May 2010 Archives

Israel Totally Out of Control

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What happened to you, Israel? You have become one of the worst terrorist states. You deserve neither the respect or protection of the US. Chosen people my ass....you have become nothing but smug thugs.

10 Reported Killed as Israel Raids Boats Headed to Gaza

by Isabel Kershner

israelflag.jpgThe Israeli Navy attacked a flotilla carrying thousands of tons of supplies for Gaza on Monday morning, killing at least 10 people, according to the Israeli military and activists traveling with the flotilla. The Israeli Defense Forces said naval personnel boarding the six ships in the flotilla met with "live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs."

"As a result of this life-threatening and violent activity, naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including live fire," the I.D.F. said in a statement.

"That is a lie," said Greta Berlin, a leader of the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement, speaking by telephone from Cyprus. She said it was inconceivable that the passengers on board would have been "waiting up to fire on the Israeli military, with all its might."

"We never thought there would be any violence," she said.

The warships first intercepted the convoy of cargo and passenger boats shortly before midnight on Sunday, surprising the boats in international waters, according to activists on one vessel. Israel had vowed not to let the flotilla reach the shores of Gaza, where the Islamic militant group Hamas holds sway.

Named the Freedom Flotilla, and led by the Free Gaza Movement and a Turkish organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi, the convoy was the most ambitious attempt yet to break Israel's three-year blockade of Gaza. About 600 passengers were said to be aboard the vessels, including the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mairead Corrigan-Maguire of Northern Ireland, and a Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, 85.

"They attacked us this morning in international waters," said Ms. Berlin. "According to the coordinates, we were 70 miles off the Israeli coast."

[Also see this article]

Cops Not Ready for Closeup

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Police have started arresting people filming them during incidents. Where they get the idea that they can control people filming in public is beyond me. This ridiculous assertion on their part needs to be quashed right away.

From constitutional scholar John Turley's website:

Maryland Police Threaten Citizens With Arrest for Filming Them in Public

We have been following how police in the United States and abroad have started to arrest people filming them in public, including today's story out of California (here). Maryland police continue (in my view wrongly) to claim that recording them in public is a crime in that state as shown in this video from the Preakness.

This video shows officers piled on a young woman and then telling a witness to turn off the camera, stating "Do me a favor and turn that off. It's illegal to record anybody's voice or anything else in the state of Maryland."

We have previously discussed the stretched logic being used by police to threaten arrest with anyone filming them, here. It is clear that Maryland officials have not acted to stop this abuse and inform officers that they cannot threaten to arrest citizens filming them. We have seen countless cases where abuse was only prosecuted because of citizen videotaping. Otherwise, these incidents become matters of the word of the officers against an arrested individual -- rarely resulting in action. It is bizarre to see the lack of response in states like Massachusetts and Maryland where police have claimed such authority. Not only is it based on flawed legal reasoning but it is clearly opposed to public interest.

For the story, click here.

Hurricane Season Is Here

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rigstorm.jpg

Imagine the much larger Atlantis drilling platform currently at work in the Gulf of Mexico weathering a level 5 hurricane. Think they'll be capping that well off about now?

NOAA Expects Busy Atlantic Hurricane Season

An "active to extremely active" hurricane season is expected for the Atlantic Basin this year according to the seasonal outlook issued today by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center - a division of the National Weather Service. As with every hurricane season, this outlook underscores the importance of having a hurricane preparedness plan in place.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA is projecting a 70 percent probability of the following ranges:

  • 14 to 23 Named Storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
  • 8 to 14 Hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:
  • 3 to 7 could be Major Hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

"If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall. In short, we urge everyone to be prepared."

The outlook ranges exceed the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Expected factors supporting this outlook are:

  • Upper atmospheric winds conducive for storms. Wind shear, which can tear apart storms, will be weaker since El Niño in the eastern Pacific has dissipated. Strong wind shear helped suppress storm development during the 2009 hurricane season.
  • Warm Atlantic Ocean water. Sea surface temperatures are expected to remain above average where storms often develop and move across the Atlantic. Record warm temperatures - up to four degrees Fahrenheit above average - are now present in this region.
  • High activity era continues. Since 1995, the tropical multi-decadal signal has brought favorable ocean and atmospheric conditions in sync, leading to more active hurricane seasons. Eight of the last 15 seasons rank in the top ten for the most named storms with 2005 in first place with 28 named storms.

Major Breakthrough On Ebola

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One of the deadliest hemorrhagic fever virii has finally met its match in a new drug.

New Ebola Drug 100 Percent Effective In Monkeys

by Richard Knox NPR

ebola.jpgThe Ebola virus first emerged in 1976, striking fear with the uncontrollable bleeding it causes and mortality rates up to 90 percent. Ever since then, scientists have been struggling to find a way to treat the infection or protect against it.

There has been progress, but nothing quite like the report in the May 28 issue of the scientific journal The Lancet. A team led by Thomas Geisbert of Boston University has used an experimental drug to protect monkeys from death after injecting them with massive doses of the most lethal strain of Ebola.

"We were stunned," Geisbert says. "I've been working with this virus for my whole career -- 23 or 24 years -- and we've had some mild successes where maybe we could go up to 50 percent protection," he said. "But I was really shocked that we got complete protection."

Virologist Heinz Feldmann of the National Institute on Allergies and Infectious Diseases, who often collaborates with Geisbert but was not involved in this work, called the results "a milestone" -- and not just for treatment of Ebola.

"I think this will most likely also work for other related viral hemorrhagic fevers," Feldmann said, such as Marburg, Lassa and Crimean-Congo fever. All are deadly to one degree or another and cause outbreaks in Africa and elsewhere.

What an incredible turnaround, a pardon from a 14 year prison sentence at hard labor. I don't doubt the pardon came on the heels on pressure from the international community and threats to the funding that Malawi heavily depends on. After all, if it's true that the men were pardoned as an act of humanitarianism, as claimed by Malawi government spokesmen, then why cannot that sense of humanitarianism be extended to all the other gays in Malawi and the witch hunt mentality so prevalent there today be ended?

2 gay men spared 14-year sentence in Malawi

The president of Malawi has pardoned two gay men who were sentenced to 14 years in prison this month for gross indecency and unnatural acts, the country's solicitor general, Anthony Kamanga, said Saturday.

Monjeza-Chimbalanga-001.jpgPresident Bingu wa Mutharika announced his pardon of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga after meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Kamanga said.

Authorities arrested Monjeza and Chimbalanga in December at their home in Blantyre, Malawi after the couple professed their love in a traditional engagement ceremony. Police discovered the couple when local newspapers reported on their engagement ceremony.

The criminal case against them cast a light on prevailing African attitudes toward homosexuality, which is outlawed in more than 30 nations on the continent.

malawigays.jpgSome in the conservative southern African nation of Malawi supported the prosecution, and government officials have said they were simply upholding the law. Human rights groups and advocates for gays and lesbians argued that the arrests violated Malawi's constitution, which outlaws discrimination.

Monjeza and Chimbalanga are in their 20s.

While they were awaiting trial, they were subjected to medical examinations intended to find evidence of sodomy, according to Human Rights Watch. They also underwent psychiatric evaluations. All the exams were done without the men's consent, the group said.

The director of an organization that helped provide legal support to the couple, Gift Trapence of the Center for the Development of People, welcomed the news.

The president's decision provides an example to African governments and the world in general, he said.

Related Article

Vox Pupuli

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care of Dr Evil Incarnate himself, F Baker:

Write what you know?

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Literally. Talk about researching what you write. I wonder if they'll make this aspect of the story into a movie?

Drugstore Cowboy, Stuck in a Loop

By William Yardley

James Fogle was in prison when a critically acclaimed movie based on his novel "Drugstore Cowboy" was released in 1989. Starring Matt Dillon and directed by Gus Van Sant, the film portrayed a fumbling band of thieves and addicts who roamed the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s stealing drugs and money from pharmacies.

drugstorecowboy.jpgYou can still find the movie on DVD and the book on Amazon. And after his arrest this week, you can again find Mr. Fogle behind bars.

The novelist, now 73, was ordered held in $500,000 bail here on Thursday, two days after the police say he and another man, both armed, tried to steal narcotics from a pharmacy in the Seattle suburbs, binding employees' hands with plastic ties and locking them in a storeroom.

Mr. Fogle, hooded and wearing a pink bandana over his face while holding trash cans filled with drugs in both hands, was arrested as he walked out the back door of the Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy on a busy street in Redmond, Wash., about 9 p.m. on Tuesday, the police said. He and another man, Shannon Benn, 45, surrendered quietly.

"We didn't think it was anybody special," said Jim Bove, a spokesman for the Redmond police.

Then the phone started ringing. It turns out that Mr. Fogle's convictions have been piling up steadily since the movie was made. Court records show a series of arrests and prison stints over the past two decades in Washington and Oregon -- and Mr. Fogle is a suspect in still more crimes.

An Historic Moment in Civil Rights

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What a contrast to the insane Ugandan homophobic legislation posted earlier.

House Votes to Allow Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Law

By David M. Herszenhorn and Carl Hulse

The House voted Thursday to let the Defense Department repeal the ban on gay and bisexual people from serving openly in the military, a major step toward dismantling the 1993 law widely known as "don't ask, don't tell."

The provision would allow military commanders to repeal the ban. The repeal would permit gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military for the first time.

It was adopted as an amendment to the annual Pentagon policy bill, which the House is expected to vote on Friday. The repeal would be allowed 60 days after a Pentagon report is completed on the ramifications of allowing openly gay service members, and military leaders certify that it would not be disruptive. The report is due by Dec. 1.

The House vote was 234 to 194, with 229 Democrats and 5 Republicans in favor, after an emotionally charged debate. Opposed were 168 Republicans and 26 Democrats.

Supporters of the repeal hailed it as a matter of basic fairness and civil rights, while opponents charged that Democrats and President Obama were destabilizing the military to advance a liberal social agenda.

"On Memorial Day, America will come together and honor all who served our nation in uniform," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a floor speech, noting the symbolic timing of the debate. "I urge my colleagues to vote for the repeal of this discriminatory policy of 'don't ask, don't tell' and make America more American."

Separately on Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a similar measure allowing the repeal.

Remember Oscar Grant?

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Some measure of justice for a tragic loss.

BART fires officer who ordered Grant arrested

By Demian Bulwa SF Gate

BART.victim.jpgBART's Police Department has fired the officer who decided to arrest Oscar Grant moments before a colleague fatally shot the unarmed Hayward man Jan. 1, 2009.

Anthony Pirone's firing Thursday was based on his actions as he dealt with Grant and four friends at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland, interim BART Police Chief Dash Butler said.

Pirone made contact with Grant at least four times before Grant was shot, according to court testimony and video footage of the confrontation.

Bill Rapoport, an attorney for Pirone, did not return a call seeking comment.

Pirone had been on paid leave since Grant's death. He is expected to be a key witness in this summer's murder trial of Johannes Mehserle, the BART officer who shot Grant while trying to handcuff him after a fight on a train.

Pirone was never charged with a crime, but he has been a focus of community outrage over the shooting and has been named in a series of lawsuits. Earlier this month, protesters called for his firing during a demonstration at BART stations in downtown San Francisco.

At the time of the shooting, Pirone had been with BART for four years, after a two-year stint as a federal officer for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He also spent more than a decade as military officer with the Marine Corps.

Pirone has described himself as playing the role of a "big brother" to Mehserle on the BART force.

The firing means the three officers most closely involved in the Fruitvale incident are no longer with the agency.

Africans Against Sodomy

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I mean think about it for a second or two...why on earth would someone feel the need to organize against an intimate act between two consenting adults? Its bizarre really. The following video does a good job of exposing the insanity surrounding the Ugandan anti-gay movement supported and fomented by American evangelicals. It also exposes the scatological obsessions and pure Christian phoniness of the mission leader and snake oil salesman, Martin Ssempa. Christ, his name even sounds snakey. These are seriously screwed up people on a witch hunt fueled by ignorance, blind to their own evil and the incredible damage they do to their individual victims, their families and their culture at large.

Its appropriately called Missionaries of Hate

Bless Their Pointy Little Heads

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Ok, you can argue both for and against this, but I think the teacher was on the right track...though she probably should have broadcast her intentions clearly before undertaking the project.

Teacher In Middle Of KKK Controversy

DAHLONEGA, Ga. -- A local high school teacher at the center of controversy sat down with Channel 2 Action News reporter Linda Stouffer to discuss why she allowed several of her students to wear Ku Klux Klan-type outfits to school.

The teacher was suspended after her students wore the KKK outfits on campus for a class project.

Dozens of people attended a meeting about the incident Monday night.

The teacher, Catherine Ariemma, said it was never her intention to hurt or offend anyone. But activists said it was not good common sense to let several students wear white sheets and homemade pointy hats. And they are putting the Lumpkin County school district on notice.

VIDEO: Teacher Speaks Out

"God, we know that it is not acceptable under any circumstances for students to be walking the halls dressed in offensive attire," said the Rev. Markel Hutchins.

Hutchins blessed Dahlonega students at the community meeting Monday night. The students told him about their shock in the cafeteria Thursday.

"I (saw them) walking through the lunch room in white sheets, KKK attire," said student Cody Rider.

Rider said he was outraged.

"Like, the white students, they were laughing about it, you know? They thought we were blowing it out of proportion. They don't know the magnitude of the situation," said Rider.

"I am heartily sorry for making anyone feel uncomfortable," said Ariemma.

The U.S. history teacher told Stouffer that her students were in costume for a year-end film project and their intention was to teach about historical mistakes.

"This is a film about racism and we have to discuss racism in our society because if we don't, we are condoning it. And I don't cover it up. And you can't discuss racism and not include the Klan and that's what we were doing," said Ariemma.

She is on paid administrative leave.

Stouffer asked her what she would have done differently. "I would tell the students that if you are going to film the Klan, do it on your own time and out of school," said Ariemma.

"If there is any hesitation toward diversity training and cultural sensitivity then we'll come back to this community and if that means we have to protest and march and go to jail and get in the streets, we'll do that too," said Hutchins.

Hutchins is calling for a meeting with the superintendent, political leaders, and the sheriff's office. He is concerned about retaliation against the students who spoke out and said he doesn't want the situation to escalate.

Here's the poll results:

lumpkinklan.jpg

It Just Gets Stupider and Stupider

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Maybe the 2012 doomsday thing is the Universe's safety valve for stupid?

Florida Man Sentenced to Life for Theft of $4 of Socks

by J Turley

rockmore.jpgDean Rockmore, 48, has the distinction of serving life for the theft of socks. The Daytona Beach man received a mandatory life sentence as a repeat offender after he ran from a store with $4 of socks.

Rockmore was convicted of armed robbery because, when confronted by a loss prevention officer in the parking lot, he pulled up his shirt to show a gun. The crime began as an effort to steal both tee-shirts and socks. He dropped the shirts in the parking lot.

Since he qualified as a re-offender, Circuit Judge Margaret Hudson gave him life.

He will have a difficult time challenging the sentence. The Supreme Court has effectively barred challenges for disproportionate sentencing under the Eighth Amendment in a pair of decisions. In Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11 (2003), and Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63 (2003), the Court refused to find that noncapital sentences were unconstitutionally disproportional to the underlying crime. In Ewing, the defendant stole three golf clubs worth $399 each from the pro shop in El Segundo, California. He could have been charged with a misdemeanor under the discretion of the judge or prosecutor since this was a "wobbler" charge that could be prosecuted either as a felony or misdemeanor. They refused and his conviction triggered a life sentence under the state's three strikes law. The Court later refused to overturn the sentence under the Eighth Amendment.

Financial Reform Won't Alter Capitalism's Icarus Trajectory

By Stuart Whatley

My mother used to have a cat that wasn't declawed. As such, most of the plushier furniture items around the house inevitably ended up shredded. She would take the cat to the veterinarian now and then for the claws to be clipped down, which was effective for a time before they grew back, after which point more evisceration would ensue. Cats do this not as some devious Garfieldian machination (the comic strip, not the president), but rather as a means for sharpening, or upkeep, driven by an irresistible evolutionary compulsion. Thus for the maintenance of their claws, they are beholden to an uncontrollable and sometimes destructive urge.

The same can be said for contemporary finance and for our legally codified concept of the limited liability, profit-driven corporation more generally. The current financial regulatory reforms being hashed out in Congress seek to clip Wall Street's claws, but it is only a matter of time before those claws grow back in the form of increasingly complex financial innovations. Not all of these will be "bad" ideas. Some will efficiently and effectively connect resources to production. But if history shows anything, it's that eventually a profit-maximizing instrument or nascent investment area will emerge that wrecks the system all over again.

Perhaps the most troubling reality in the 21st Century is that our economics now dictates our cultural values, rather than the reverse, where we the people would decide how resources, production, and mutual prosperity should be systematized to achieve the best society for all. Like the cat's claws, the corporation's profit motive is its only tool for survival. The casino culture of the financial system has spawned an expectation for unrealistic year-to-year growth in investors of all forms, demanding that managers increase profits exponentially and unsustainably, lest they be canned and replaced.

To account for that ever increasing demand--and constrained by laws that prohibit CEOs to take any action that isn't in the direct fiduciary interest of shareholders--corporations are forced to externalize costs whenever possible, regardless of social or environmental detriment. This process takes many forms, such as shortcuts and cutting corners (British Petroleum), or outsourcing to more unsavory elements (sweat shops), to name just two.

The corporation is the predominant institution in Western society, and there is indeed a yin to its yang. Corporations provide vital jobs, ideas, products, and services. But these are all incidental and secondary to the profit drive. If a corporation does good for goodness' sake then, by law, it runs the risk of being sued by its shareholders. As its greatest champion, Milton Friedman, told author Joel Bakan: "Its interests are the interests of its stockholders. Now, beyond that should it spend the stockholders' money for purposes which it regards as socially responsible but which it cannot connect to its bottom line? The answer I would say is no."

This woman needs to be shot dead

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Her superstitious rantings about children possessed by demon spirits are responsible for the torture and deaths of children across Nigeria. As far as I'm concerned she is demonstrably evil and needs to be arrested, imprisoned or executed outright in order to save children's lives.

On a Visit to the U.S., a Nigerian Witch-Hunter Explains Herself

by Mark Oppenheimer


witchhunter.jpgAt home in Nigeria, the Pentecostal preacher Helen Ukpabio draws thousands to her revival meetings. Last August, when she had herself consecrated Christendom's first "lady apostle," Nigerian politicians and Nollywood actors attended the ceremony. Her books and DVDs, which explain how Satan possesses children, are widely known.

So well-known, in fact, that Ms. Ukpabio's critics say her teachings have contributed to the torture or abandonment of thousands of Nigerian children -- including infants and toddlers -- suspected of being witches and warlocks. Her culpability is a central contention of "Saving Africa's Witch Children," a documentary that will make its American debut Wednesday on HBO2.

Those disturbed by the needless immiseration of innocent children should beware. "Saving Africa's Witch Children" follows Gary Foxcroft, founder of the charity Stepping Stones Nigeria, as he travels the rural state of Akwa Ibom, rescuing children abused during horrific "exorcisms" -- splashed with acid, buried alive, dipped in fire -- or abandoned roadside, cast out of their villages because some itinerant preacher called them possessed.

Their fellow villagers have often seen DVDs of "End of the Wicked," Ms. Ukpabio's bloody 1999 movie purporting to show how the devil captures children's souls. And some have read her book "Unveiling the Mysteries of Witchcraft," where she confidently writes that "if a child under the age of 2 screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health, he or she is a servant of Satan."

Visiting Houston last week to lead a four-night revival for a local church, Ms. Ukpabio, 41, had no idea that "Saving Africa's Witch Children," which brought protesters out to greet her in London, was about to be shown in the United States. But she was eager to defend herself.

"Do you think Harry Potter is real?" Ms. Ukpabio asked me angrily, in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Express where she was staying. "It is only because I am African," she said, that people who understand that J. K. Rowling writes fiction would take literally Ms. Ukpabio's filmic depictions of possessed children, gathering by moonlight to devour human flesh.

Still, "Saving Africa's Witch Children" makes clear that many rural Nigerians do take her film seriously. And in her sermons, Ms. Ukpabio is emphatic that children can be possessed, and that with her God-given "powers of discernment," she can spot such a child. Belief in possession is especially common among Pentecostals in Nigeria, where it reinforces native traditions that spirits are real and intervene in human affairs.

Let the bankers fail

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The best financial reform?

By James Grant

The trouble with Wall Street isn't that too many bankers get rich in the booms. The trouble, rather, is that too few get poor -- really, suitably poor -- in the busts.

To the titans of finance go the upside. To we, the people, nowadays, goes the downside. How much better it would be if the bankers took the losses just as they do the profits.
Happily, there's a ready-made and time-tested solution. Let the senior financiers keep their salaries and bonuses, and let them do with their banks what they will. If, however, their bank fails, let the bankers themselves fail. Let the value of their houses, cars, yachts, paintings, etc. be assigned to the firm's creditors.

Of course, there are only so many mansions, Bugattis and Matisses to go around. And many, many such treasures would be needed to make the taxpayers whole for the serial failures of 2007-09. Then again, under my proposed reform not more than a few high-end sheriff's auctions would probably ever take place. The plausible threat of personal bankruptcy would suffice to focus the minds of American financiers on safety and soundness as they have not been focused for years.
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"The fear of God," replied George Gilbert Williams, president of the Chemical Bank of New York around the turn of the 20th century, when asked the secret of his success. "Old Bullion," they called Chemical for its ability to pay out gold to its depositors even at the height of a financial panic. Safety was Chemical's stock in trade. Nowadays, safety is nobody's franchise except Washington's. Gradually and by degree, starting in the 1930s -- and then, in a great rush, in 2008 -- the government has nationalized it.

No surprise, then, the perversity of Wall Street's incentives. For rolling the dice, the payoff is potentially immense. For failure, the personal cost -- while regrettable -- is manageable. Senior executives at Lehman Brothers, Citi, AIG and Merrill Lynch, among other stricken institutions, did indeed lose their savings. What they did not necessarily lose is the rest of their net worth. In Brazil -- which learned a thing or two about frenzied finance during its many bouts with hyperinflation -- bank directors, senior bank officers and controlling bank stockholders know that they are personally responsible for the solvency of the institution with which they are associated. Let it fail, and their net worths are frozen for the duration of often-lengthy court proceedings. If worse comes to worse, the responsible and accountable parties can lose their all.

The substitution of collective responsibility for individual responsibility is the fatal story line of modern American finance. Bank shareholders used to bear the cost of failure, even as they enjoyed the fruits of success. If the bank in which shareholders invested went broke, a court-appointed receiver dunned them for money with which to compensate the depositors, among other creditors. This system was in place for 75 years, until the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. pushed it aside in the early 1930s. One can imagine just how welcome was a receiver's demand for a check from a shareholder who by then ardently wished that he or she had never heard of the bank in which it was his or her misfortune to invest.

What an amazing concept; dealing with sexual crimes without the guaranteed hysteria that is the hallmark of the American justice system. It's enough to take your breath away.

Judge Weinstein Takes on Child Pornography Laws

By A. G. Sulzberger

In his 43-year career as a federal judge, Jack B. Weinstein has come to be identified by his efforts to combat what he calls "the unnecessary cruelty of the law." His most recent crusade is particularly striking because of the beneficiary: a man who has amassed a vast collection of child pornography.

Judge Weinstein, who sits in the United States District Court in Brooklyn, has twice thrown out convictions that would have ensured that the man spend at least five years behind bars. He has pledged to break protocol and inform the next cast of jurors about the mandatory prison sentence that the charges carry. And he recently declared that the man, who is awaiting a new trial, did not need an electronic ankle bracelet because he posed "no risk to society."

There is little public sympathy for collectors of child pornography. Yet across the country, an increasing number of federal judges have come to their defense, criticizing changes to sentencing laws that have effectively quadrupled their average prison term over the last decade.

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated a 20-year child pornography sentence by ruling that the sentencing guidelines for such cases, "unless applied with great care, can lead to unreasonable sentences." The decision noted that the recommended sentences for looking at pictures of children being sexually abused sometimes eclipse those for actually sexually abusing a child.

Judge Weinstein has gone to extraordinary lengths to challenge the strict punishments, issuing a series of rulings that directly attack the mandatory five-year prison sentence faced by defendants charged with receiving child pornography.

"I don't approve of child pornography, obviously," he said in an interview this week. But, he also said, he does not believe that those who view the images -- as opposed to producing or selling them -- actually present a threat to children. Sending these men to prison for years, he said, is a miscarriage of justice.

"We're destroying lives unnecessarily," he said. "At the most, they should be receiving treatment and supervision."

The man he has spent three years trying to save from a long incarceration is Pietro Polizzi, a married father of five who collected more than 5,000 graphic pictures of children. If prosecuted in a New York State court, he would have faced a maximum prison sentence of four years. Instead, in federal court, he faced a minimum of five years and a recommended sentence of 11 to 14 years in prison. Only because of Judge Weinstein's intervention, he remains free as he awaits another trial.

"I don't see Judge Weinstein as a judge," Mr. Polizzi said during an interview as tears rolled down his face. "I see him as my father. He helps people. He doesn't destroy lives the way the prosecutor has. He's the one who is going to set me free from the court."

The child pornography industry has flourished through the Internet, with the number of federal cases growing from fewer than 100 annually to more than 1,600 last year. As the number of cases grew, Congress increased the recommended prison terms, and established a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for anyone convicted of receiving child pornography. According to the federal defenders office, the average sentence was 91 months in 2007, up from 21 months a decade before.

But the tough penalties have chafed at many judges, echoing previous battles over drug cases. Last year, judges imposed sentences below the recommended range in more than half of all child pornography cases.

"What has caused concern in courts across the nation is that we have a lot of relatively law-abiding individuals sitting in the basement downloading the wrong kind of dirty pictures facing not just prison sentences but incredibly long prison sentences," said Douglas A. Berman, a professor at Moritz College of Law, who studies sentencing issues.

In one recent case, James L. Graham, a United States District Court judge in Ohio, sentenced a 67-year-old man who had suffered a stroke to a single day in prison, along with restrictions on computer use and registration as a sex offender. The man had pleaded guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors to possession of child pornography, which carries no mandatory minimum sentence.

K'naan's "Wavin' Flag"

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I love this guy.
This time teamed up with will.i.am and boosting a good future with a youth anthem.

Wavin' Flag lyrics (as close as these old ears hear them):

When I get older, I will be stronger
They'll call me Freedom
Just like a Wavin' Flag
So wave your flag
Now wave your flag
Now wave your flag
Wave your flag
ohh ohh

Born to a throne, stronger than Rome
but violent prone, poor people zone,
But it's my own, all I have known,
Where I got grown, streets we would roam
Out of the darkness, I came the farthest,
Among the hardest survival.
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak,
Except no defeat, surrender retreat,

So we strugglin', fighting to eat and
We wonderin' when we'll be free,
So we patiently wait, for that fateful day,
It's not far away, but for now we say

When I get older, I will be stronger
I'll make it better struggle no longer
When I get older, I will be stronger
They'll call me Freedom
Just like a Wavin' Flag
So wave your flag
Now wave your flag
Now wave your flag
Now wave your flag
Now wave your flag
Now wave your flag
Now wave your flag

So many wars, settling scores,
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor,
And in a situation when there's a compensation
They got no occupation to buy no medication
See, it's a combination of no education
But we can never get it says tomorrow's generation
Cos they can't control us
No, they can't hold us down
People pick it up

We are really all struggling, fighting to eat,
And we wondering, when we'll be free
So we patiently wait, for that faithful day,
It's not far away, but for now we say,

When I get older, I will be stronger,
I'll make it better struggle no longer
When i get older, I will be stronger
They'll call me Freedom
Just like a Wavin' Flag
So wave your flag
Now wave your flag
Now wave your flag
Wave your flag
Wave your flag
Wave your flag
Wave your flag

(Ohhhh Ohhhh Ohhhhh Ohhhh)

And everybody will be singin' it
(Ohhhh Ohhhh Ohhhhh Ohhhh)
And you and I will be singin' it
(Ohhhh Ohhhh Ohhhhh Ohhhh)
And we all will be singin' it
(Ohhh Ohh Ohh Ohh)

When I get older, I will be stronger,
Stronger
Stronger
I will be stronger
Stronger
Stronger
I will be stronger
They'll call me Freedom
Just like a Wavin' Flag
So wave your flag
Now wave your flag
Now wave your flag
Now wave your flag
Now wave your flag

Just like a Wavin' Flag
Just like a Wavin' Flag
Just like a Wavin' Flag
Just like a Wavin' Flag....

Where the conversation ends

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Could be a threshold

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Or a precipice, if you are given to fears of science as a Frankenstein endeavor aimed at supplanting the authority and domains of the religious gods.

In any event, the production of an entirely artificial genome is a remarkable achievement indicating a new plateau in the bio-sciences with potential for both great harm and great good.

In 2001, Craig Venter made headlines for sequencing the human genome. In 2003, he started mapping the ocean's biodiversity. And now, in 2010, he's created the first synthetic lifeforms

newbacteria.jpg

First synthetic lifeform holds promise, peril

Scientists alter genes to create living bacteria from non-living parts

By Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

What does it mean to be alive?

That's a weighty question that scientists, theologians and philosophers have been wrangling over for eons. Most have concluded that the wondrous nature of what permits life is a mystery that science never could penetrate.

Until now.

What seemed to be an intractable riddle -- and one with significant religious overtones -- has been solved. A research team led by J. Craig Venter, Hamilton Smith, Clyde Hutchison, and Daniel Gibson at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., has just announced in the journal Science that they have created new living bacteria from non-living parts.

The scientists have crafted what they're calling a "synthetic cell" from a set of genes they decoded, artificially combined and then stuck into the cored-out remains of another bacterial cell.

The Venter team has been working for many years to create a synthetic bacterium. Having built a synthetic virus some years ago, they have now shown that they can take the next step.

A truly living thing
Some argued that making a virus was not a demonstration that life is reducible to its subsidiary parts. Viruses have to use bacteria to reproduce. No one can say that making a bacterium, a much more independent, complex, self-replicating critter, is not synthesizing a truly living thing.

Why did the Venter team do it? Well, it was in part to resolve that age-old debate about reducing life to the sum of its parts. They wanted to show it could be done. More important, however, is that the techniques of gene synthesis involved in this remarkable achievement hold out much promise for humankind.

Synthetic biology should permit scientists to make microbes that can solve many of our most pressing problems. Building bacteria that secrete food edible by other tiny ocean creatures will provide us with more to eat as the now-endangered ocean food chain is rebuilt. There could be bacteria that digest oil from leaks and spills, or bacteria that consume cholesterol and other dangerous substances in our bodies. There could even be bacteria that attack other microbes that cause so much death and illness. All those are in the offing, and that is all to the good.

A man gets lonely all alone in DC

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Jesus Christ...You just can't make it up...
Is it the core sexual repression of conservatives that makes them so subject to this sort of hypocritical behavior or what? So sad and so funny at the same time.

Maddow had these "helpful hints for hypocrites" regarding this sordid episode:

A: Google yourself (in order to remember the values you claim to stand for)


B: No pushing legislation that denigrates other people's marriages (when your behavior indicates you are in the process of denigrating your own)

C: Don't make pro-abstinence videos with your mistress

Basics, right?

ala ratboy's Chief sex scandal correspondent F. Baker:

Souder Blames DC For Sexual Misconduct

by Jason Linkins

As most people know, the District of Columbia, along with being the home to everything political, is a city filled with monuments, museums, a subway that shuts down five hours too early, confusing diagonal streets named after states and a bunch of perilous traffic circles that some people say are designed to bedevil and confuse Tory invaders from the 18th century.

But what you probably don't know about Washington is that the whole city was designed by Masonic warlocks who laid out pentagrams and symbols all over the city in order to create a black-magic engine of pure animal sexuality to bewitch the minds of otherwise decent people, turning them into godless slaves to their horniest of impulses.

This is all coming to light, thanks to the resignation of America's Prince of Abstinence Education Mark Souder, who was caught in the District's sexy trap. He makes this glancingly clear in the retina-searing all-caps section of his resignation note, which will be remembered as this century's "Letter From A Birmingham Jail," where "Birmingham" is "Washington" and "Jail" is "my part-time aide's vagina."

IT HAS BEEN ALL CONSUMING FOR ME TO DO THIS JOB WELL, ESPECIALLY IN A DISTRICT WITH COSTLY, COMPETITIVE ELECTIONS EVERY TWO YEARS I DO NOT HAVE ANY SORT OF "NORMAL" LIFE - FOR FAMILY, FOR FRIENDS, FOR CHURCH, FOR COMMUNITY.TO SERVE HAS BEEN A BLESSING AND A RESPONSIBILITY GIVEN FROM GOD. I WISH I COULD HAVE BEEN A BETTER EXAMPLE. I SINNED AGAINST GOD, MY WIFE AND MY FAMILY BY HAVING A MUTUAL RELATIONSHIP WITH A PART-TIME MEMBER OF MY STAFF. IN THE POISONOUS ENVIRONMENT OF WASHINGTON DC, ANY PERSONAL FAILING IS SEIZED UPON, OFTEN TWISTED, FOR POLITICAL GAIN. I AM RESIGNING RATHER THAN TO PUT MY FAMILY THROUGH THAT PAINFUL, DRAWN-OUT PROCESS.

Right! Best flee from the 202, and its "costly, competitive elections" before you put your family through some sort of "painful, drawn-out process!"

BP's Plan B

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You know its true

bpplanb.jpg

another hat tip to the Baker

Now imagine it all along the coast

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Or riding inland 15 miles on a 20 ft storm surge during a hurricane.

60 Minutes: Critical equipment damaged weeks before blowout

by Keith Pickering


60 Minutes interviewing Mike Williams, a surviving crewmember of the Deepwater Horizon reveals the blowout is definitely BP's fault.

1. This was the second attempt to drill a well in about the same spot. The first well had to be abandoned because the well had been drilled too fast (under pressure from BP to bring the well in quickly). Result: the rock fractured, causing loss of control of pressure in the well. Twenty-five million bucks down the drain, said BP to the crew. So they had to try again, in a rock formation known to be problematic.

2. Early on while drilling the second well (the one that eventually blew up) an accident damaged part of the blowout preventer (BOP). According to Williams, they were conducting a routine test of the annular, a ring of rubber that closes around the well at the top of the BOP stack. While the annular was closed, thus closing off the well, a driller accidentally pushed a joystick, which pulled the pipe casing up through the rubber seal at very high pressure. A short time later, after drilling had resumed, pieces of rubber began coming up from the bottom of the well. A drilling supervisor told Williams that the rubber debris was "no big deal".

3. The BOP has two redundant electronics boxes, called pods, which communicate with the surface. These are critical devices which trigger the BOP to close the well in emergency. One of the two pods was problematic and occasionally inoperable. The batteries on the BOP were also weak.

4. The well was in the process of being closed with cement plugs when the blowout occurred. The day of the blowout, there was a disagreement between the Transocean supervisor and the BP supervisor over how that should be accomplished. The Transocean guy wanted to keep mud in the well (i.e., keep pressure in the well) during the cementing. The BP guy wanted the mud pulled from the well for cementing, because it was faster and they were already behind schedule. The BP guy won the argument. If pressure had been maintained in the well during the cementing operation, the blowout would not have occurred.

The bottom line: the blowout was caused by gross negligence on the part of BP. There is no other way to spin it.

Video segment:
Part 1


Part 2



A Horrible Precedent

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What is it about the US and sexual crimes that makes the country so scatter-brained?
The Supreme Court just handed the federal government the power to indefinitely detain people convicted of violent sexual crimes even after their sentences have been served.
This is never done to convicted murderers or convictions for other violent crimes...why is it then deemed plausible for perpetrators of crimes with a sexual component? And who are prosecutors and correction officials to be passing judgment as to whether someone still poses a risk at the end of their sentence? This travesty of justice has got to be based on some "save the children" hysteria because such a sweeping change to the justice system cannot be rationalized in any other sense.

Supreme Court: Sex offenders can be held indefinitely

By Bill Mears

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday the federal government has the power to keep some sex offenders behind bars indefinitely after they have served their sentences if officials determine those inmates may prove "sexually dangerous" in the future.

"The federal government, as custodian of its prisoners, has the constitutional power to act in order to protect nearby (and other) communities from the danger such prisoners may pose," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the 7-2 majority.

At issue was the constitutionality of federal "civil commitment" for sex offenders who are nearing the end of their confinement or who are considered too mentally incompetent to stand trial.

The main plaintiff in the case, Graydon Comstock, was certified as dangerous six days before his 37-month federal prison term for processing child pornography was to end. Comstock and the others filing suit remain confined at Butner Federal Correctional Complex near Raleigh, North Carolina.

Three other inmates who filed suit served prison terms of three to eight years for offenses ranging from child pornography to sexual abuse of a minor. Another was charged with child sex abuse but was declared mentally incompetent to face trial.

All were set to be released nearly three years ago, but government appeals have blocked their freedom. The government says about 83 people are being held under the civil commitment program.

Corrections officials and prosecutors determined the men remained a risk for further sexually deviant behavior if freed. The inmates' attorneys maintain the continued imprisonment violates their constitutional right of due process and argue Congress overstepped its power by allowing inmates to be held for certain crimes that normally would fall under the jurisdiction of state courts.

Held captive by the devil you know

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Compassion is most tested when humans feel fearful and threatened by starvation, personal loss or uncertainty. When humans feel out of control they are willing to accept any immediate external control no matter how much it costs them in the long run. That is the real source of fascism and the extremes of right wing thinking. Show me a right wing extremist and you are showing me an existential coward circling the wagons against perceived bogeymen.


The Great Consolidation

By Ross Douthat

This feels like a populist moment. Americans are Tea Partying. Greeks are rioting. Incumbents are being thrown out; the Federal Reserve is facing an audit; Goldman Sachs is facing prosecution. In Kentucky, Ron Paul's son might be about to win a Republican Senate primary.

But look through these anti-establishment theatrics to the deep structures of political and economic power, and suddenly the surge of populism feels like so much sound and fury, obscuring the real story of our time. From Washington to Athens, the economic crisis is producing consolidation rather than revolution, the entrenchment of authority rather than its diffusion, and the concentration of power in the hands of the same elite that presided over the disasters in the first place.

Consider the European situation. For a week after Greece's fiscal meltdown began, all the talk was about the weakness of the European Union, the folly of its too-rapid expansion, and the failure of the Continent's governing class to anticipate the crisis.

But then the E.U. acted, bailing out Greece to the tune of nearly a trillion dollars, and dictating economic terms to Athens that resemble "the kind of thing a surrendering field marshal signs in a railway car in the forest at the end of a bloody war," in the words of the Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum. If the bailout succeeds, the E.U.'s authority over its member states will be dramatically enhanced -- and a crisis created by hasty, elite-driven integration will have led, inexorably, to further integration and a more powerful elite.

This trajectory should be familiar to Americans. The panic of 2008 happened, in part, because the public interest had become too intertwined with private interests for the latter to be allowed to fail. But everything we did to halt the panic, and all the legislation we've passed, has only strengthened the symbiosis.

From the Troubled Asset Relief Program to the stimulus bill, from the auto bailout to health care reform, we've created a vast new array of public-private partnerships -- empowering insiders at the expense of outsiders, large institutions at the expense of small ones, and Washington at the expense of state and local governments. Eighteen months after the financial crisis, the interests of our financiers, C.E.O.'s, bureaucrats and politicians are yoked together as never before.

Speaking of Blatant Stupidity

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Have we lost all common sense? Are teachers and prosecutors really as out to lunch as their behavior here would indicate?

Autistic Child Charged With Terrorism Over School Drawing

by J Turley

boydrawingterrorist.jpgShane Finn, 14, is an autistic eighth grader with the mental capacity of a third grader. He did something not unknown to kids around the world. He drew a stick figure of himself shooting his teacher. He is now an accused terrorist in Georgia.

The childish drawing included the helpful labels "me" for the figure pointing the gun at the other figure, labeled "Hartman." Hartman was not amused and, despite the fact that Finn has only 75 IQ, Finn was charged with a terrorism felony.

We seem to have become a society where any infraction must be expressed in criminal terms, even when committed by a child (here). Even sketching a gun can get you suspended, here. Once again, the question remains the judgment and professional responsibility of the prosecutors in advancing these charges. If a 14-year-old autistic boy is now considered a terrorist for a drawing, we have lost this fight.

CNN is rarely the forum where we hear thoughtful points of view, but Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson breaks the mold as he rips apart the befuddled superintendent of Arizona public schools, Tom Horne, over Arizona's decision to ban ethnic studies.

Sigh...

jeeringidiot.jpgHuman stupidity and cruelty are again shown to be boundless.

Check out the jeering crowd member in the red shirt behind the shackled couple in the picture below. Is he aware of how stupid and cruel he looks to most of the rest of the world? Probably no more so than any other moron worldwide who thinks their bigotry is rational rather than simple evil birthed by ignorance and the tyranny of the group.

Malawi gay couple who 'married' face harsh prison sentences

Case could become test for emerging gay rights lobby where homosexuality is illegal in 37 African countries

by David Smith

A man whose same-sex "marriage" has become a symbol of the struggle for gay rights in Africa has vowed to become a martyr rather than give in to homophobia, campaigners say. Tiwonge Chimbalanga and his partner Steven Monjeza are facing a possible 14 years in prison with hard labour after becoming the first gay couple in Malawi to declare their commitment in a public ceremony .

Monjeza-Chimbalanga-001.jpgPeter Tatchell, the veteran British gay rights campaigner, has maintained contact with the pair at the maximum security Chichiri prison in Blantyre as they prepare to stand trial next week.

Tatchell told the Guardian he received a defiant message from Chimbalanga that said: "I love Steven so much. If people or the world cannot give me the chance and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless."

Tatchell, of the rights group Outrage!, also quoted Monjeza - who is described as thin and weak with jaundiced eyes - as saying: "We have come a long way and even if our family relatives are not happy, I will never stop loving Tiwonge."

Chimbalanga, 20, and Monjeza, 26, made history when they committed to marriage at a symbolic ceremony last December - the first same-sex couple to do so in the southern African state, where homosexual acts are illegal.

Two days later, the couple were arrested at their home. Facing taunts and jeers, Chimbalanga, wearing a woman's blouse, and Monjeza appeared in court to answer three charges of unnatural practices between males and gross indecency. They were denied bail, supposedly for their own safety, and have been forced to endure dire conditions in jail.

The couple are due back in court on Tuesday, when magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa will deliver his verdict. Angry residents and relatives from Machinjiri township, on the outskirts of Blantyre, say they will not allow them to return home if they are set free.

"They have given this township a bad name," said Maikolo Phiri, a local vendor.

Zione Monjeza, an aunt of Monjeza, said: "We as a family have been terribly embarrassed to be associated with this gay thing. It's a curse and a big shame. We will chase them away if they are freed."

Nchiteni Monjeza, Monjeza's uncle, said: "I won't drop a tear if they are jailed - they deserve it."

marvin sez

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blame mr baker

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Black on Beck

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"Glenn Beck's got Nazi Tourrets!"


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

hat tip to mr baker

And other ideas from the public abound as well :

BP suggestion box spills over with cleanup ideas

How Far Will a Racist Go?

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Tell me this isn't a sick individual...

Philly Cop Shoots Self

Arizona Signals More Bigotry

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The interesting (and sad) thing about bigots is their inability to see their position as bigoted in the first place. It's like the people who say ridiculous things like to be intolerant of their bigoted intolerance is itself a case of being intolerant. That's like saying killing someone in self defense makes you a murderer.

Here's the latest case of Arizona legislating the return of Jim Crow and a pic of the current superintendent of schools and AG hopeful, Tom Horne who is the pandering dork behind the pathetic legislation.

Ethnic studies target of new Ariz. law

Measure prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity

By Jonathon J Cooper

PHOENIX - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed a bill targeting a school district's ethnic studies program, hours after a report by United Nations human rights experts condemned the measure.

tomhorne.jpgState schools chief Tom Horne, who has pushed the bill for years, said he believes the Tucson school district's Mexican-American studies program teaches Latino students that they are oppressed by white people.

Public schools should not be encouraging students to resent a particular race, he said.

"It's just like the old South, and it's long past time that we prohibited it," Horne said.

Brewer's signature on the bill Tuesday comes less than a month after she signed the nation's toughest crackdown on illegal immigration -- a move that ignited international backlash amid charges the measure would encourage racial profiling of Hispanics. The governor has said profiling will not be tolerated.

The measure signed Tuesday prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, that are designed primarily for students of a particular race or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.

The Tucson Unified School District program offers specialized courses in African-American, Mexican-American and Native-American studies that focus on history and literature and include information about the influence of a particular ethnic group.

A Tale of Two Mothers

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hat tip to mr baker

Two Middle East mothers are sitting in a cafe chatting over a plate of tabouli and a pint of goat's milk. The older of the two pulls a bag out of her purse and starts flipping through photos. They start reminiscing.

'This is my oldest son, Mujibar. He would have been 24 years old now.'

'Yes, I remember him as a baby,' says the other mother cheerfully.

'He's a martyr now though,' the mother confides.

'Oh, so sad dear,' says the other.

'And this is my second son, Khalid. He would have been 21.'

'Oh, I remember him,' says the other happily, 'he had such curly hair
when he was born.'

'He's a martyr too,' says the mother quietly.

'Oh, gracious me . . . , ' says the other.

'And this is my third son. My baby. My beautiful Ahmed. He would have
been 18,' she whispers.

'Yes,' says the friend enthusiastically, 'I remember when he first
started school.'

'He's a martyr also,' says the mother, with tears in her eyes.

After a pause and a deep sigh, the second Muslim mother looks wistfully
at the photographs and, searching for the right words,
says . . .


'They blow up so fast, don't they?'

Lena Horne Passes

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What a great lady!

Here she sings her classic "Stormy Weather in 1943:


Looking back at the age of 80, Ms. Horne said: "My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I'm free. I no longer have to be a 'credit.' I don't have to be a symbol to anybody; I don't have to be a first to anybody. I don't have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I'd become. I'm me, and I'm like nobody else."

Lena Horne, Singer and Actress, Dies at 92

By ALJEAN HARMETZ

Lena Horne, who was the first black performer to be signed to a long-term contract by a major Hollywood studio and who went on to achieve international fame as a singer, died on Sunday night at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. She was 92 and lived in Manhattan.

horne _calloway.jpgMs. Horne might have become a major movie star, but she was born 50 years too early, and languished at MGM in the 1940s because of the color of her skin, although she was so light-skinned that, when she was a child, other black children had taunted her, accusing her of having a "white daddy."

Ms. Horne was stuffed into one "all-star" musical after another -- "Thousands Cheer" (1943), "Broadway Rhythm" (1944), "Two Girls and a Sailor" (1944), "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946), "Words and Music" (1948) -- to sing a song or two that could easily be snipped from the movie when it played in the South, where the idea of an African-American performer in anything but a subservient role in a movie with an otherwise all-white cast was unthinkable.

How we wrecked the ocean

| | Comments (2)

Trophy fishing results from the same boat, the same spot:

1960

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2009

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In his bracing talk, coral reef ecologist Jeremy Jackson lays out the shocking state of the ocean today: overfished, overheated, polluted, with indicators that things will get much worse. Astonishing photos and stats make the case.

WolframAlpha

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Stephen Wolfram: Computing a theory of everything

Stephen Wolfram, creator of Mathematica, talks about his quest to make all knowledge computational -- able to be searched, processed and manipulated. His new search engine, Wolfram Alpha, has no lesser goal than to model and explain the physics underlying the universe.

His WolframAlpha program is a marvel. Go try it.

A Tale of Two Myths

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Namely, "free markets" and "free trade" - and how both were used by a gangster elite to destroy the American economy in short order.

How the Economy was Lost, Doomed by the Myths of Free Trade

by Paul Craig Roberts

The American economy has gone away. It is not coming back until free trade myths are buried six feet under.

America's 20th century economic success was based on two things. Free trade was not one of them. America's economic success was based on protectionism, which was ensured by the union victory in the Civil War, and on British indebtedness, which destroyed the British pound as world reserve currency. Following World War II, the U.S. dollar took the role as reserve currency, a privilege that allows the U.S. to pay its international bills in its own currency.

World War II and socialism together ensured that the U.S. economy dominated the world at the mid 20th century. The economies of the rest of the world had been destroyed by war or were stifled by socialism [in terms of the priorities of the capitalist growth model. Editors.]

The ascendant position of the U.S. economy caused the U.S. government to be relaxed about giving away American industries, such as textiles, as bribes to other countries for cooperating with America's cold war and foreign policies. For example, Turkey's U.S. textile quotas were increased in exchange for over-flight rights in the Gulf War, making lost U.S. textile jobs an off-budget war expense.

In contrast, countries such as Japan and Germany used industrial policy to plot their comebacks. By the late 1970s, Japanese auto makers had the once dominant American auto industry on the ropes. The first economic act of the "free market" Reagan administration in 1981 was to put quotas on the import of Japanese cars in order to protect Detroit and the United Auto Workers.

Eamonn Fingleton, Pat Choate, and others have described how negligence in Washington DC aided and abetted the erosion of America's economic position. What we didn't give away, the United States let be taken away while preaching a "free trade" doctrine at which the rest of the world scoffed.

Fortunately, the U.S.'s adversaries at the time, the Soviet Union and China, had unworkable economic systems that posed no threat to America's diminishing economic prowess.

This furlough from reality ended when Soviet, Chinese, and Indian socialism surrendered around 1990, to be followed shortly thereafter by the rise of the high speed Internet. Suddenly, American and other first world corporations discovered that a massive supply of foreign labor was available at practically free wages.

To get Wall Street analysts and shareholder advocacy groups off their backs, and to boost shareholder returns and management bonuses, American corporations began moving their production for American markets offshore. Products that were made in Peoria are now made in China.

As offshoring spread, American cities and states lost tax base, and families and communities lost jobs. The replacement jobs, such as selling the offshored products at Wal-Mart, brought home less pay.

"Free market economists" covered up the damage done to the US economy by preaching a New Economy based on services and innovation. But it wasn't long before corporations discovered that the high speed Internet let them offshore a wide range of professional service jobs. In America, the hardest hit have been software engineers and information technology (IT) workers.

The American corporations quickly learned that by declaring "shortages" of skilled Americans, they could get from Congress H-1b work visas for lower paid foreigners with whom to replace their American work force. Many US corporations are known for forcing their US employees to train their foreign replacements in exchange for severance pay.

Happy Mother Day

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mothernature-27.jpg

Net Neutality Still a Possibility

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After a recent court defeat, there are hopeful signals from the FCC that the total commodification of internet content and access will be blocked by the agency when it asserts its right to regulate access providers by redefining internet services as part of the "common carrier" regulations already imposed on telcos and cable companies for other services they provide. This is good news.

F.C.C. Push to Regulate Broadband Is Expected

By Edward Wyatt

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission will try to regulate broadband Internet service despite a recent court ruling that the commission had limited powers to do so.

Two F.C.C. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman, will announce Thursday that the commission considers broadband service a sort of hybrid between an information service and a utility and that it has sufficient power to regulate Internet traffic under existing law.

The F.C.C. decision is likely to be seen as a victory for content companies like Amazon.com and Google, the owner of YouTube, which do not want Internet service providers to have the power to charge them for access to customers or for faster download speeds.

The phone and cable companies that provide Internet service have said they have no plans to do so, but that could change.

The F.C.C. has limited authority over information services but it has vast powers to regulate certain utilities. It contends that a mix of those powers can be applied to broadband service.

"The chairman will seek to restore the status quo as it existed prior to the court decision," a senior F.C.C. official said, "to fulfill the previously stated agenda of extending broadband to all Americans, protecting consumers, ensuring fair competition, and preserving a free and open Internet."


Cinco de Mayo

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Have a good one. Did you know that Cinco de Mayo is NOT the Mexican equivalent to the US Independence Day?

It rather celebrates the Battle of Puebla

BattleofPuebla2.jpgThe Battle of Puebla took place on May 5, 1862 near the city of Puebla during the French intervention in Mexico. The battle ended in a victory for the Mexican Army against the occupying French forces. The victory is celebrated today during the festivities of Cinco de Mayo (5th of May).

In late 1861 Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, under the Treaty of London (1861) sent troops to Mexico, alongside Spanish and English forces, to collect debts owed by a previous Mexican government. President Benito Juárez had announced the annulment of these debts, and vowed to pay nothing to European powers. Napoleon's troops occupied the port city of Veracruz on December 8, 1861.

Sometimes it just all sucks

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Todos Somos Arizona

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You know what will destroy America faster and more completely than anything? Fear of change idiots who think of themselves as "real" Americans and who don't mind turning the place into a racially profiling fascist state if means they can maintain their grip on a deluded belief in white euro Leave It to Beaver privilege. ¿Está equivocado desear que estas personas estúpidas ser mudo hasta que evolucionen?

If Only Arizona Were the Real Problem

by Frank Rich

Don't blame it all on Arizona. The Grand Canyon State simply happened to be in the right place at the right time to tilt over to the dark side. Its hysteria is but another symptom of a political virus that can't be quarantined and whose cure is as yet unknown.

If many of Arizona's defenders and critics hold one belief in common, it's that the new "show me your papers" law is sui generis: it's seen as one angry border state's response to its outsized share of America's illegal immigration crisis. But to label this development "Arizona's folly" trivializes its import and reach. The more you examine the law's provisions and proponents, the more you realize that it's the latest and (so far) most vicious battle in a far broader movement that is not just about illegal immigrants -- and that is steadily increasing its annexation of one of America's two major political parties.

takingbackamerica.jpgArizonans, like all Americans, have every right to be furious about Washington's protracted and bipartisan failure to address the immigration stalemate. To be angry about illegal immigration is hardly tantamount to being a bigot. But the Arizona law expressing that anger is bigoted, and in a very particular way. The law dovetails seamlessly with the national "Take Back America" crusade that has attended the rise of Barack Obama and the accelerating demographic shift our first African-American president represents.

The crowd that wants Latinos to show their papers if there's a "reasonable suspicion" of illegality is often the same crowd still demanding that the president produce a document proving his own citizenship. Lest there be any doubt of that confluence, Rush Limbaugh hammered the point home after Obama criticized Arizona's action. "I can understand Obama being touchy on the subject of producing your papers," he said. "Maybe he's afraid somebody's going to ask him for his." Or, as Glenn Beck chimed in about the president last week: "What has he said that sounds like American?"

To the "Take Back America" right, the illegitimate Obama is Illegal Alien No. 1. It's no surprise that of the 35 members of the Arizona House who voted for the immigration law (the entire Republican caucus), 31 voted soon after for another new law that would require all presidential candidates to produce birth certificates to qualify for inclusion on the state's 2012 ballot. With the whole country now watching Arizona, that "birther" bill was abruptly yanked Thursday.

Shaving Bad, Sodomy Good?

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Talk about yer religious hypocrisy. These people are whack.

Pakistani Muslims Severely Beat, Sodomize Christian Barber

Brother of Muslim who insisted on having beard cut, seven others, break hair-cutter's bones.

SARGODHA, Pakistan -- A Christian barber in this Punjab Province city is still recovering from broken bones and other injuries sustained earlier this month after eight Muslims allegedly beat and sodomized him for cutting the beard of a Muslim.

Marwat Masih, 29, initially refused the request of 19-year-old Qandeel Cheema to cut his beard in Sargodha's Gulshan-e-Bashir town on April 13, knowing that area Sunni Muslims believe the Quran prohibits it. But Cheema, a high school student, told Masih that he had lived and studied in Lahore and therefore wanted a more modern look, the bed-ridden and feeble Masih told Compass.

"I refused to shave his beard, but he showed me his packed bags and said that he would leave the town straight after the shave, and so no one would ever know that I had shaved his beard," Masih said.

Eyewitnesses told Compass that as Masih was cutting Cheema's beard, the client's older brother - local radical Muslim land owner Shakeel Cheema - was returning by tractor from his fields and, noting the family Jeep in front of the Marwat Hair Stylist shop, stopped in.

"When Shakeel Cheema saw me shaving his younger brother's beard, he became angry and started vandalizing mirrors, the sound system and chairs, and he desecrated a wooden cross perched on the top of the front mirrors," Masih said. "He also started beating my head with his shoes."

Eyewitnesses told Compass that Shakeel Cheema shouted orders to his companions to tie Masih up and throw him into the wagon attached to his tractor, and that he ordered his younger brother to leave for Lahore at once.

Masih said that he was blindfolded with a black cloth and taken to an unknown place where he was locked in a room. An hour later, Shakeel Cheema and seven others arrived and began striking him with clubs, breaking his ribs, a wrist and leg bones.

"Shakeel Cheema said, 'Now we are going to teach you a real lesson for shaving the beard of a Muslim man," Masih said, and after a long, pained pause he related how Cheema and the seven others sodomized him. "I started bleeding and fell unconscious."

Arizona Whitemare

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Life is all right in America
If you're all white in America
- "In America" (West Side Story)

How we became white people

By Christian Lander

I am white. I know that's a terribly big surprise, considering that I write a blog called Stuff White People Like, but I mean it, I'm white.

Like really white.

I'm not attempting to assert some sort of superiority through my whiteness; quite the opposite actually. Thanks to my liberal upbringing, I am imbued with the appropriate amount of guilt and shame about my ancestors and their actions in the New World.

Even in my home, I can't offer a blanket to a nonwhite friend without the fear that they will look at me and say "no smallpox on this right?" A joke, but I still want to apologize.

I'm a white male. I belong to a group that pretty much always been able to own land and to vote. I'm more or less from the kind that grabbed power somewhere after the fall of Rome and never let go. In other words, I'm the kind of white guy that has never experienced any real oppression.

Although I guess my ancestors technically left England because of some religious persecution and in spite of a rough boat ride and a rough first Thanksgiving, it's safe to say it worked out pretty well. Unless you got one of those aforementioned blankets.

But in addition to being white and having ancestors on the Mayflower, I'm also Canadian. Yes, I know that might actually make me more white than before, but it also technically makes me an immigrant to this country.

Still, I am loath to call myself an immigrant because I don't want to demean the very real, very difficult challenges faced by immigrants to this country who have had to overcome differences in language, culture and distance from their families. I would say my biggest hardship has been trying to find Ketchup Chips.

But in the eyes of the U.S. government, I am an immigrant, the same as someone from China, Mexico or India. I would not be in this country had I not met my wife in graduate school, and I am thankful every day for her and the opportunity to live in the United States.

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