guard said. "We are still in a search and rescue operation," Transocean spokesman Greg Panagos said.

Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish, has said that the missing people were in a lifeboat that drifted away from the rig while rescue workers were helping others.

UPDATE: Burning oil rig sinks in Gulf of Mexico

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An Amazing Human Being Passes

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Dorothy Height, Civil Rights Activist, Dies At 98

Dorothy Irene Height, a pioneering voice of the civil rights movement whose activism stretched from the New Deal to the election of President Barack Obama, died Tuesday. She was 98.

dorthy_height.jpgHeight, who marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and led the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, was known for her determination and grace -- as well as her wry humor. She remained active and outspoken well into her 90s and often received rousing ovations at events around Washington, where she was easily recognizable in the bright, colorful hats she almost always wore.

Height died at Howard University Hospital, where she had been in serious condition for weeks.

In a statement, Obama called her "the godmother of the civil rights movement" and a hero to Americans.

"Dr. Height devoted her life to those struggling for equality ... and served as the only woman at the highest level of the civil rights movement -- witnessing every march and milestone along the way," Obama said.

Eyjafjallajokull glacier vocano

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Volcanic eruptions are lit by lightning on the Eyjafjallajokull glacier on April 18. Scientists are unsure whether the charge comes out of the volcano or is created closer to the atmosphere following an eruption.

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click pix to enlarge


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more volcano photos

Old gay couple ruined by county

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It's hard to fathom how people could be so moronic and deliberately evil. Everyone involved in this travesty, including the county itself, should be sued.

Sonoma County CA separates elderly gay couple and sells all of their worldly possessions

Clay and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place--wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health.

One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold's care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital. The county then ultimately went one step further by isolating the couple from each other, placing the men in separate nursing homes.

Ignoring Clay's significant role in Harold's life, the county continued to treat Harold like he had no family and went to court seeking the power to make financial decisions on his behalf. Outrageously, the county represented to the judge that Clay was merely Harold's "roommate." The court denied their efforts, but did grant the county limited access to one of Harold's bank accounts to pay for his care.

What happened next is even more chilling.

elderlyman.jpgWithout authority, without determining the value of Clay and Harold's possessions accumulated over the course of their 20 years together or making any effort to determine which items belonged to whom, the county took everything Harold and Clay owned and auctioned off all of their belongings. Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county workers then terminated Clay and Harold's lease and surrendered the home they had shared for many years to the landlord.

Three months after he was hospitalized, Harold died in the nursing home. Because of the county's actions, Clay missed the final months he should have had with his partner of 20 years. Compounding this tragedy, Clay has literally nothing left of the home he had shared with Harold or the life he was living up until the day that Harold fell, because he has been unable to recover any of his property. The only memento Clay has is a photo album that Harold painstakingly put together for Clay during the last three months of his life.

With the help of a dedicated and persistent court-appointed attorney, Anne Dennis of Santa Rosa, Clay was finally released from the nursing home. Ms. Dennis, along with Stephen O'Neill and Margaret Flynn of Tarkington, O'Neill, Barrack & Chong, now represent Clay in a lawsuit against the county, the auction company, and the nursing home, with technical assistance from NCLR. A trial date has been set for July 16, 2010 in the Superior Court for the County of Sonoma.

Oligarchy Forever

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via Planet Money

'Bet Against The American Dream' from Planet Money on Vimeo.

Bill Moyers Journal has a must see episode which included this deadly ditty and an excellent conversation with Simon Johnson and James Kwak focusing on how the banking industry became such a powerful plutocracy controlling 60% of economy. They are two of the nation's most respected economic experts and authors of the new book 13 BANKERS: THE WALL STREET TAKEOVER AND THE NEXT FINANCIAL MELTDOWN.

Guillotines and Clawbacks, Oh Yeah!

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Goldman Sachs sued by SEC

For what? For this:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Doesn't someone named Fabrice Tourre deserve to be guillotined and not just jailed?


And here's a real eye opener of just how the Wealth Weasels set about
Robbing and Thieving The American Sucker-AGAIN :

Why high taxes are good for you

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Especially if you are a member of the middle class :

Why You Should Want to Pay Higher Taxes

By Moshe Adler

There is little doubt that our antipathy toward tax increases is irrational. Parents watch budgets for their children's schools slashed, yet there is no movement to increase school taxes. College education becomes ever more unaffordable, yet few clamor for better funding of public universities. In a recent opinion poll, 56 percent of New York state residents said that instead of paying higher taxes they would prefer that government services be cut. While they protest government provision of services in general and health care in particular, how many of the elderly in the tea party crowd are themselves retirees who live on Social Security and receive Medicare?

The objections to higher taxes may be irrational, but they are not hard to explain. Government services and the high taxes that go with them are popular when the distribution of income is relatively equal. When the distribution of income is unequal, the provision of government services means that the rich have to subsidize everyone else and the not-rich become more anxious about personal wealth. This is when attacks on the government take root.

Between 1913, the first year that the income tax became constitutional, and 1981, the first year of the Reagan presidency, the highest federal marginal income tax rate was, on average, 68 percent. It should come as no surprise that the years of the country's greatest prosperity for the middle class coincided with the highest tax rates. Since Ronald Reagan held the presidency, inequality has increased markedly, and today the highest marginal tax rate is only 35 percent.

The remarkable hold that the rich have on the public's attitude toward government and taxes can explain the interesting findings of economist Amy Schmidt. Schmidt discovered that the average income of a locality does not have any effect on enrollment in private schools. What does affect enrollment is the degree of income inequality. As the proportion of families with more than twice the area's median family income increases, so does the enrollment in private schools. In other words, as long as they do not have to subsidize the education of poorer children, the rich provide ample funding for public education, and they then prefer it to private education. But when good public education for their own kids means subsidizing poorer kids, they give their own kids a private education, and the support for the funding of public education by all voters drops.

The reason that voters who would benefit from higher taxes don't see it this way is because they are subject to what economists call a "money illusion"; they believe that a family's well-being is determined by how much money it has. This is why they oppose higher taxes. What these voters fail to see is that what really matters is not the absolute level of money a family has, but how much money it has compared to other families. It will do little good for a family to have $1 million to pay for an apartment if other families have more. And when the income gap between the middle class and the rich is large, there are fewer goods available to the middle class because sellers are better off selling only to the rich at fantastically high prices that only they can afford. Examples are everywhere: Airlines increase legroom for first-class passengers and reduce it in economy. Second homes in attractive locations crowd out the local workers who serve their owners. And 20,000-square-foot apartments in dense cities reduce the supply of housing for everyone but the rich.

But because wealth is relative, taxes have a magical effect. By agreeing to pay higher taxes, middle-class families would get more government services and more private goods at the same time. All that is required for this to happen is that the income tax be progressive, because when all pay higher taxes, the after-tax income of the rich decreases proportionally more than the after-tax income of the middle class.

The notion that taxes are bad for the middle class is akin to the notion that cigarette smoking is harmless, and it should be dealt with by similar means. The government counters the misinformation about smoking propagated by the cigarette companies, and it should also counter the misinformation about taxes propagated by the rich. Higher taxes result in more and better public services, and, for the rest of us, more of just about everything else.

Got taxes?

...dumber than a ball peen hammer when it comes to understanding their own best self-interest because they're incapable of looking at the larger picture...it's short term gain idiocy.

Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated

teapartydemographics.jpgteapartydemog02.jpgteapartydemog03.jpgtaepartydemog04.jpgteapartydemog05.jpg

Good Score by Sanitation Workers

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And why the hell does anyone care? I fail to see the problem here.This has got to be a case of envy by some tight-assed supervisor and a rat minion.

Cases of beer left at landfill too hard to resist

2 sanitation workers accused of hauling off with 50 cases of expired brew

A Columbia distributor, Scheppers Distributing Co., sent 1,500 cases of expired beer to the landfill on April 1 in two shipments. The first shipment was destroyed immediately, but the second, containing about 700 cases of Budweiser and Michelob Ultra, was not.

Margrace Buckler, the city's human resource director, said two Solid Waste Division workers, who haven't been identified, brought a city truck to the landfill and hauled off about 50 cases of the beer.

Word spread of the acquisition. A week later, city officials reviewed video from the landfill and saw the workers drive away with their haul. City officials say they still don't know what happened to the beer.

When the sanitation workers were confronted on Monday, one quit, the Columbia Tribune reported. The other could face disciplinary action.

Buckler said it's likely that at least one landfill employee was involved because "the assumption is that someone made a phone call."

'Popular product'
Once the beer was left at the landfill, it became city property. That means the city could be liable if the sanitation workers shared it with other people, Buckler said.

Scheppers President Joe Priesmeyer said the expired beer would not be a health concern, although it might have lost some of its taste. He said expired beer is usually dumped at the Scheppers' plant unless there is too much for the company to handle.

It's not unusual for people to want to take some beer, Priesmeyer said.

"Every once in a while, we'll have some beer get stolen by overzealous people off of our trucks," he said. "Beer is a popular product."

Science catching up with hippies

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Like duh!

Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again

by John Tierney

As a retired clinical psychologist, Clark Martin was well acquainted with traditional treatments for depression, but his own case seemed untreatable as he struggled through chemotherapy and other grueling regimens for kidney cancer. Counseling seemed futile to him. So did the antidepressant pills he tried.

Nothing had any lasting effect until, at the age of 65, he had his first psychedelic experience. He left his home in Vancouver, Wash., to take part in an experiment at Johns Hopkins medical school involving psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient found in certain mushrooms.

Scientists are taking a new look at hallucinogens, which became taboo among regulators after enthusiasts like Timothy Leary promoted them in the 1960s with the slogan "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Now, using rigorous protocols and safeguards, scientists have won permission to study once again the drugs' potential for treating mental problems and illuminating the nature of consciousness.

After taking the hallucinogen, Dr. Martin put on an eye mask and headphones, and lay on a couch listening to classical music as he contemplated the universe.

"All of a sudden, everything familiar started evaporating," he recalled. "Imagine you fall off a boat out in the open ocean, and you turn around, and the boat is gone. And then the water's gone. And then you're gone."

Today, more than a year later, Dr. Martin credits that six-hour experience with helping him overcome his depression and profoundly transforming his relationships with his daughter and friends. He ranks it among the most meaningful events of his life, which makes him a fairly typical member of a growing club of experimental subjects.

Religious Lies to Stop Abortion

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These groups of religious people need some serious jail time.

Taxpayer Dollars So Fake Clinics Can Lie and Push Religion

by Alex DiBranco

When Crisis Pregnancy Centers get their hands on millions in federal and state dollars, they're not supposed to use that money to lie to women and promote religion. In practice, however, that's exactly what they do.

The video, from RH Reality Check and the Feminist Majority Foundation, looks at the lying lies of CPCs, including footage from inside one center where a counselor falsely tells a young women that an abortion will harm her long-term health and pressures her to turn to God. While these "fake clinics" go to great lengths to pass themselves off as legitimate medical institutions, setting up shop next to real doctor's offices, in fact most of their staff do not have medical training.

One college student points out in the video the alarming tactic of telling a woman she's not pregnant, when she is, endangers the health of the fetus -- until a woman realizes she's been duped, she might engage in risky behaviors, such as drinking and smoking. The CPC wants to make it impossible for her to have an abortion within the legal time frame, but they don't even know that she would choose an abortion; if she's keeping the pregnancy, she wants to know the truth so as to protect the fetus' health.

Despite a Congressional report that found 87% of CPCs give out false or misleading information, they continue to get government money with little oversight. That's why we need to pressure Congress to pass truth-in-advertising legislation -- requiring these Centers to own up to what services they actually provide and to stop lying to women -- and to strip funds from "fake clinics" that exist to proselytize and manipulate women, while not providing any actual reproductive health support.

Nuit Blanche

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hat tip to Mr F.Baker

Paddled?

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Are you freaking kidding me? Let me tell you who should be paddled publicly...preferably with the biggest Bible in that can be found. What on earth is wrong with these stuck-in-the-fifties moralizing freaks?

Precious

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Perfectly titled.

precious.jpg"Some folks got a lot of shine
around other folks -
I think maybe
some of them was in a tunnel
- and in that tunnel - maybe
the only light they had
was inside of them...

and then, even long after
they escaped that tunnel,
they still shine on
for everybody else."
- Precious

Even More Human Stupidity

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Its amazing the degree to which human stupidity is fostered by religious and cultural beliefs and to what extremes of stupidity in action those beliefs will render.

The video footage captured on a cell phone shows what happened next. His thin body was placed inside a narrow trough in the middle of the bald cemetery dotted with clumps of weeds. Then you hear shouting.


The shaky image shows a group of men jerking around the edges of the grave. One of them straddles the pit and shovels away the fine gray dirt until you can see the shrouded body. It's still inside the trough when they tie a rope around its feet.

They yank it out, cheering as the body bends over the lip of the grave. The shroud catches on the ground and tears off, revealing the dead man's torso.

Rassul Djitte, 48, watched from behind the wall of a nearby school. He had not known Diallo personally, but says he felt a stab. "People were rejoicing," he says. "They dragged him past me and his body left tracks in the sand. Like a car passing through snow."



Even after death, abuse against gays continues

Case in Senegal shows the intensity of homophobia in Africa

THIES, Senegal - Even death cannot stop the violence against gays in this corner of the world any more.

Madieye Diallo's body had only been in the ground for a few hours when the mob descended on the weedy cemetery with shovels. They yanked out the corpse, spit on its torso, dragged it away and dumped it in front of the home of his elderly parents.

The scene of May 2, 2009 was filmed on a cell phone and the video sold at the market. It passed from phone to phone, sowing panic among gay men who say they now feel like hunted animals.

"I locked myself inside my room and didn't come out for days," says a 31-year-old gay friend of Diallo's who is ill with HIV. "I'm afraid of what will happen to me after I die. Will my parents be able to bury me?"

A wave of intense homophobia is washing across Africa, where homosexuality is already illegal in at least 37 countries.

In the last year alone, gay men have been arrested in Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. In Uganda, lawmakers are considering a bill that would sentence homosexuals to life in prison and include capital punishment for 'repeat offenders.' And in South Africa, the only country that recognizes gay rights, gangs have carried out so-called "corrective" rapes on lesbians.

"Across many parts of Africa, we've seen a rise in homophobic violence," says London-based gay-rights activist Peter Tatchell, whose organization tracks abuse against gays and lesbians in Africa. "It's been steadily building for the last 10 years but has got markedly worse in the last year."

Desecration of bodies

MadieyeDiallo.jpgTo the long list of abuse meted out to suspected homosexuals in Africa, Senegal has added a new form of degradation -- the desecration of their bodies.

In the past two years, at least four men suspected of being gay have been exhumed by angry mobs in cemeteries in Senegal. The violence is especially shocking because Senegal, unlike other countries in the region, is considered a model of tolerance.

"It's jarring to see this happen in Senegal," says Ryan Thoreson, a fellow at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission who has been researching the rise of homophobia here. "When something like this happens in an established democracy, it's alarming."

Even though homosexuality is illegal in Senegal, colonial documents indicate the country has long had a clandestine gay community. In many towns, they were tacitly accepted, says Cheikh Ibrahima Niang, a professor of social anthropology at Senegal's largest university. In fact, the visibility of gays in Senegal may have helped to prompt the backlash against them.

This is a great idea which would help to stymie the power grab by the telco and cable companies to become arbiters of preferred content rather than just common carriers of internet access.

An Internet for Everybody

By Susan Crawford

Last week, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled that the Federal Communications Commission lacks the legal authority to tell Comcast not to block certain uses of its Internet access services. This decision has become a rip-the-Band-Aid-off moment for the regulatory agency, forcing it to reconsider its effort to impose "network neutrality" by requiring that Internet access providers treat all content equally.

It also puts a substantial roadblock in the path of the commission's National Broadband Plan, which proposes to spend billions of dollars to help provide Internet access, rather than phone access, for people in rural areas.

But the F.C.C. needn't change either strategy. It can regain its authority to pursue both network neutrality and widespread access to broadband by formally relabeling Internet access services as "telecommunications services," rather than "information services," as they are called now. All the commission needs to do is prove it has a good reason.

It wouldn't be the first time that the F.C.C. relabeled Internet access services -- and certainly not the first time it addressed the need for equal access. Until August 2005, the commission required that companies providing high-speed access to the Internet over telephone lines not discriminate among Web sites. This allowed innumerable online businesses -- eBay, Google, Amazon, your local knitter -- to start up without asking permission from phone and cable companies. There was nothing unusual about this legal requirement; for more than 100 years, federal regulators had treated telegraph and telephone service providers as "common carriers," obligated to serve everyone equally.

But under the Bush administration the F.C.C. deregulated high-speed Internet providers, arguing that cable Internet access was different from the kind of high-speed Internet access provided by phone companies. Cable Internet access providers, the commission said, really offered an integrated bundle of services -- not just Internet connection but also e-mail, Web hosting, news groups and other services. So the F.C.C. declared that high-speed Internet access would no longer be considered a "telecommunications service" but rather an "information service." This removed all high-speed Internet access services -- phone as well as cable -- from regulation under the common-carrier section of the Communications Act.

This was a radical move, because it reversed the long-held assumption that a nondiscriminatory communications network was essential to economic growth, civic welfare and innovation. At the same time, the F.C.C. said that it would retain the power to regulate Internet access providers if the need arose, under another section of the Communications Act.

Non est mea culpa

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And the higher you go up the political food chain the phrase becomes more and more true.

No One Is to Blame for Anything

by Frank Rich

"I was right 70 percent of the time, but I was wrong 30 percent of the time," said Alan Greenspan as he testified last week on Capitol Hill. Greenspan -- a k a the Oracle during his 18-year-plus tenure as Fed chairman -- could not have more vividly illustrated how and why geniuses of his stature were out to lunch while Wall Street imploded. No doubt he applied his full brain power to that 70-30 calculation. But the big picture eludes him. If the captain of the Titanic followed the Greenspan model, he could claim he was on course at least 70 percent of the time too.

Greenspan was testifying to the commission trying to pry loose the still incomplete story of how the American economy was driven at full speed into its iceberg. He was eager to portray himself as an innocent bystander to forces beyond his control. In his rewriting of history, his clout in Washington was so slight that he was ineffectual at "influencing the Congress." The "roots" of the crisis, he lectured, dated back to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In other words: Wherever the buck stops, you had better believe it's not within several thousand miles of the Oracle. As he has previously said in defending his inability to spot the colossal bubble, "Everybody missed it -- academia, the Federal Reserve, all regulators."

That, of course, is not true. In last Sunday's Times, one of those who predicted the bubble's burst -- Michael Burry, an investor chronicled in "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis -- told in detail of how Greenspan and others in power "either willfully or ignorantly aided and abetted" the reckless boom and the ensuing bust. But Greenspan is nothing if not a representative leader of his time. We live in a culture where accountability and responsibility are forgotten values. When "mistakes are made" they are always made by someone else.

This syndrome is hardly limited to the financial sector. The Vatican hierarchy and its American apologists blame the press, anti-Catholic bigots and "petty gossip" for a decades-long failure to police the church's widespread criminal culture of child molestation. Michael Steele, the G.O.P. chairman, has tried to duck criticism for his blunders by talking about his "slimmer margin" of error as a black man. New York's dynamic Democratic duo of political scandal, David Paterson and Charles Rangel, have both attributed their woes to newspapers like The Times, not their own misbehavior.

Roger Hickey and Dean Baker Rip CNN/Peterson Deficit Show

In this video, CNN's decision to air four hours of programming based on conservative deficit propaganda from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation is subjected to a forceful take-down by Campaign for America's Future co-director Roger Hickey and Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

CNN scheduled "I.O.USA: America's Money Crisis" to air during the weekend of April 10 and 11. "What we're seeing here is a real campaign to get the country to focus on things like cutting Social security and Medicare as opposed to focusing on jobs, growth and investment," Hickey says.

Baker notes that Peterson has committed about $1 billion of the wealth he earned on Wall Street to this effort, and adds that Peterson, along with much of the media "has fundamentally mischaracterized both the near-term deficit problem and the long-term deficit problem" -- a problem, Baker says, was created "by people like Pete Peterson and the folks on Wall Street" who wrecked the economy and created the need for the government to spend billions on Wall Street bailouts and on the consequences of a collapsed economy.

We've called on CNN to either cancel this program or make it more balanced by including progressive solutions for addressing the budget deficit.

The Religious Don't Get It

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Its typical tyranny by the majority.

Polk County is a hub of religious zealotry and council meetings are started with invocations and prayers of some sort, which I personally find repellent. There has been some recent controversy over the practice by non-believers which the "faithful" of course find stupid and unnecessary. Now the ACLU is getting involved and you can bet there's likely to be lawsuits if the council doesn't change its ways.

ACLU May Enter Fray Over Prayers at City Commission Meetings

Group asks City for records relating to invocations at meetings.

By Rick Rousos

LAKELAND | The American Civil Liberties Union may become involved in what has become a contentious fight over invocations offered before City Commission meetings.

The ACLU's Tampa chapter sent a letter to the Lakeland City Clerk's Office after speaking with the Atheists of Florida, whose leaders were at Monday's meeting, said Rob Curry, executive director of the Atheists.

The letter was signed by Glenn Katon, the Tampa chapter's executive director. It asks for records under Florida's Sunshine Law. Katon said Thursday night that the letter wasn't done at the request of the atheists. He said he has read coverage of the issue and is concerned with the city's stance of starting its meetings with sectarian prayers.

"They're doing exactly as we expected them to do," Mayor Gow Fields said. "This is all part of their strategy."

Fields said there's been "a huge reaction" from people who support the way the city begins its meetings.

The letter the ACLU sent Wednesday asks for records about the commission's policies and procedures for invocations, and which clergy have been invited to address commission meetings.

Katon said the ACLU is gathering information to determine whether it will become involved. But whatever the ACLU does, the city will be sued if it persists in its current course, Curry said.

Another group, Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wisc., is also getting involved. Annie Laurie Gaylor, the foundation's co-president, said she will send a letter to the city calling for an end to the practice. The letter will be sent to Fields and city commissioners. Gaylor said her group became involved because of complaints it received about the practice.

"Calling upon city commissioners and citizens to rise and pray, even silently, is coercive, embarrassing and beyond the scope of secular city government," she said. "City commissioners are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way. They do not need to worship on taxpayers' time."

Government prayer is illegal and unconstitutional because it amounts to an official endorsement of religion and excludes nonbelievers from fully participating in the workings of their own government, Gaylor said.

"The commission compounds the violation when a majority of prayers are to Jesus or a majority of the officiants are Christian or Christian clergy, which inevitably happens."

Gaylor said at this time her group is not contemplating legal action against the city, saying that it was too early to make such a decision.


Something Rational and Not Stupid

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In other words, a rara avis:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

....this guy would definitely be in the running.

Wis. DA Threatens Arrest for Local Sex-Ed Teachers

A Wisconsin district attorney is urging schools to drop their sex-education programs, warning that the teachers involved could be arrested if they follow a new state law requiring them to instruct students on how to use condoms and other contraceptives.

In light of a letter from Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth, leaders at the five school districts in the county are evaluating what to do now.

da_dork.jpg"I don't intend to put our teachers in harm's way," he said. "We were just about to meet to discuss how to comply with the new law. Then this letter came, and this is another piece of the puzzle that we'll have to consider as we figure out how to move forward."

The state law, called the Healthy Youth Act, took effect in March. Starting this fall, it requires schools with sex-education courses to teach students medically accurate, age-appropriate information, including how to use birth control and prevent sexually transmitted diseases. It also requires the classes to include information about how to recognize signs of abuse and how alcohol can affect decision making.

Parents will be permitted to remove their children from sex-education classes, as they could under previous state law. Schools also will be allowed the choice of whether to offer sex education, but must notify parents if they decide not to.

In his letter, Southworth told school district leaders the new law promotes sexual assault of children, and warns that teachers who follow the law could be charged with misdemeanor or felony delinquency of a minor, with maximum punishments ranging from nine months in jail to six years in prison.

"For example, if a teacher instructs any student aged 16 or younger how to utilize contraceptives under circumstances where the teacher knows the child is engaging in sexual activity with another child -- or even where the 'natural and probable consequences' of the teacher's instruction is to cause that child to engage in sexual intercourse with a child -- that teacher can be charged under this statue," Southworth wrote.

"Moreover, the teacher could be charged with this crime even if the child does not actually engage in the criminal behavior," he wrote, adding, "Our teachers should never be put in this position."

Local Stupidity on Display

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Ah, Central Florida, where bothering to learn actual facts about anything makes you either gay or a heretic. If I had a rocket launcher...

Former Business Owner Uses Sign To Fight New Health Care Law

WINTER HAVEN | The public disagreement on the health care reform law was put on display in Polk County.

bilde.jpgGeorge Long, the former owner of Long's Hallmark, posted his dissatisfaction with the passage of the federal legislation on the sign outside his business at 700 First Street S. where he has his office while making plans to open a collegiate paraphernalia store.

The words on the sign could be seen traveling north on First Street. He recently changed the sign to announce the Tea Party event in downtown Lakeland on April 15.

Long, 65, said he was just exercising his free speech and hopes that motorists will pay attention to it.

"It's one thing to cluck-cluck when you think something isn't right," he said.

"It's another thing to put your character and reputation on the line to voice your opinion," he said.

This is really bad news for average internet users. Unless congress manages to pass specific legislation dealing with this, we could all be screwed by an intended corporate takeover of the internet on a grand scale. To my mind the FCC should have the same regulatory clout over internet service providers as they do over telcos and cable providers now because the internet has become a common and necessary utility and not just a matter of entertainment. The internet should not be allowed to made a system of corporately owned toll roads with some content more accessible than others.

U.S. court rules against FCC on Net neutrality

Ruling is setback for agency's push for national broadband plan

By Joelle Tessler AP

A federal court threw the future of Internet regulations and U.S. broadband expansion plans into doubt Tuesday with a far-reaching decision that went against the Federal Communications Commission.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC lacks authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks. That was a big victory for Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable company, which had challenged the FCC's authority to impose such "network neutrality" obligations on broadband providers.

The unanimous ruling by the three-judge panel marks a serious setback for the FCC, which is trying to adopt official net neutrality regulations. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, argues such rules are needed to prevent phone and cable companies from using their control over Internet access to favor some kinds of online content and services over others.

The case centers on Comcast's actions in 2007 when it interfered with an online file-sharing service called BitTorrent, which allows users to swap big files such as movies over the Internet. But public interest groups stressed that the ramifications of Tuesday's ruling are much broader. That's because it undercuts the FCC's ability to prevent broadband providers from becoming gatekeepers for many kinds of online services, potentially including Internet phone programs and software that runs in a Web browser.

"Today's appeals court decision means there are no protections in the law for consumers' broadband services," Gigi Sohn, co-founder of Public Knowledge, said in a statement. "Companies selling Internet access are free to play favorites with content on their networks, to throttle certain applications or simply to block others."

The decision also has serious implications for the massive national broadband plan released by the FCC last month. The FCC needs clear authority to regulate broadband in order to push ahead with some its key recommendations, including a proposal to expand broadband by tapping the federal fund that subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural communities.

In a statement, the FCC said it remains "firmly committed to promoting an open Internet and to policies that will bring the enormous benefits of broadband to all Americans" and "will rest these policies ... on a solid legal foundation."

Free Speech vs Democracy

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Interesting points made here.

Does Money Talk in the Marketplace of Ideas?

By Stanley Fish

Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo once said that "metaphors in law are to be narrowly watched, for starting as devices to liberate thought, they end often by enslaving it." Cardozo's warning would seem to have been heeded by a group of A-list first amendment scholars who met on March 27 at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice to consider the Court's recent campaign-funding decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The metaphors that were harshly interrogated by the conference participants -- "the marketplace of ideas" and "money talks" -- were central to the reasoning of that decision. From the perspective of those who believe that Citizens United was wrongly decided (nearly everyone attending), the first metaphor -- introduced into the conversation by Oliver Wendell Holmes long ago in a dissent -- is troubling because it paves the way for the second.

Calling the give and take of points of view in the course of democratic deliberation a "marketplace of ideas" can mean one of two things: (1) political speech occurs in a marketplace like any other and its production and marketing is finally no different from the production and marketing, say, of Coca Cola; or (2) the arena in which political speech is produced and consumed can be thought of as a marketplace, as long as we take care to make the appropriate adjustments in the light of the difference between Coca Cola cans -- which can be regarded as fungible units, every one like every other one -- and ideas, which cannot and should not be so regarded. (Ideas are not vying for market share; ideas cannot be ranked on a scale of efficiency or wealth-maximization; ideas are not redesigned and repackaged every two or three business cycles.)

The majority in Citizens United (following the majority in Buckley v. Valeo) takes the metaphor in its first sense, that is, does not regard it as a metaphor but as a literal equivalence -- speech is a monetizable good offered for sale -- and once that assumption is in place (it is never questioned in Citizens United), it follows that the more we have of the good, the better and the less persuasive will be any rationale for regulating or diminishing its flow.

The large question is, which comes first, freedom of speech as guaranteed by the first amendment or democracy?

One Less Piggie

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Worthless and murderous South African Eugene Terreblanche meets his well deserved end. Talk about being misnamed: his name literally meant "good seed, white earth".

Terreblanche, the leader of the neo-Nazi Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement, or AWB), was killed Saturday following an apparent dispute over wages with workers on his farm, according to South African police.

Police said the 69-year-old was bludgeoned and stabbed to death with clubs and a machete in an attack at his farm near the town of Ventersdorp in South Africa's North West Province.

[snip]

Two of his farm workers ages 21 and 16 turned themselves in to authorities in connection with the killing and will appear in court on Tuesday, they said.

Terreblanche's AWB is best known for trying to block South Africa's effort to end apartheid. The group used terrorist tactics in a bid to stall the country's first all-race vote in 1994, killing more than 20 people in a wave of bombings on the eve of the elections.

Terreblanche was convicted of the 1996 attempted murder of Paul Motshabi, a black man who worked as a security guard on Terreblanche's farm. He served about two-thirds of a five-year sentence.

He was also convicted of setting his dog on a black man in an earlier incident.


On the eve of Good Friday, recognizing that sad and tragic events often dominate the headlines, airwaves, and even our own blog, a dose of the "best medicine" might help us all make it through to the joy of Easter.

With that in mind, here's some surprising news: Though Jim Wallis is allegedly on vacation with his family this week, we were able to obtain footage of a top secret meeting between Jim and Fox News commentator Glenn Beck! Apparently, Beck finally accepted Jim's offer to dialogue, and the two met in an undisclosed location. You may not recognize their faces in the video, because they are wearing disguises to avoid the media spotlight while discussing such a sensitive topic. But we think you'll find their conversation a truly fascinating and unforgettable tete-a-tete.

Easter Idiocy

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idiotbunny.jpg

Is Animal Homosexuality Normal?

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A long but well written article with a misguided title question ("Can Animals Be Gay?") since being "gay" or "homosexual" is merely a human cultural identity construct and not just a description of specific sexual behaviors found in the natural world across all species. Animals cannot be "gay" since they do not have the consciousness of the same sex behavior as an identity for themselves. Yet the article itself demonstrates excellent points regarding how frequently scientific data can be misconstrued and hobbled when interpreted through a lens of morality.

I like my post title more because that is really the question being asked and as the article itself points out, the obvious answer is, given the ubiquitous existence of same sex behaviors across animal species, is "But of course."


Can Animals Be Gay?

by John Mooalem

gaybirds.jpg

The Laysan albatross is a downy seabird with a seven-foot wingspan and a notched, pale yellow beak. Every November, a small colony of albatrosses assembles at a place called Kaena Point, overlooking the Pacific at the foot of a volcanic range, on the northwestern tip of Oahu, Hawaii. Each bird has spent the past six months in solitude, ranging over open water as far north as Alaska, and has come back to the breeding ground to reunite with its mate. Albatrosses can live to be 60 or 70 years old and typically mate with the same bird every year, for life. Their "divorce rate," as biologists term it, is among the lowest of any bird.

When I visited Kaena Point in November, the first birds were just returning, and they spent a lot of their time gliding and jackknifing in the wind a few feet overhead or plopped like cushions in the sand. There are about 120 breeding albatrosses in the colony, and gradually, each will arrive and feel out the crowd for the one other particular albatross it has been waiting to have sex with again. At any given moment in the days before Thanksgiving, some birds may be just turning up while others sit there killing time. It feels like an airport baggage-claim area.

Once together, pairs will copulate and collaboratively incubate a single egg for 65 days. They take shifts: one bird has to sit at the nest while the other flaps off to fish and eat for weeks at a time. Couples preen each other's feathers and engage in elaborate mating behaviors and displays. "Like when you're in a couple," Marlene Zuk, a biologist who has visited the colony, explained to me. "All those sickening things that couples do that gross out everyone else but the two people in the couple? . . . Birds have the same thing." I often saw pairs sitting belly to belly, arching their necks and nuzzling together their heads to form a kind of heart shape. Speaking on Oahu a few years ago as first lady, Laura Bush praised Laysan albatross couples for making lifelong commitments to one another. Lindsay C. Young, a biologist who studies the Kaena Point colony, told me: "They were supposed to be icons of monogamy: one male and one female. But I wouldn't assume that what you're looking at is a male and a female."

Young has been researching the albatrosses on Oahu since 2003; the colony was the focus of her doctoral dissertation at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, which she completed last spring. (She now works on conservation projects as a biologist for hire.) In the course of her doctoral work, Young and a colleague discovered, almost incidentally, that a third of the pairs at Kaena Point actually consisted of two female birds, not one male and one female. Laysan albatrosses are one of countless species in which the two sexes look basically identical. It turned out that many of the female-female pairs, at Kaena Point and at a colony that Young's colleague studied on Kauai, had been together for 4, 8 or even 19 years -- as far back as the biologists' data went, in some cases. The female-female pairs had been incubating eggs together, rearing chicks and just generally passing under everybody's nose for what you might call "straight" couples.

The Opposite of Poverty Is Not Wealth

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Another perfect example of how the conservative and authoritarian movements have consciously and unconsciously set about to attack the poor and people of color.

The opposite of poverty is justice

Moyers: Martin Luther King, would be 81. Imagine for us what he might think today about the state of economic justice in America.

BRYAN STEVENSON: I think he [MLK] would be devastated by that. Because we've also had this explosion of great wealth. And it's this proximity of poverty next to wealth, that I think would make it very challenging. I also think it would be sad to him to see how wealth has caused many people, people of color and others, to abandon the poor. To give up on this dream of economic justice.

And it would, I think, force him to confront these larger psychological dynamics. What was so powerful to me about his work in Memphis was not only that he was pushing for economic justice, but he was also pushing for the kind of liberation that every person who's been excluded and marginalized and subordinated by poverty has to approach.

And that is this kind of recognition that you're as good as the people who have more than you. And so, that sign that those sanitation workers were wearing -- "I am a man" -- was almost more provocative than the fact that they were seeking higher wages. Because if these are men, we have to deal with them as men, that challenges everything

Because I continue to believe that in this country the opposite of poverty is not wealth. I really don't think that's what we're talking about. I think in America, the opposite of poverty is justice. I think there are structures and systems that have created poverty and made that poverty so permanent that until we think in a more just way about how to deal with poverty in this country, we're never going to make the progress that Dr. King envisioned.




The Spirit Level

BILL MOYERS: As we just heard, we have a long way to go to fulfill the dream of a multi-racial democracy, with equal justice and opportunity for all. Our Declaration of Independence spoke eloquently of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as inalienable rights, but those rights did not extend to slaves. Abraham Lincoln, the "Great Emancipator," may have been the first of our leaders fully to grasp the meaning of the American promise. In this small but significant book, "The American Dream vs. The Gospel of Wealth," the economist Norton Garfinkle writes that Lincoln believed this country's defining characteristic was economic opportunity. He believed that through hard work, over the course of a lifetime, every American -- including black people --could achieve a decent standard of living.

In Garfinkle's words, "America was the first nation on earth to offer this opportunity of economic advancement to all, even to the humblest beginner, and this was what made the nation unique and worth preserving. Ultimately, it was the largest reason for Lincoln's willingness to fight the Civil War."

In our time, this idea of universal opportunity is once again under assault for working people of every race.

Even before the Great Collapse of '08 destroyed the value of their homes, robbed their pensions, and took their jobs, American families were slipping behind, and are worse off now than they were thirty years ago. Over these past three decades, workers actually increased their productivity but did not share proportionately in the rewards of their labor. Those went largely to the top.

Since 1980, the year Ronald Reagan was elected president, the incomes of people at the top have doubled while those in the middle and at the bottom have remained flat.

Let me throw some more statistics at you. You'll find their sources at our site online. Keep in mind that each of these numbers represents lived human experience.

In this richest of countries, more than 40 million people are living in poverty.

At some point in their childhoods, half of America's children will use food stamps to eat.

Some 30 million workers are unemployed or under-employed, and for those still working, the median wage today is about $32 thousand a year, which is why so many people are working two jobs trying to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, as the economist Robert Reich recently reminded us, in the 1950's and 60's, the CEO's of major American companies took home about 25 to 30 times the wages of the typical worker. By 1980 the big company CEO took home roughly 40 times the worker's wage. By 1990, it was 100 times. And by 2007, executives at the largest American companies received about 350 times the pay of the average employee. In many of the top corporations, the chief executive earns more every day than the average worker gets paid in a year.

And then there's the financial world. Case in point: Ken Lewis, who at the end of 2009 retired as CEO of Bank of America. Only recently did we learn that, not long after his company received $45 billion in taxpayer dollars from the big bailout, Lewis raked in more than $73 million in pension benefits and stock, and was given an insurance policy worth $10 million to his beneficiaries.

But compared to some people, Ken Lewis is a piker. Hedge fund managers, who bet that taxpayers -- you -- would pay to keep the banks from collapsing, hit the jackpot. Last year, one of them alone made a cool four billion dollars. The top 25 scooped up a total of 25.3 billion.

So for those who played their cards right, there were profits galore to be made from the bailout. Just this week, the non-profit Center for Media and Democracy reported that federal agencies poured out a total of $4.6 trillion dollars - trillion dollars - to keep the banks and Wall Street from meltdown. Those financial institutions have yet to pay back about two trillion of that, but who's counting?

You can see the stakes here. You can see why we need to reclaim the economic vision of both Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. If you want more evidence, get your hands on this book, "The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger." As carpenters know, a spirit level is a device to measure the level of surfaces. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett are not carpenters; they're epidemiologists who combined have spent more than 50 years taking the measure of different societies, comparing how inequality affects the health of populations.

The more equal the society, they found, the longer its people live, while the most unequal countries have more homicide, more obesity, more mental illness, more teen pregnancy, more high-school dropouts, and more people in prison. The United States, they report, has the greatest inequality of income of any major developed country. That's the betrayal of the American promise.

I'm a journalist, not an epidemiologist. But I've been listening to America for a long time now, and I've come to understand that what the richest and strongest among us want for their families is what most all members of society want for theirs, too: a home, steady work, enough money for a comfortable life and secure old age, the means to cope with illness and other misfortunes, and the happiness of living freely as citizens without fear.

A society whose economic system cannot make those opportunities widely available is in deep trouble, the dreams of its people mocked and denied.

Pharmaceutical Shell Games

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What should have been done in this case of blatant fraud by certain employees of Pfizer, was that monetary penalties and possible jail time should have been applied to those directly involved and not the to the company as a whole.

Feds found Pfizer too big to nail

By Drew Griffin and Andy Segal CNN

Imagine being charged with a crime, but an imaginary friend takes the rap for you.

That is essentially what happened when Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, was caught illegally marketing Bextra, a painkiller that was taken off the market in 2005 because of safety concerns.

When the criminal case was announced last fall, federal officials touted their prosecution as a model for tough, effective enforcement. "It sends a clear message" to the pharmaceutical industry, said Kevin Perkins, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division.

But beyond the fanfare, a CNN Special Investigation found another story, one that officials downplayed when they declared victory. It's a story about the power major pharmaceutical companies have even when they break the laws intended to protect patients.

Big plans for Bextra

The story begins in 2001, when Bextra was about to hit the market. The drug was part of a revolutionary class of painkillers known as Cox-2 inhibitors that were supposed to be safer than generic drugs, but at 20 times the price of ibuprofen.

Pfizer and its marketing partner, Pharmacia, planned to sell Bextra as a treatment for acute pain, the kind you have after surgery.

But in November 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Bextra was not safe for patients at high risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The FDA approved Bextra only for arthritis and menstrual cramps. It rejected the drug in higher doses for acute, surgical pain.

Promoting drugs for unapproved uses can put patients at risk by circumventing the FDA's judgment over which products are safe and effective. For that reason, "off-label" promotion is against the law.

But with billions of dollars of profits at stake, marketing and sales managers across the country nonetheless targeted anesthesiologists, foot surgeons, orthopedic surgeons and oral surgeons. "Anyone that use[d] a scalpel for a living," one district manager advised in a document prosecutors would later cite.

A manager in Florida e-mailed his sales reps a scripted sales pitch that claimed -- falsely -- that the FDA had given Bextra "a clean bill of health" all the way up to a 40 mg dose, which is twice what the FDA actually said was safe.

Kill Bull

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Another excellent Maddow moment:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

What a crock!

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More general stupidity. This guy needs a big slap upside the head and a few classes in basic physics.

Wi-Fi anxiety: Man sues neighbor to shut off electronics


By Michael Haederle

Arthur Firstenberg, who says he is hypersensitive to certain frequencies of electromagnetic radiation, saw the house at the end of a narrow lane as a refuge from physical and neurological symptoms that have plagued him for three decades.

"It's been difficult because of my electromagnetic sensitivities," he said. "I had a lot of difficulty finding a house that I could be comfortable in."

So in September 2008, he bought the home on Barela Street, a few blocks from the newly redeveloped downtown rail yard here.

But last October, when a friend of his rented a house on the next block that backed up to Firstenberg's property, the familiar waves of nausea, vertigo, body aches, dizziness, heart arrhythmia and insomnia returned -- all, he says, because she was using an iPhone, a laptop computer, a wireless router and dimmer switches.

Firstenberg, 59, wanted Raphaela Monribot to limit her use of the devices. "I asked her to work with me," he said. "Basically, she refused."

So he sued Monribot in state district court, seeking $530,000 in damages and an injunction to force her to turn off the electronics.

"Being the target of this lawsuit has affected me very adversely," Monribot said Friday in response to e-mailed questions. "I feel as if my life and liberty are under attack for no valid reason, and it has forced me to have to defend my very basic human rights."

Firstenberg's claim has occasioned plenty of only-in-Santa-Fe eye-rolling. This is, after all, a town as known for its abundance of New Age healers, anti-nuclear activists and wealthy, turquoise-wearing expatriates as it is for spectacular sunsets and centuries-old adobe architecture.

"It makes me miss living in Santa Fe more than I have in a long time," one former resident wrote on a local newspaper blog. "When my brother sent me this link I wanted to cry from laughing so hard. I wonder if Blu-Ray players send him into convulsions? Would Bluetooth give him nosebleeds?"

Beheading planned in Saudi sorcery case

A Lebanese man charged with sorcery and sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia is scheduled to be beheaded on Friday, the man's lawyer said Wednesday.

May El Khansa, the attorney for Ali Hussain Sibat, told CNN that she and Sibat's family were informed about the upcoming execution. She said she heard from a source in Saudi Arabia with knowledge of the case and the proceedings that Saudi authorities "will carry out the execution."

The Saudi Ministry of Justice could not immediately be reached for comment on the matter.

El Khansa said she has appealed to Lebanon's prime minister, Saad Hariri, and president, Michel Suleiman, to stop the execution. Amnesty International, the human rights group, has called on Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to block it as well.

TV presenter gets death sentence for 'sorcery'

Sibat is the former host of a popular call-in show that aired on Beirut-based satellite TV channel "Sheherazade." According to his lawyer, Sibat would predict the future on his show and give out advice to his audience.

El Khansa told CNN her client was arrested by Saudi Arabia's religious police (known as the Mutawa'een) and charged with sorcery while visiting the country in May 2008. Sibat was in Saudi Arabia to perform the Islamic religious pilgrimage known as Umra.
Video: Man awaits death sentence for 'sorcery'
Video: Man gets death for sorcery

Sibat was then put on trial, and in November 2009, a court in the Saudi city of Medina found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

According to El Khansa, Sibat appealed the verdict. The case was taken up by the Court of Appeal in the Saudi city of Mecca on the grounds that the initial verdict was "premature."

El Khansa tells CNN that the Mecca appeals court then sent the case back to the original court for reconsideration, stipulating that all charges made against Sibat needed to be verified and that he should be given a chance to repent.

On March 10, judges in Medina upheld their initial verdict, meaning Sibat is once again sentenced to be executed.

"The Medina court refused the sentence of the appeals court," said El Khansa, adding her client will appeal the verdict once more.

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