June 2010 Archives

A Singular Politician

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Finally...a politician willing to tell the religious to go stuff themselves...even if she is half way round the world. Though its hard to imagine what is behind her anti gay marriage sentiments if not a religious consideration.

Gillard won't play religion card

'I am what I am': Prime Minister Julia Gillard

gillard.jpgPrime Minister Julia Gillard says she has no intention of pretending to believe in God to attract religiously-inclined voters.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd was a regular at Canberra church services and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is known as a devout Catholic.

In contrast, Ms Gillard says that while she greatly respects other people's religious views, she does not believe in God.

Ms Gillard has been quizzed on personal topics including her attitude to religion and her relationship with her partner during interviews this morning.

She says does not go through religious rituals for the sake of appearance.

(AAP : Alan Porritt)
"I am not going to pretend a faith I don't feel," she said.

"I am what I am and people will judge that.

"For people of faith, I think the greatest compliment I could pay to them is to respect their genuinely held beliefs and not to engage in some pretence about mine."

"I grew up in the Christian church, a Christian background. I won prizes for catechism, for being able to remember Bible verses. I am steeped in that tradition, but I've made decisions in my adult life about my own views.

"I'm worried about the national interest. About doing the right thing by Australians. And I'll allow people to form their own views about whatever is going to drive their views.

"What I can say to Australians broadly of course is I believe you can be a person of strong principle and values from a variety of perspectives."

Meanwhile Ms Gillard has rejected claims that she is soft on Israel.

Former ambassador to Israel Ross Burns made the accusation in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Fairfax press reported.

Ms Gillard's partner Tim Mathieson works for prominent pro-Israel lobbyist Albert Dadon's real estate company Urbertas Group.

"I've seen that letter to the newspapers, that's not right," Ms Gillard said today.

"I've made up my own views about Israel and made them known publicly well before there was any suggestion that my partner would work in a property group associated with Mr Dadon."

Over-Estimating Jihad

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Americans have been sucked into the jihad myth exactly as they were in the 50's by the commie threat and the results have been equally hysterical and dangerous.

The Myth of Modern Jihad

By Robert Wright

It would be an understatement to say that Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber, pleaded guilty last week. "I'm going to plead guilty a hundred times over," Shahzad told the judge. Why so emphatic? Because Shahzad is proud of himself. "I consider myself a Mujahid, a Muslim soldier," he said.

This got some fist pumps in right-wing circles, because it seemed to confirm that America faces all-out jihad, and must marshal an accordingly fierce response. On National Review Online, Daniel Pipes wrote that Shahzad's "bald declaration" should make Americans "accept the painful fact that Islamist anger and aspirations" are the problem; we must name "Islamism as the enemy." And, as Pipes has explained in the past, once you realize that your enemy is a bunch of Muslim holy warriors, the path forward is clear: "Violent jihad will probably continue until it is crushed by a superior military force."

At the risk of raining on Pipes's parade: If you look at what Shahzad actually said, the upshot is way less grim. In fact, at a time when just about everyone admits that our strategy in Afghanistan isn't working, Shahzad brings refreshing news: maybe America can win the war on terrorism without winning the war in Afghanistan.

As a bonus, it turns out there's a hopeful message not just in Shahzad's testimony, but in Pipes's incomprehension of it. Pipes exhibits a cognitive distortion that may be afflicting Americans broadly -- not just on the right, but on the center and left as well. And seeing the distortion is the first step toward escaping it.

Here is how Shahzad explained his role in the holy war: "It's a war," he said. "I am part of that. I am part of the answer of the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people, and on behalf of that, I'm revenging the attacks."

Now, for a Muslim holy warrior to see his attacks as revenge runs counter to Pipes's longstanding claim that Islamic holy war is about attack, not counterattack. Roughly since 9/11, Pipes has been telling us that jihad is "unabashedly offensive in nature, with the eventual goal of achieving Muslim dominion over the entire globe." This notion of "jihad in the sense of territorial expansion has always been a central aspect of Muslim life" and is now "the world's foremost source of terrorism." That's why you have to respond with "superior military force."

Now we have Shahzad suggesting roughly the opposite -- that the holy war could end if America would stop using military force. He said in court, "Until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan and stops the occupation of Muslim lands and stops killing the Muslims and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking U.S., and I plead guilty to that."

G20 Idiocy and the 3rd Great Depression

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The Third Depression

by Paul Krugman

Recessions are common; depressions are rare. As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as "depressions" at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.

Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline -- on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost -- to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs -- will nonetheless be immense.

And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world -- most recently at last weekend's deeply discouraging G-20 meeting -- governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.


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Fuel

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Eleven years in the making, FUEL is the in-depth personal journey of filmmaker and eco-evangelist Josh Ticknell, who takes us on a hip, fast-paced road trip into America's dependence on foreign oil.

So what's he done so far?

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Already a year gone

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Finding Neverland

by David Gates

He was a music legend and a legendary oddball. Now that he's gone, perhaps we can finally answer the question: who was Michael Jackson?

True, for a while he was the king of pop--a term apparently originated by his friend Elizabeth Taylor--and he's the last we're ever likely to have. Before Michael Jackson came Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles; after him has come absolutely no one, however brilliant or however popular, who couldn't be ignored by vast segments of an ever-more -fragmented audience. Not Kurt Cobain, not Puffy, not Mariah Carey, not Céline Dion, not Beyoncé, not Radiohead--not even Madonna, his closest competitor. When the news of his death broke, the traffic on Twitter caused the site to crash, even though he hadn't had a hit song for years. But starting long before and continuing long after he lorded over the world of entertainment in the 1980s--his 1982 Thriller remains the bestselling album of all time--Jackson was the Prince of Artifice. As the prepubescent frontboy of the Jackson 5, he sang in a cherubic mezzo-soprano of sexual longing he could not yet have fully felt. As a young man, however accomplished and even impassioned his singing was, he never had the sexual credibility of a James Brown or a Wilson Pickett, in part because of his still-high-pitched voice, in part because he seemed never to fully inhabit himself--whoever that self was. In middle age, he consciously took on the role of Peter Pan, with his Neverland Ranch and its amusement-park rides, with his lost-boy "friends" and with what he seemed to believe was an ageless, androgynous physical appearance--let's hope he believed it--thanks to straightened hair and plastic surgery. (No one--least of all Jackson himself--would have wanted to see the Dorian Gray portrait in his attic.) He did his best to construct an alternate reality on top of what must have been an initially miserable life: imagine Gypsy with--as Jackson claimed in interviews--a physically abusive father in place of Mama Rose, set among Jehovah's Witnesses. Which was the more imaginative creation: his music or his persona?

In retrospect, so much of what Jackson achieved seems baldly symbolic. This was the black kid from Gary, Ind., who ended up marrying Elvis's daughter, setting up Neverland in place of Graceland, and buying the Beatles' song catalog--bold acts of appropriation and mastery, if not outright aggression. (Of course, Elvis and the Beatles had come out of obscurity, too, but that was a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away.) He made trademarks of the very emblems of his remoteness: his moonwalk and robot dances and his jeweled glove--noli me tangere, and vice versa. He morphed relentlessly from the most adorable of kiddie performers (his 1972 movie-soundtrack hit, "Ben," was a love song to a pet rat) to the most sinister of superstars: not by adopting a campy persona, like those of his older contemporaries Alice Cooper or Ozzy Osbourne, but in real life, dodging accusations of child molestation, one of which led to a trial and acquittal in 2005. (One shrink concluded at the time that he was not a pedophile, but merely a case of arrested development.) The 2002 episode in which he briefly dangled his son Prince Michael II (a.k.a. Blanket) over a balcony in Berlin, above horrified, fascinated fans, seemed like a ritualized attempt to dispose of his own younger self. And eventually his several facial surgeries, a skin ailment, serious weight loss, and God knows what else made him look like both a vampire and a mummy--Peter Pan's undead evil twins. That is, like the skeletal, pale-faced zombies he danced with in Jon Landis's 14-minute "Thriller" video. When you watch it today, it appears to be a whole stage full of Michael Jacksons, the real one now the least familiar-looking, the most unreal of all.

But whatever strictly personal traumas Jackson may have reenacted and transcended--and then re-reenacted--he performed his dance of death as a central figure in America's long racial horror show. He was, quintessentially, one of those "pure products of America," who, as William Carlos Williams wrote in 1923, "go crazy." To take the uplifting view, enunciated after his death by the likes of the Rev. Al Sharpton, he was a transracial icon, a black person whom white Americans took to their hearts and whose blackness came to seem incidental--along with Nat (King) Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Sam Cooke, Jimi Hendrix, Arthur Ashe, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, and, inevitably, Barack Obama. As a singer-dancer, he clearly belongs not just in the tradition of Jackie Wilson, James Brown, and the Temptations--who seem to have been among his immediate inspirations--but also in the tradition of such dancing entertainers as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, who, in turn, drew from such black performers as Bill (Bojangles) Robinson. In the 1978 film version of The Wiz, Jackson even appropriated and reinvented Ray Bolger's old role as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. And as a messianic global superstar, he resembles no one so much as his father-in-law, Elvis Presley (who died long before Jackson married his daughter), a transracial figure from the other side of the color line. When Presley's first records were played on the radio in Memphis, DJs made a point of noting that he graduated from the city's all-white Humes High School, lest listeners mistake him for black. Given the ubiquity of television, nobody mistook the wispy-voiced young Michael Jackson for white, but it seemed, superficially, not to matter.

Yet Jackson, always the artificer, surely knew that part of his own appeal to white audiences--who contributed substantially to the $50 million to $75 million a year he earned in his prime--lay initially in his precocious cuteness, and when he was a grown man, in his apparent lack of adult sexuality. He was energetic, charismatic, and supremely gifted, but sexually unassertive--unlike swaggeringly heterosexual black male performers from Big Joe Turner ("Shake, Rattle, and Roll") to Jay-Z ("Big Pimpin'?"). He neutered himself racially, too: his hair went from kinky to straight, his lips from full to thin, his nose from broad to pinched, his skin from dark to a ghastly pallor. You can't miss the connection between these forms of neutering if you know the history of white America's atavistic dread of black male sexuality; the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till, for supposedly flirting with a white woman, is just one locus classicus. That happened only three years before Jackson was born; when he was 13, he was singing "Ben." No wonder Jackson chose--with whatever degree of calculation--to remake himself as an American Dream of innocence and belovedness.

No wonder, either, that the artifice eventually turned scary, and the face of the icon came to look more and more corpselike. Readers of Toni Morrison's latest novel, A Mercy, might recall the passage in which an African woman tells about her first sight of white slavers: "There we see men we believe are ill or dead. We soon learn they are neither. Their skin is confusing." That's the middle-aged Michael Jackson to a T. Jackson arguably looked his "blackest" on the original cover of 1979's Off the Wall; by Thriller, the transformation had begun. Off the Wall was his declaration of manhood: it came out the year he turned 21, and it was his greatest purely musical moment. Why did he feel so deeply uncomfortable with himself? The hopeless task of sculpting and bleaching yourself into a simulacrum of a white man suggests a profound loathing of blackness. If Michael Jackson couldn't be denounced as a race traitor, who could? Somehow, though, black America overlooked it, and continued to buy his records, perhaps because some African-Americans, with their hair relaxers and skin-lightening creams, understood why Jackson was remaking him-self, even if they couldn't condone it.

As with Ernest Hemingway--another case of deeply confused identity and (who knew?) androgynous sexuality--we need to look past the deliberate creation of an image and a persona to appreciate the artistry. A more masterly entertainer never took the stage. In 1988, the New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff called him "a virtuoso . . . who uses movement for its own sake. Yes, Michael Jackson is an avant-garde dancer, and his dances could be called abstract. Like Merce Cunningham, he shows us that movement has a value of its own." Better yet, Astaire himself once called Jackson to offer his compliments. As a singer, Jackson was too much of a chameleon--from the tenderness of "I'll Be There" to the rawness of "The Way You Make Me Feel" to the silken sorrow of "She's Out of My Life"--to stamp every song with his distinct personality, as Sinatra did, or Ray Charles, or Hank Williams. But these are demigods--Jackson was merely a giant. (And how'd you like their dancing?) As a musical conceptualizer, probably only James Brown has had a comparable influence: Jackson and his visionary producer, Quincy Jones, fused disco, soul, and pop in a manner that can still be heard every hour of every day on every top-40 radio station--only not as well. Tommy Mottola, former head of Sony Music, called Jackson "the cornerstone to the entire music business." The best recordings by Jackson and Jones--"Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," "Billie Jean"--belong identifiably to their time, as do Sinatra's 1950s recordings with the arranger Nelson Riddle. Yet like Sinatra's "I've Got the World on a String" or "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," they're so perfect of their kind that they'll never sound dated.

The night before he died, Jackson was rehearsing at the Staples Center in Los Angeles for an epic comeback--a series of 50 concerts, beginning in July, at London's O2 Arena. If that sounds impossibly grandiose, consider that all 50 shows had already sold out. People around him had been wondering if he was really up to it, and the opening had already been put off by a week. He was 50 years old, after all: long in the tooth for a puer aeternus--eight years older than Elvis when he left the building, and a quarter century past his peak. Jackson had had health problems for years. Drug problems, too, apparently: in 2007, according to the Associated Press, an L.A. pharmacy sued him, claiming he owed $100,000 for two years' worth of prescription meds. And money problems: in 2008, the ranch nearly went into foreclosure--he defaulted on a $24.5 million debt--and even the $50 million he stood to realize from his potentially grueling London concerts might have seemed like chump change after the glory years. And of course, just problems: his very existence--as a son, as a black man--was problematic. In his last days, did the prospect of a comeback, of remythologizing himself one more time, excite him as much as it excited his fans? Did his magical moments in performance have an incandescent density that outweighed what must often have been burdensome hours and days? Ask him sometime, if you see him. Whatever his life felt like from inside, from outside it was manifestly a work of genius, whether you want to call it a triumph or a freak show--those are just words. We'd never seen anyone like this before, either in his artistic inventiveness or his equally artistic self-invention, and we won't forget him--until the big Neverland swallows us all.

Also check out the 10 Myths of Safe Web Browsing

Finally, some real talk about oil

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and why all the discussions about oil independence are and always were a load of garbage.

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A complete mis-use of a police dog

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GPD police dog released on, bites 10-year-old; inquiry under way

Gainesville police are reviewing an incident in which an officer responding to a burglary call Wednesday released a police dog on a 10-year-old boy, who was bitten.

Capt. Ed Book said it is routine that K-9 bites be reviewed. He said police later learned the woman who had reported the burglary allegedly has mental health issues.

Bitten was Bryce Bates of the 3300 block of Northwest 21st Drive. Bates said his mother had asked him to get the mail and that he had ridden his bicycle a short distance from his condominium when he saw a police car speeding toward him.

The 10-year-old, who is 5 feet tall and weighs 85 pounds, said he became scared, jumped off his bike and began running for home.

"I saw the police car, and he was speeding real fast. I thought he was going to hit me, so I jumped off my bike and ran," Bryce said. "I heard the dog barking and looked behind and saw it running after me."

The dog caught Bryce just as he reached his front door, biting the back of his left thigh. Bryce had one puncture wound that tore the flesh and several smaller bite wounds and scratches.

Brice's parents, Ferris Bates and Cheron Hampton-Bates, said they insisted that their son be taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he was treated and released.

The incident began about 3:20 p.m. with a burglary-in-progress call in the 3400 block of Northwest 21st Drive. Cpl. Tim Durst, with his dog Grady, responded and saw a youth on a bicycle in the area.

Police say Durst yelled for the boy to stop. The officer then released Grady, which bit the boy on the leg and caused minor injuries, Book said.

Play Jeopardy Against IBM's "Watson"

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A new threshold for the advancement of artificial intelligence.


What Is I.B.M.'s Watson?

by Clive Thompson

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"Toured the Burj in this U.A.E. city. They say it's the tallest tower in the world; looked over the ledge and lost my lunch."

This is the quintessential sort of clue you hear on the TV game show "Jeopardy!" It's witty (the clue's category is "Postcards From the Edge"), demands a large store of trivia and requires contestants to make confident, split-second decisions. This particular clue appeared in a mock version of the game in December, held in Hawthorne, N.Y. at one of I.B.M.'s research labs. Two contestants -- Dorothy Gilmartin, a health teacher with her hair tied back in a ponytail, and Alison Kolani, a copy editor -- furrowed their brows in concentration. Who would be the first to answer?

Neither, as it turned out. Both were beaten to the buzzer by the third combatant: Watson, a supercomputer.

For the last three years, I.B.M. scientists have been developing what they expect will be the world's most advanced "question answering" machine, able to understand a question posed in everyday human elocution -- "natural language," as computer scientists call it -- and respond with a precise, factual answer. In other words, it must do more than what search engines like Google and Bing do, which is merely point to a document where you might find the answer. It has to pluck out the correct answer itself. Technologists have long regarded this sort of artificial intelligence as a holy grail, because it would allow machines to converse more naturally with people, letting us ask questions instead of typing keywords. Software firms and university scientists have produced question-answering systems for years, but these have mostly been limited to simply phrased questions. Nobody ever tackled "Jeopardy!" because experts assumed that even for the latest artificial intelligence, the game was simply too hard: the clues are too puzzling and allusive, and the breadth of trivia is too wide.

With Watson, I.B.M. claims it has cracked the problem -- and aims to prove as much on national TV. The producers of "Jeopardy!" have agreed to pit Watson against some of the game's best former players as early as this fall. To test Watson's capabilities against actual humans, I.B.M.'s scientists began holding live matches last winter. They mocked up a conference room to resemble the actual "Jeopardy!" set, including buzzers and stations for the human contestants, brought in former contestants from the show and even hired a host for the occasion: Todd Alan Crain, who plays a newscaster on the satirical Onion News Network.

Technically speaking, Watson wasn't in the room. It was one floor up and consisted of a roomful of servers working at speeds thousands of times faster than most ordinary desktops. Over its three-year life, Watson stored the content of tens of millions of documents, which it now accessed to answer questions about almost anything. (Watson is not connected to the Internet; like all "Jeopardy!" competitors, it knows only what is already in its "brain.") During the sparring matches, Watson received the questions as electronic texts at the same moment they were made visible to the human players; to answer a question, Watson spoke in a machine-synthesized voice through a small black speaker on the game-show set. When it answered the Burj clue -- "What is Dubai?" ("Jeopardy!" answers must be phrased as questions) -- it sounded like a perkier cousin of the computer in the movie "WarGames" that nearly destroyed the world by trying to start a nuclear war.

This time, though, the computer was doing the right thing. Watson won $1,000 (in pretend money, anyway), pulled ahead and eventually defeated Gilmartin and Kolani soundly, winning $18,400 to their $12,000 each.

"Watson," Crain shouted, "is our new champion!"

It was just the beginning. Over the rest of the day, Watson went on a tear, winning four of six games. It displayed remarkable facility with cultural trivia ("This action flick starring Roy Scheider in a high-tech police helicopter was also briefly a TV series" -- "What is 'Blue Thunder'?"), science ("The greyhound originated more than 5,000 years ago in this African country, where it was used to hunt gazelles" -- "What is Egypt?") and sophisticated wordplay ("Classic candy bar that's a female Supreme Court justice" -- "What is Baby Ruth Ginsburg?").

By the end of the day, the seven human contestants were impressed, and even slightly unnerved, by Watson. Several made references to Skynet, the computer system in the "Terminator" movies that achieves consciousness and decides humanity should be destroyed. "My husband and I talked about what my role in this was," Samantha Boardman, a graduate student, told me jokingly. "Was I the thing that was going to help the A.I. become aware of itself?" She had distinguished herself with her swift responses to the "Rhyme Time" puzzles in one of her games, winning nearly all of them before Watson could figure out the clues, but it didn't help. The computer still beat her three times. In one game, she finished with no money.

"He plays to win," Boardman said, shaking her head. "He's really not messing around!" Like most of the contestants, she had started calling Watson "he."


Rest of article

Play against Watson.

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Submitted by F Baker

Forget the doorknob, think rocket

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Lethal Shell Games

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hat tip to F Baker

Like blood diamonds...awards for blood black gold

Oil and Gas Investor's Executive of the Year

by Laurence Lewis

Ryan Grim notes that legal responsibility for the Gulf oil disaster falls on four corporations: BP, Transocean, MOEX Offshore and Anadarko Corporation. They were asked to testify before the Senate today. The CEOs of two of them said they have scheduling conflicts.

Anadarko CEO James T. Hackett, however, does have time this week to be in Houston to accept Oil and Gas Investor's Executive of the Year award, handed out Tuesday.

"Last year this leading Houston-based company generated a 68 percent return to shareholders, while cutting costs and spending during the downturn," reads the announcement of Hackett's award. Cost cutting may have led to significant shareholder returns, but it also is believed to have contributed to the fatal explosion and blowout of the well.

And that pretty well sums up the industry. The man who runs one of the companies that helped cause the worst environmental disaster in American history is being rewarded by his industry. As its Executive of the Year. For the very same cost-cutting that likely caused the disaster. They are what they are.



Vampire Blues

The blood of Ken Saro-Wiwa will permanently stain the name of Shell, Greenpeace said today in response to the news that Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni were, according to widespread rumours, hanged this morning in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

"Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged today for speaking out against the environmental damage to the Niger Delta caused by Shell Oil through its 37 years of drilling in the region. Ken Saro Wiwa was campaigning for what Greenpeace considers the most basic of human rights: the right for clean air, land and water. His only crime was his success in bringing his cause to international attention," said Thilo Bode, Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

Greenpeace warned that any protest in the Niger Delta today, non violent or otherwise, would likely be met with military force and further massacres. Bode appealed to General Sani Abacha to let the Ogoni people voice their grief without fear of violence and further deaths.

Shell's call for "quiet diplomacy" in the 11th hour following the confirmation of the death sentence by the Nigerian Ruling Council has a hollow ring. Shell had ample opportunity to demonstrate concern over the 17 months of Ken's incarceration and trial. They chose to maintain their cosy relationship with the military dictatorship to secure oil profits rather than condemn, the brutal and unjust arrest and later sentencing of non-violent environmental campaigners.


Still Got It

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An elderly couple walked into the lobby of the Mayo Clinic for a checkup and
spotted a piano. They've been married for 62 years and he'll be 90 in 2010.

Check out this impromptu performance . . . It's all attitude.



hat tip to Mr Baker

As if...

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...the worry warts calling for deficit cuts were serious:

Deficit Cutters - Here's Your First Trillion

By Dave Johnson

Today the country is looking for ways to cut spending and borrowing. Yet military spending, the biggest spending item in the budget, is barely part of the discussion -- obviously because of the amount of campaign and lobbying dollars it generates.

The corrupting influence of lobbying money is clear: the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 has not yet penetrated the bubble around the country's capital. In fact, military spending has soared in recent years:

Military_spending_chart
(Source http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/ Includes DOD, Veterans, Foreign military aid, Foreign economic aid. Does not include military share of debt interest.)

Because of this application of lobbying dollars our military spending vastly surpasses the amount spent by the rest of the world, and dominates our country's budget:

Military_spending_chart
(This is discretionary budget. Source http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/4/6/175138/6287/942/491304)

Now a bipartisan commission is willing to take this on. Commission outlines ways to cut defense spending by $1T over the next decade,

The Sustainable Defense Task Force, a commission of scholars from a broad ideological spectrum appointed by Frank, the House Financial Services Committee chairman, laid out options the government could take that could save as much as $960 billion between 2011 and 2020.

Task force sees Pentagon cuts key to US budget fix,

U.S. lawmakers and watchdog groups on Friday called for a dramatic revamp of the defense budget to reverse widening U.S. deficits, including termination of the $382 billion Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-35 fighter.

This should be a litmus test to determine the seriousness and honesty of any deficit cutters. Do they take on the big lobbying interests, or do they take it out on the poor and elderly. We'll see. The record so far is not good.

Should this teapartier be jailed?

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The Never Ending Story

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Archetypical imagery - the wall and the wire, the comforting of a child by a mother against harsh circumstance - almost a modern tarot card whose meaning could be understood by any people, anywhere, at any time in history...toujours la même chose.

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Oxana Onipko

BP Spills Coffee

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The parallels are really scary.

Actions speaking louder than words

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Barbarism and perversion at its finest. The Taliban are indeed a very a sick crew.

Official: Taliban execute boy, 7, as spy

Suspected Taliban militants publicly hanged a 7-year-old boy for spying in the militant stronghold of Helmand province, an Afghan official told the Associated Press.

The child was placed on trial by the Islamic extremist group and later found guilty of working for Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government, the local official said.

Karzai on Thursday condemned the alleged act, calling it a "crime against humanity".

New British Prime Minister David Cameron -- making his first visit to Afghanistan since being elected last month -- joined Karzai in condemning recent attacks, including the hanging.

"If this is true, it is an absolutely horrific crime," Cameron said during a news conference in Kabul. "If true, I think it says more about the Taliban than any book, than any article, than any speech could ever say."

Connie Mack Conned

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Typical anti-Hugo Chavez propaganda from the right dismantled by Stone and Ventura. Its incredible how deeply misinformed and duplicitous Mack seems to be. Talk about watching a clueless and robotic airhead making a complete fool of himself.
All I can say is " Go Jesse! and thank you, Oliver. "

Oliver Stone, Jesse Ventura On Larry King - Part 1


Part 2


Glorious Signposts of Christian Fascism

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Its interesting that Americans are so obsessively fearful of hidden Muslim terrorists that may lurk among us and yet fail to even recognize the far greater and very real threat from the Christian terrorists invading our local and national politics every day in ever increasing numbers. I guess we can chalk it up to the numbing effects of "the insanity we know".

There are wild contradictions within this belief system. Personal independence is celebrated alongside an abject subservience to leaders who claim to speak for God. The movement says it defends the sanctity of life and advocates the death penalty, militarism, war and righteous genocide. It speaks of love while promoting fear of damnation and mouthing hate. There is a terrifying cognitive dissonance in every word they utter.

The movement is, for many, an emotional life raft. It is all that holds them together. But the ideology, while it regiments and orders lives, is merciless. Those who deviate from the ideology, including "backsliders" who leave these church organizations, are branded as heretics and subjected to little inquisitions, which are the natural outgrowth of messianic movements. If the Christian right seizes the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, these little inquisitions will become big inquisitions.


The Christian Fascists Are Growing Stronger

jesusarrives.jpg

by Chris Hedges

Tens of millions of Americans, lumped into a diffuse and fractious movement known as the Christian right, have begun to dismantle the intellectual and scientific rigor of the Enlightenment. They are creating a theocratic state based on "biblical law," and shutting out all those they define as the enemy. This movement, veering closer and closer to traditional fascism, seeks to force a recalcitrant world to submit before an imperial America. It champions the eradication of social deviants, beginning with homosexuals, and moving on to immigrants, secular humanists, feminists, Jews, Muslims and those they dismiss as "nominal Christians"--meaning Christians who do not embrace their perverted and heretical interpretation of the Bible. Those who defy the mass movement are condemned as posing a threat to the health and hygiene of the country and the family. All will be purged.

The followers of deviant faiths, from Judaism to Islam, must be converted or repressed. The deviant media, the deviant public schools, the deviant entertainment industry, the deviant secular humanist government and judiciary and the deviant churches will be reformed or closed. There will be a relentless promotion of Christian "values," already under way on Christian radio and television and in Christian schools, as information and facts are replaced with overt forms of indoctrination. The march toward this terrifying dystopia has begun. It is taking place on the streets of Arizona, on cable news channels, at tea party rallies, in the Texas public schools, among militia members and within a Republican Party that is being hijacked by this lunatic fringe.

Elizabeth Dilling, who wrote "The Red Network" and was a Nazi sympathizer, is touted as required reading by trash-talk television hosts like Glenn Beck. Thomas Jefferson, who favored separation of church and state, is ignored in Christian schools and soon will be ignored in Texas public school textbooks. The Christian right hails the "significant contributions" of the Confederacy. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who led the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s, has been rehabilitated, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is defined as part of the worldwide battle against Islamic terror. Legislation like the new Jim Crow laws of Arizona is being considered by 17 other states.

The rise of this Christian fascism, a rise we ignore at our peril, is being fueled by an ineffectual and bankrupt liberal class that has proved to be unable to roll back surging unemployment, protect us from speculators on Wall Street, or save our dispossessed working class from foreclosures, bankruptcies and misery. The liberal class has proved useless in combating the largest environmental disaster in our history, ending costly and futile imperial wars or stopping the corporate plundering of the nation. And the gutlessness of the liberal class has left it, and the values it represents, reviled and hated.

The Democrats have refused to repeal the gross violations of international and domestic law codified by the Bush administration. This means that Christian fascists who achieve power will have the "legal" tools to spy on, arrest, deny habeas corpus to, and torture or assassinate American citizens--as does the Obama administration.

Those who remain in a reality-based world often dismiss these malcontents as buffoons and simpletons. They do not take seriously those, like Beck, who pander to the primitive yearnings for vengeance, new glory and moral renewal. Critics of the movement continue to employ the tools of reason, research and fact to challenge the absurdities propagated by creationists who think they will float naked into the heavens when Jesus returns to Earth. The magical thinking, the flagrant distortion in interpreting the Bible, the contradictions that abound within the movement's belief system and the laughable pseudoscience, however, are impervious to reason. We cannot convince those in the movement to wake up. It is we who are asleep.

Those who embrace this movement see life as an epic battle against forces of evil and Satanism. The world is black and white. They need to feel, even if they are not, that they are victims surrounded by dark and sinister groups bent on their destruction. They need to believe they know the will of God and can fulfill it, especially through violence. They need to sanctify their rage, a rage that lies at the core of the ideology. They seek total cultural and political domination. They are using the space within the open society to destroy it. These movements work within the confining rules of the secular state because they have no choice. The intolerance they promote is muted in the public assurances of their slickest operators. Given enough power, and they are working hard to get it, any such cooperation will vanish. The demand for total control and for a Christian nation and the refusal to permit any dissent are on display within their inner sanctums. These pastors have established within their churches tiny, despotic fiefdoms, and they seek to replicate these little tyrannies on a larger scale.

0% Chance of Spill in Gulf

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Talk about your comedy of errors... terrors to follow.

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

The Obvious Solution Is To Invade BP

What you don't want to recognize about the unpeople of the world:

Wrecking a Third World country's economy and savaging its civilians are such standard U.S. elite behavior that it is barely noticed, let alone criticized in the mass media or halls of Congress.

Perhaps the most dramatic example of America's imperial mentality, however, is the answer to the following question:

Which nation's leaders since 1945 have murdered, maimed, made homeless, tortured, assassinated and impoverished the largest number of civilians who were not its own citizens?

I have asked this question of Americans in every walk of life since I discovered the bombing of Laos in 1969. It's a simple matter of fact, not involving judgments of right and wrong, and I remain astonished at how most answer "the Russians," "the Chinese," or just have no idea that their own leaders have killed more noncitizen civilians than the rest of the world's leaders combined since 1945.

The bodies of Indochinese and Iraqi civilians for which U.S. leaders bear responsibility would, if laid end to end, stretch from New York to California. These would include the huge proportion of civilians among the 3.4 million Vietnamese that Robert McNamara estimated were killed in Vietnam (over 90 percent by U.S. firepower), Laotian and Cambodian civilians felled by the largest per capita and most indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets in history, the 1 million to 1.5 million Iraqis estimated by the U.N.'s Denis Halliday to have died from Clinton's sanctions "designed," in Halliday's words, "to kill civilians, particularly children," and the hundreds of thousands killed as a result of the Bush invasion.

The total number of civilians killed, wounded, made homeless and impoverished by U.S. leaders or local regimes owing their power to U.S. guns and aid--in not only Indochina and Iraq but Mexico, El Salvador, Israel/Palestine, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Egypt, Iran, South Africa, Chile, East Timor, Haiti, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Jamaica, the Philippines and Indonesia--is in the tens of millions.


A Warning From Noam Chomsky on the Threat of Elites

By Fred Branfman

Noam Chomsky's description of the dangers posed by U.S. elites' "Imperial Mentality" was recently given a boost in credibility by a surprising source--Bill Clinton. As America's economy, foreign policy and politics continue to unravel, it is clear that this mentality and the system it has created will produce an increasing number of victims in the years to come. Clinton startlingly testified to that effect on March 10 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

"Since 1981 the United States has followed a policy until the last year or so, when we started rethinking it, that we rich countries that produce a lot of food should sell it to poor countries and relieve them of the burden of producing their own food so thank goodness they can lead directly into the industrial era. It has not worked. It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake. It was a mistake that I was a party to. I am not pointing the finger at anybody. I did that. I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did, nobody else."

Clinton is to be praised for being the first U.S. president to take personal responsibility for impoverishing an entire nation rather than ignoring his misdeeds or falsely blaming local U.S.-imposed regimes. But his confession also means that his embrace of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and NAFTA "neo-liberalization" destroyed the lives of many more millions well beyond Haiti, as U.S. support for heavily subsidized U.S. agribusiness damaged local agricultural economies throughout Latin America and beyond. This led to mass migration into urban slums and destitution, as well as increased emigration to the U.S.--which then led Clinton to militarize the border in 1994--and thus accelerated the "illegal immigration" issue that so poisons U.S. politics today.

Clinton might also have added that he and other U.S. leaders imposed such policies by force, installing military dictators and vicious police and paramilitary forces. Chomsky reports in "Hopes and Prospects" that in Haiti, semiofficial thugs empowered by a U.S.-supported coup murdered 8,000 people and raped 35,000 women in 2004 and 2005 alone, while a tiny local elite reaps most of the benefits from U.S. policies.

Clinton's testimony reminded me of one of my visits with Chomsky, back in 1988, when, after talking for an hour or so, he smiled and said he had to stop to get back to writing about the children of Haiti.

I was struck both by his concern for forgotten Haitians and because his comment so recalled my experience with him in 1970 as he spent a week researching U.S. war-making in Laos. I had taken dozens of journalists, peace activists, diplomats, experts and others out to camps of refugees who had fled U.S. saturation bombing. Chomsky was one of only two who wept openly upon learning how these innocent villagers had seen their beloved grandmothers burned alive, their children slowly suffocated, their spouses cut to ribbons, during five years of merciless, pitiless and illegal U.S. bombing for which U.S. leaders would have been executed had international law protecting civilians in wartime been applied to their actions. It was obvious that he was above all driven by a deep feeling for the world's victims, those he calls the "unpeople" in his new book. No U.S. policymakers I knew in Laos, nor the many I have met since, have shared such concerns.

Bill Clinton's testimony also reminded me of the accuracy of Chomsky writings on Haiti--before, during and after Clinton's reign--as summed up in "Hopes and Prospects":

"The Clinton doctrine, presented to Congress, was that the US is entitled to resort to "unilateral use of military power" to ensure "uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources." In Haiti, Clinton [imposed] harsh neoliberal rules that were guaranteed to crush what remained of the economy, as they did."

Clinton would have a cleaner conscience today had he listened to Chomsky then. Many more Americans may also benefit by heeding Chomsky today, as U.S. elites' callousness toward unpeople abroad is now affecting increasing numbers of their fellow citizens back home. Nothing symbolizes this more than investment bankers tricking countless Americans out of their life savings by luring them into buying homes they could not afford that were then foreclosed on.

O'Reilly a Homophobe?

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Say it ain't so, Joe!

Here's a French McDonald's ad based on their inclusive "Come as you are" slogan and then O'Reilly's take on it.

To Breed or Not to Breed

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Readers are invited to respond to the following questions in the comment section:

  • If a child is likely to have a life full of pain and suffering is that a reason against bringing the child into existence?
  • If a child is likely to have a happy, healthy life, is that a reason for bringing the child into existence?
  • Is life worth living, for most people in developed nations today?
  • Is a world with people in it better than a world with no sentient beings at all?
  • Would it be wrong for us all to agree not to have children, so that we would be the last generation on Earth?


Should This Be the Last Generation?

By Peter Singer

Have you ever thought about whether to have a child? If so, what factors entered into your decision? Was it whether having children would be good for you, your partner and others close to the possible child, such as children you may already have, or perhaps your parents? For most people contemplating reproduction, those are the dominant questions. Some may also think about the desirability of adding to the strain that the nearly seven billion people already here are putting on our planet's environment. But very few ask whether coming into existence is a good thing for the child itself. Most of those who consider that question probably do so because they have some reason to fear that the child's life would be especially difficult -- for example, if they have a family history of a devastating illness, physical or mental, that cannot yet be detected prenatally.

All this suggests that we think it is wrong to bring into the world a child whose prospects for a happy, healthy life are poor, but we don't usually think the fact that a child is likely to have a happy, healthy life is a reason for bringing the child into existence. This has come to be known among philosophers as "the asymmetry" and it is not easy to justify. But rather than go into the explanations usually proffered -- and why they fail -- I want to raise a related problem. How good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world? Is the standard of life experienced by most people in developed nations today good enough to make this decision unproblematic, in the absence of specific knowledge that the child will have a severe genetic disease or other problem?

The 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer held that even the best life possible for humans is one in which we strive for ends that, once achieved, bring only fleeting satisfaction. New desires then lead us on to further futile struggle and the cycle repeats itself.

Schopenhauer's pessimism has had few defenders over the past two centuries, but one has recently emerged, in the South African philosopher David Benatar, author of a fine book with an arresting title: "Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence." One of Benatar's arguments trades on something like the asymmetry noted earlier. To bring into existence someone who will suffer is, Benatar argues, to harm that person, but to bring into existence someone who will have a good life is not to benefit him or her. Few of us would think it right to inflict severe suffering on an innocent child, even if that were the only way in which we could bring many other children into the world. Yet everyone will suffer to some extent, and if our species continues to reproduce, we can be sure that some future children will suffer severely. Hence continued reproduction will harm some children severely, and benefit none.

We Told You So

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The conservative exhortation to "Drill, Baby, Drill" wasn't cautious or conservative at all; its equivalent to telling a kid to "go ahead and run with those scissors".

The Oil Spill and the Republicans

by Robert Creamer

The frustration and anxiety of Americans about the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico grows by the day. Those whose livelihood is tied to the Gulf -- or who live in the wetlands of Louisiana, and communities along the coast -- are justifiable demanding the deployment of war-time levels of personnel and equipment to stop the dark, deadly oil that is invading from the sea.

In times of national crisis, Americans look to the President to lead -- and to deliver. That's why President Obama was absolutely correct to make it crystal clear that he is personally responsible to deal with the oil spill crisis -- and has told his Administration to spare no effort to stop the leak, oversee the cleanup, and assure that BP completely compensates the massive number of victims.

Increasingly sharp criticism has been leveled at the President because BP has so far been unable to stop the leak. The problem, of course, is that most of the critics have few suggestions about what the Administration might do that it isn't doing.

And it is down right remarkable that the critics, include Republicans like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who less that two years ago were joining Republican oil industry "expert" Sarah Palin in the juvenile Republican convention chant "Drill Baby Drill!"

"Drill Baby Drill!" was not just intended to promote more offshore oil drilling. It was intended to mock Democratic concerns for the environmental impact of offshore drilling. It was intended to dismiss their opposition to drilling as stupid, "tree-hugging," anti-growth, "elite" concerns. It was intended to mock those who feared that offshore drilling would despoil our natural resources. It was intended to label them -- in the words of the late Republican Vice-President Spiro Agnew -- as "effete, nattering nabobs of negativism" -- part of the "chablis and brie" set that is completely disconnected from the lives of ordinary Americans who drink beer, work hard and get their hands dirty producing the products and the food we need in our everyday lives.

Of course things haven't turned out that way. The victims of the BP oil disaster are the shrimpers and the oystermen -- the people who own the mom and pop restaurants and coffee shops -- the folks who drive their pickup trucks to a job in the tourist industry along the Mississippi coast. The real victims are the fathers who want to take their sons hunting in the Louisiana wetlands the way their father took them.

And the real beneficiaries of the Bush-Cheney-Republican energy policy have not been ordinary Americans -- they are the giant oil companies that have become economic behemoths by encouraging the world's addiction to oil and preventing the development of energy alternatives that would end our dependence.

The fact is that while Big Oil has been polluting the Gulf with what now appears to be 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil -- or more -- each day since April, it has been polluting our politics with millions of dollars in campaign contributions for decades.

In the last three and a half years, the oil industry has given over $35 million dollars to the Republicans. Big Oil paid for "drill baby drill" just as surely as United Airlines paid for the naming rights of the United Center in Chicago.

There are two underlying causes for this disaster:

Help the DGA fight back!

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Drug War Dunces

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It takes a certain level of willful ignorance to consider the War on Drugs as anything other than a gigantic money making bureaucratic ruse. It certainly has nothing to do with actually stemming the flow of drugs or improving anything about society really. In fact, its effects have proved to be exactly the opposite in every respect and has actually done more in human and social damage than the drugs ever possibly could. The recent Jamaican tragedy of 73 dead because some body in Washington decided to make a political move by getting a local 'Robin Hood' extradited to the US is a perfect example of the multitude of reasons that the War on Drugs should be dismantled.


'War on drugs' behind endless misery

By Evan Wood

evan.wood.ubc.jpgEvan Wood is the founder of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy; the director of the Urban Health Program at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and associate professor in the Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia.

The news of intense drug-related violence out of Jamaica is shocking and dreadful but entirely predictable. Wherever the war on drugs touches down, death and destruction result. A recent target is Kingston, Jamaica.

When law enforcement attempted to smoke out Christopher "Dudus" Coke, wanted in the U.S. for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine and to traffic in firearms, scores of people died in the urban warfare. The death toll reached 73 civilians as Jamaicans were caught in the crossfire between police, soldiers and armed thugs.

Rival drug gangs used the confusion to eliminate their enemies and further ratchet up the violence. Coke has since agreed to surrender to officials in New York, because he "feels it is in his best interest to be taken to the U.S. rather than to a Jamaican jail," sources told the Jamaican Observer, but not before scores of people died.

Given that the scenes of violence between rival drug gangs are so common, people often fail to consider the factors that fuel this violence. The reality is that Jamaicans are just the latest victims in a misguided and expensive war that has taken countless thousands of lives, from the streets of New York to the slums and shantytowns of Colombia, Mexico and other third-world nations.

In more than four decades since former U.S. President Nixon first declared America's "war on drugs," the battles against spreading disease, increasing violence and the ongoing destruction of families and neighborhoods have been lost.

Mexico, a country all too familiar with violence as a way of life, is today a stark example of how crackdowns on drug cartels by American and local law enforcement agencies have utterly failed.

The horrible drug-related violence in Mexico was intensified by President Felipe Calderón, with strong U.S. support. This crackdown has resulted in about 23,000 drug-related deaths across the country since 2006. The bloodiest war has been fought in Juárez, a besieged city of 1.3 million on the U.S. border, where 5,100 people have been killed since 2008.

The global drug war has created a massive illicit market with an estimated annual value of $320 billion. In April, the newly created International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, of which I am founder, released a review of every English-language study to examine the link between drug law enforcement and violence.

The review clearly demonstrates that the astronomical profits created by drug prohibition drive organized crime and its related violence. Several studies included in the report suggested that law enforcement's removal of key players from the drug trade, such as Christopher Coke, only creates power vacuums that lead to violent and deadly competition. Many victims are not involved in the drug trade, as today's civilian deaths in Mexico, the U.S. and Kingston's slums illustrate.

The war on drugs has generated a lucrative, cash-rich industry that has -- not surprisingly -- lured poverty-stricken participants from throughout the impoverished third world. In West Africa, entire countries, such as Guinea-Bissau, are at risk of becoming "narco-states" as Colombian cocaine traffickers employ West African trade routes to distribute cocaine into destination markets in Europe, Russia and the Middle East.

Estimates now suggest that 27 percent of all cocaine destined for Europe is transited through West Africa and is worth more than $1.8 billion annually wholesale -- and as much as 10 times that amount at the retail level. Illicit drugs are big business, with the influence and global reach that goes along the ability to create widespread wealth.

Another conclusion of the review was the clear evidence that drug law enforcement has failed to reduce the availability of illegal drugs.

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