January 2011 Archives
With the Super Bowl only a week away, Americans must realize what makes NFL football so great: socialism. That's right, for all the F-15 flyovers and flag waving, football is our most successful sport because the NFL takes money from the rich teams and gives it to the poor teams... just like President Obama wants to do with his secret army of ACORN volunteers. Green Bay, Wisconsin has a population of 100,000. Yet this sleepy little town on the banks of the Fuck-if-I-know River has just as much of a chance of making it to the Super Bowl as the New York Jets - who next year need to just shut the hell up and play.
Now, me personally, I haven't watched a Super Bowl since 2004, when Janet Jackson's nipple popped out during half time, and that split-second glimpse of an unrestrained black titty burned my eyes and offended me as a Christian. But I get it - who doesn't love the spectacle of juiced-up millionaires giving each other brain damage on a giant flat-screen TV with a picture so realistic it feels like Ben Roethlisberger is in your living room, grabbing your sister?
It's no surprise that some 100 million Americans will watch the Super Bowl next week - that's 40 million more than go to church on Christmas - suck on that, Jesus! It's also 85 million more than watched the last game of the World Series, and in that is an economic lesson for America. Because football is built on an economic model of fairness and opportunity, and baseball is built on a model where the rich almost always win and the poor usually have no chance. The World Series is like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. You have to be a rich bitch just to play. The Super Bowl is like Tila Tequila. Anyone can get in.
Or to put it another way, football is more like the Democratic philosophy. Democrats don't want to eliminate capitalism or competition, but they'd like it if some kids didn't have to go to a crummy school in a rotten neighborhood while others get to go to a great school and their Dad gets them into Harvard. Because when that happens "achieving the American dream" is easy for some, and just a fantasy for others.
That's why the NFL runs itself in a way that would fit nicely on Glenn Beck's chalkboard - they literally share the wealth, through salary caps and revenue sharing - TV is their biggest source of revenue, and they put all of it in a big commie pot and split it 32 ways. Because they don't want anyone to fall too far behind. That's why the team that wins the Super Bowl picks last in the next draft. Or what the Republicans would call "punishing success."
Baseball, on the other hand, is exactly like the Republicans, and I don't just mean it's incredibly boring. I mean their economic theory is every man for himself. The small market Pittsburgh Steelers go to the Super Bowl more than anybody - but the Pittsburgh Pirates? Levi Johnston has sperm that will not grow up and live long enough to see the Pirates in a World Series. Their payroll is about $40 million, and the Yankees is $206 million. They have about as much chance at getting in the playoffs as a poor black teenager from Newark has of becoming the CEO of Halliburton. That's why people stop going to Pirate games in May, because if you're not in the game, you become indifferent to the fate of the game, and maybe even get bitter - that's what's happening to the middle class in America. It's also how Marie Antoinette lost her head.
So, you kind of have to laugh - the same angry white males who hate Obama because he's "redistributing wealth" just love football, a sport that succeeds economically because it does exactly that. To them, the NFL is as American as hot dogs, Chevrolet, apple pie, and a second, giant helping of apple pie. But then again, they think they're macho because their sport is football, when honestly - is there anything gayer than wearing another man's shirt?
Egyptian state TV reported Sunday morning that the Al Jazeera office in Cairo is being shut down and Al Jazeera reporters are losing their press credentials in Egypt.
Al Jazeera correspondent Dan Nolan tweeted the news at about 11 a.m. local time, adding that Al Jazeera's licenses were revoked, per state media.
Nolan quickly added, "Don't worry we'll still report what's happening in #Egypt no matter what new restrictions they put on us."
Another Al Jazeera employee Evan Hill put the news this way: "State TV announces Al Jazeera's broadcasting license and press cards are being revoked. Our bureau is packing up."
Al Jazeera released a statement on Sunday that it "strongly denounces and condemns the closure of its bureau in Cairo by the Egyptian government." The network says it received notification from authorities on Sunday morning that information minister [Anas al-Fikki] had ordered the suspension of Al Jazeera. It also vowed to "continue its strong coverage regardless."
Follow the latest developments in Egypt by watching the Al Jazeera English livestream here and following our live blog here.
How insane is it that American cable is not allowing one of the best news networks on the planet to be seen? Since I watch TV content of any sort 99% of the time on line, I wasn't aware that such blackouts were occurring. They make American news shows look almost like amateurs. Seriously...check Al Jazeera English out here for an idea of what's really going around the world.
Al Jazeera English Blacked Out Across Most Of U.S.
Ryan Grim Huff Post
Canadian television viewers looking for the most thorough and in-depth coverage of the uprising in Egypt have the option of tuning into Al Jazeera English, whose on-the-ground coverage of the turmoil is unmatched by any other outlet. American viewers, meanwhile, have little choice but to wait until one of the U.S. cable-company-approved networks broadcasts footage from AJE, which the company makes publicly available. What they can't do is watch the network directly.
Other than in a handful of pockets across the U.S. - including Ohio, Vermont and Washington, D.C. - cable carriers do not give viewers the choice of watching Al Jazeera.
That corporate censorship comes as American diplomats harshly criticize the Egyptian government for blocking Internet communication inside the country and as Egypt attempts to block Al Jazeera from broadcasting.
Al Jazeera English launched in the fall of 2006, opening a large bureau on K Street in downtown Washington, but has made little progress in persuading cable companies to offer the channel to its customers.
The objections from the cable companies have come for both political and commercial reasons, said Burman, the former editor-in-chief of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "In 2006, pre-Obama, the experience was a challenging one. Essentially this was a period when a lot of negative stereotypes were associated with Al Jazeera. The effort was a difficult one," he said, citing the Bush administration's public hostility to the network.
"There was reluctance from these companies to embark in a direction that would perhaps be opposed by the Bush administration. I think that's changed. I think if anything the Obama administration has indicated to Al Jazeera that it sees us as part of the solution, not part of the problem," Burman said.
Cable companies are also worried, said Burman, that they will lose more subscribers than they will gain by granting access to Al Jazeera. The Canadian experience, he said, should put those fears to rest. In Canada, national regulators can require cable companies to provide certain channels and Al Jazeera ran a successful campaign to encourage Canadians to push the government to intervene. There has been extremely little negative reaction over the past year as Canadians have been able to view the channel and decide for themselves. "We had a completely different process and result here in Canada -- a grassroots campaign that was overwhelmingly successful," said Avi Lewis, the former host of Al Jazeera's Frontline USA. (He now freelances for Al Jazeera while working on a documentary project with his wife, Naomi Klein.)
UPDATE: A reader emails to say that Al Jazeera programming is also being carried by the satellite channel LinkTV, which can be found on channel 9410 on Dish Network and 375 on DirecTV.
by Anthony Shadid
The Egyptian military reinforced parts of the capital on Sunday with tanks, jets and helicopters as tens of thousands of protesters flooded central Cairo for the sixth day, defying yet again government orders of a nationwide curfew.
The uprising, which began as a spontaneous grass-roots movement, appeared to coalesce, at least for the moment, as the largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, threw its support behind a leading opposition figure, the Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, to negotiate on behalf of the protesters.
Mr. ElBaradei arrived in Liberation Square, the center of the protests, shortly after nightfall and addressed the crowd through a bullhorn.
"We are beginning a new era in Egypt," he said. "What we have begun cannot be reversed.
"We have a key demand: for Mubarak to step down and to start a new era."
It was another momentous occasion in a week of some of the most tumultuous events in modern Egyptian history. But even as the nation was buoyed by euphoria that three decades of President Hosni Mubarak's rule may be coming to an end, it was seized by growing fears of lawlessness.
In a stunning collapse of authority, most of the police force had withdrawn from major cities and thousands of inmates poured out of four prisons.
The United States said it was organizing flights to evacuate its citizens, urging all Americans in Egypt to "consider leaving as soon as they can safely do so" and underlining a deep sense of pessimism among Egypt's allies over Mr. Mubarak's fate.
Mark your calendar FEB 9th for a must see Nova program:
So, on February 9, IBM's Watson will be in an official Jeopardy tournament-style competition with titans of trivia Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. That competition will be taped starting tomorrow, but hopefully we'll get to know if a computer really can take down the greatest Jeopardy players of all time in "real time" as the show airs. It will be a historic event on par with Deep Blue vs. Garry Kasparov, and we'll absolutely be glued to our seats. Today IBM and Jeopardy offered a quick teaser of that match, with the three contestants knocking out three categories at lightning speed. Not a single question was answered wrongly, and at the end of the match Watson, who answers questions with a cold computer voice, telegraphing his certainty with simple color changes on his "avatar," was ahead with $4,400, Ken had $3,400, and Brad had $1,200.
Click pic below for full article and teaser video
More than 99 per cent voted in favour of secession from the north in January referendum, preliminary results show.
Close to 99 per cent of those who cast their ballots in south Sudan's referendum voted in favour of secession from the north, a referendum official has said.
"The vote for separation was 99.57 per cent," Chan Reek Madut, the deputy head of the commission organising the vote, told cheering crowds on Sunday in the first official announcement of preliminary results. The figure did not include voters in north Sudan and other countries, a small proportion of the electorate. Final results from the January 9-15 referendum are expected early next month.
Five of the 10 states in Sudan's oil-producing south showed a 99.9 per cent vote for separation and the lowest vote was 95.5 per cent in favour in the western state of Bahr al-Ghazal which borders north Sudan, according to the preliminary results.
According to the commission website, 3,851,994 votes were cast during the week-long vote.
Hundreds of officials and diplomats had gathered at the grave of John Garang, a rebel leader, for the announcement.
"The prayer I say the people of Southern Sudan have been waiting for for 55 years, the prayer of a country," Episcopalian Archbishop Daniel Deng said as he opened the ceremony.
"Bless the name of this land, southern Sudan," he said.
The referendum was promised in a 2005 peace agreement that ended more than two decades of conflict between the Christian-dominated south and the mainly Arab Muslim north.
Rebel leader Garang died in a plane crash just days after signing the deal.
Poifek, I tells ya...poifek...
Ah, the boring and trite culture wars...
Its one thing to have an opinion based on deeply held personal beliefs, it's another to want to cram them down everyone else's throats by law. There's a distinct psychotic fervor that surrounds the concept of abortion and those who vehemently oppose it. Their rationale always falls to magical thinking premises like claiming that human rights starts at conception for which there isn't the slightest shred of evidence to warrant such a position.
I consider the people who would support the legislation mentioned in the NY Times Op-Ed below to be spiritually addled, intellectually corrupt and fascist in their desire to enforce their moral choices on the rest us. They are idiots not because of their personal beliefs about abortion, but because of their belief that it is ethical to universally enforce their beliefs by legislation. That they can't understand that error in thinking demonstrates perfectly how out of touch and psychotic they are.
For conservatives the right to life begins at conception and ends at birth. - Barney Frank
The Two Abortion Wars: A Highly Intrusive Federal Bill
House Republicans are preparing to push through restrictions on federal financing of abortions far more extreme than previously proposed at the federal level. Lawmakers who otherwise rail against big government have made it one of their highest priorities to take the decision about a legal medical procedure out of the hands of individuals and turn it over to the government.
Their primary bill --the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" -- is so broad that it could block insurance coverage for abortions for countless American women.
The anti-abortion forces almost derailed health care reform last year over whether people could buy policies that cover abortion on new insurance exchanges. The compromise embedded in the reform law sets up a hugely complicated plan to segregate an individual's premium payments from the government subsidies. It is so burdensome that it seems likely to discourage insurers from offering any abortion coverage at all on the exchanges.
But anti-abortion lawmakers are not satisfied. The new bill, introduced by Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican, would bar outright the use of federal subsidies to buy any insurance that covers abortion well beyond the new exchanges.
The tax credits that are encouraging small businesses to provide insurance for their workers could not be used to buy policies that cover abortions. People with their own policies who have enough expenses to claim an income tax deduction could not deduct either the premiums for policies that cover abortion or the cost of an abortion. People who use tax-preferred savings accounts to pay medical costs could not use the money to pay for an abortion without paying taxes on it.
The only tax subsidy left untouched is the exclusion that allows workers whose premiums are subsidized by their employers to avoid paying taxes on the value of the subsidy. Many, if not most, employer-sponsored insurance plans cover abortions. There would have been a huge political battle if workers were suddenly told they had to pay taxes on the benefit or change their policies.
The Smith bill also would take certain restrictions on federal financing for abortions that now must be renewed every year and make them permanent. It would allow federal financing of abortions in cases of "forcible" rape but not statutory or coerced rape, and in cases where a woman is in danger of death from her pregnancy but not of other serious health damage. It would free states from having to provide abortions in such emergency cases.
A separate Republican bill would deny federal funds for family planning services to any organization that provides abortions. It is aimed primarily at Planned Parenthood's hundreds of health centers, which also provide many other valuable services. No federal money is used for the abortions. This is a reckless effort to cripple an irreplaceable organization out of pure politics.
Exactly right. It's ridiculous that service people can still be brought up under the DADT charges at the same time it is implementing changes to the rules.
A federal appeals court has denied the government's request to suspend a lawsuit challenging the military's ban on openly gay servicemembers.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued an order Friday requiring the Department of Justice to file papers by Feb. 25 arguing why the court should overturn a Southern California trial judge who declared the "don't ask, don't tell" policy unconstitutional.
Government lawyers asked the 9th Circuit earlier this month to set aside the case because the Pentagon was moving quickly to satisfy the steps Congress outlined last month when it voted to allow the ban's repeal. A Justice Department spokeswoman said it had no comment Saturday.
The appeals court did not explain in its order why it rejected the request. In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said he expected to finalize the repeal and allow openly gay Americans to join the armed forces before the end of the year.
On Friday, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters that the training of officers and troops the Pentagon has said is a predicate to full repeal would begin in February.
The Log Cabin Republicans, the gay political group whose lawsuit challenging "don't ask, don't tell" persuaded District Court Judge Virginia Phillips in September to enjoin the military from enforcing the policy, had opposed the government's effort to put the case on hold.
R. Clarke Cooper, the group's president, said Saturday that while he thinks the Pentagon's efforts are sincere, the case should proceed as long as gay servicemembers still can be discharged.
"We said all along to the government we would drop our case if they would cease all discharges and remove all barriers to open service," Cooper said.
Cooper, an Army reserve officer, said he knew of at least one service member facing a discharge hearing next month, even as the Pentagon moves forward with its training plan.
"We are not questioning the implementation process. We recognize the need for a deliberative process for implementing proper training materials and guidances for leadership," he said. "But when you have a servicemember going before a discharge panel, this is kind of a 'left hand-right hand' thing that is happening."
We are being left in the dust.
Spain is joining the ranks of several other countries by laying more high-speed capable track, paving the way for reduced travel time and improved infrastructure.
Last week in Madrid, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and King Juan Carlos opened a high-speed railroad linking Madrid, the Spanish capital and largest city, and Valencia, the country's third-largest city after Barcelona. The new track means Spain holds the crown of Europe's biggest high-speed rail network, underlining the extent to which infrastructure spending has been at the heart of the country's boom-and-bust economy.
The 242-mile link between Madrid and Valencia extended Spain's high-speed rail lines to slightly more than 1,240 miles. France has 1,178 miles and Germany has about 800 miles.
To achieve Europe's current high-speed rail gold standard hasn't been cheap, with the projecting currently surpassing $15.7 billion, including the construction of a handful of new railway stations - adding to Spain's acute budgetary difficulties, which have recently unsettled investors and sent its borrowing costs soaring.
Spain is also in cahoots with France over a new rail line that will split the Pyrenees mountains, a move that will eventually lead to a cross-border, high-speed rail link connecting Paris, Barcelona and Madrid.
China currently possesses the most significant investment in high-speed rail which will increase further when it plans to cover 8,125 miles by 2012 and 10,000 miles by 2020. Overall China will have 42 high-speed routes. In comparison, across the Atlantic President Obama has insisted the US will improve on its ailing rail infrastructure. However despite planned high-speed rail networks in California, the US will still lag well behind China and Europe.
Its likely the Muslim Brotherhood will play a hand, but my choice would be Mohamed ElBaradei
President Gamal Abdel Nasser brought Egypt dictatorship, economic ruin and humiliation in the six-day war with Israel. On his sudden death from a heart attack in 1970 Egyptians erupted in grief; some 5m people mobbed the funeral. His successor, Anwar Sadat, freed political prisoners, revived the economy and won a peace agreement with Israel that got back what Nasser had lost. When he was assassinated in 1981, Egypt fell eerily silent. His funeral was attended by foreign leaders but very few of his own people.
To be fair, even Egyptians who loathed Nasser agreed with his aims and felt for his tragedy. And even Sadat's fans grew to fear his increasingly mercurial temper and were relieved by his exit. Still, Egyptians' contrasting responses to their leaders' passing raises an obvious question. Hosni Mubarak, who has now been in power longer than his two predecessors put together, arouses little of the passion that either of them did. How will Egyptians regard his legacy?
Mr Mubarak is 82 years old, and in recent years he has spent much of his time away from Cairo, at the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. His health is not good. Even before an operation in Germany took him out of action for six weeks this spring, Egypt's president had suffered bouts of illness in full view of the public. In 2003 he collapsed while making a speech at the People's Assembly, prompting the defence minister to lock MPs in the chamber until doctors had revived the president in an anteroom. Last year, upset by the recent death of a grandson, Mr Mubarak appeared ashen-faced and seemingly too infirm to descend some steps to greet an important visitor, Barack Obama.
Yet the Egyptian president seems to have no intention of stepping down. A few years ago he said that he would serve his country until his last breath and heartbeat. In his first speech following his recent surgery he declared himself stronger than ever in will and determination, vowing to fulfil his promise to "build the pillars of democracy"--an edifice which, at the current pace of construction, looks unlikely to be completed in the foreseeable future. When asked who will be the next president, his stock answer is an enigmatic "Only God knows." Officials of the ruling party routinely answer questions about their candidate for the 2011 presidential election by pointing out that no one is as qualified as Mr Mubarak.
They mean the senior Mubarak, despite the fact that his younger son, Gamal, has played a remarkably prominent role in the ruling NDP for the past decade and often appears at his father's side. Officially third in the party's command structure, the 47-year-old former banker has long been assumed to be his father's intended successor. Changes to the constitution introduced in 2007, allowing a select few candidates to emerge for presidential elections, were widely seen as a fix. The senior Mr Mubarak had repeatedly promised that there would be no "inherited" presidency, and the new arrangements make it possible for his son to be duly elected.
How far will it go? All the way to 2012? Hah!
How about urging reforms in the US before people get as sick of the government here as they are in Egypt? Think it can't happen here? It can.
China reacts typically:
Beijing blocks searches for "Egypt" from microblogging site following protests there.
China has blocked the word "Egypt'' from the country's wildly popular Twitter-like service, while coverage of the political turmoil has been tightly restricted in state media.
China's ruling Communist Party is sensitive to any potential source of social unrest.
A search for "Egypt'' on the Sina microblogging service brings up a message saying, "According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, the search results are not shown".
The service has more than 50 million users.
News on the Egypt protests has been limited to a few paragraphs and photos buried inside major news websites, but China Central Television had a report on its midday broadcast.
China's foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment Saturday on the events in Egypt.
Protesters gather across the country, demanding the prime minister step down.
Thousands of people in Jordan have taken to the streets in protests, demanding the country's prime minister step down, and the government curb rising prices, inflation and unemployment.
In the third consecutive Friday of protests, about 3,500 opposition activists from Jordan's main Islamist opposition group, trade unions and leftist organisations gathered in the capital, waving colourful banners reading: "Send the corrupt guys to court".
The crowd denounced Samir Rifai's, the prime minister, and his unpopular policies.
Many shouted: "Rifai go away, prices are on fire and so are the Jordanians.''
Another 2,500 people also took to the streets in six other cities across the country after the noon prayers. Those protests also called for Rifai's ouster.
Activists calling for the ouster of president clash with government supporters in Sanaa.
Mummy destroying and other looting thugs (reported as the police in civilian clothes)should be shot dead!
Mummies destroyed at museum
Mubarak fires cabinet, appoints new vice president, prime minister but refuses to step down; scores killed, thousands wounded; mummies destroyed at museum
Looters broke into the Egyptian Museum during anti-government protests late Friday and destroyed two Pharaonic mummies, Egypt's top archaeologist told state television. As many as seven other mummies had been damaged, according to media reports.
"Egyptian citizens tried to prevent them and were joined by the tourism police, but some (looters) managed to enter from above and they destroyed two of the mummies," he said. He added looters had also ransacked the ticket office.
Looters and protesters, many smeared in red, filled the streets. Residents of affluent neighborhoods were boarding up their houses against gangs of thugs roaming the streets with knives and sticks and gunfire was heard in some neighborhoods.
"There are many people who are afraid in Cairo right now," reporter Engel told msnbc. "The police have abandoned the city and when the police left, protesters had run of the city."
Many communities have formed local militia to help protect their neighborhoods and streets from widespread violence, Al Jazeera reported.
On Dec. 17, a young fruit seller set himself on fire in front of the Sidi Bouzid regional council in central Tunisia.
Exactly four weeks later Mohamed Bouazizi's act of desperation toppled the repressive regime that had ruled for 23 years.
Mohamed dropped out before high school to help support his family of eight. His uncle had bought a small farm in R'gueb, near Sidi Bouzid, but the farm was one of those shut down due to corrupt land appropriations in the region.
So Mohamed was forced to return to Sidi Bouzid to try to earn a living selling fruit and vegetables in the street.
Street vending is illegal in Tunisia, and city authorities regularly confiscated Mohamed's small wheelbarrow of fruit. But Mohamed had no other option to try to make a living, and he bought his merchandise by getting into debt. It was a vicious circle.
That Friday morning, he had contracted roughly $200 in debt for his goods. Police spotted him, confiscated his cart and reportedly slapped him in the face in the process.
Mohamed was desperate and angry. So he went to regional government headquarters to try to plead his case with the governor.
Nobody would listen to him and he was thrown out. Mohamed, enraged, bought two bottles of paint thinner and set himself alight in front of the building. He was rushed to hospital, but died Jan. 4.
Local protests erupted as soon as Mohamed was taken away.
The national police chief was dispatched to Sidi Bouzid that night. The following day a peaceful march was organized in memory of Mohamed, but police shot tear gas to disperse the crowd. Over the next two weeks, sporadic protests continued.
But it was when Mohamed succumbed to his injuries that protests began to spread. Fed by Twitter and Facebook, crowds of young people began to march in Tunis and in some of Tunisia's wealthy coastal enclaves. After three days of compromises by Ben Ali and increasing numbers on the street, the president flew off to Paris.
Brisenia Flores was a 9-year-old girl murdered in Arizona by anti-immigrant vigilantes, yet her death - unlike that of the 9-year old killed last week in Arizona - is getting almost no attention in the U.S. mainstream media.
According to reports by the UK press [full report], Brisenia Flores was gunned down at point-blank range in her own home in Flores, Arizona, as her terrified mother Gina Gonzalez, who had also been hit, played dead on the floor.
Shawna Forde, the head of the Minutemen American Defence group, is on trial accused of two charges of first degree murder.
Her trial is underway in Arizona now. Forde and her co-conspirator Bush -- who reportedly has ties to the white supremacist Aryan Nation -- broke into the home of 29-year-old Raul Flores, Brisenia's dad, on May 30, 2009. This was just six weeks after Forde's issue of a call for a political revolt. As related this week at Forde's trial:
According to testimony, Bush shot Flores, then Gonzalez. Gonzalez was hit in the shoulder and leg and slumped to the floor. She testified that she played dead as she heard Bush pump more bullets into her husband as Brisenia woke up.
"Why did you shoot my dad?" the girl asked, sobbing, according to Gonzalez's testimony. "Why did you shoot my mom?"
Gonzalez said she heard Bush slowly reload his gun and that he then ignored Brisenia's pleas and fired.
It's hard to comprehend such an act of violence, especially one involving a child. Certainly, the links to anti-immigrant politics and rhetoric seem to be much clearer in this case than in the more recent shooting, but this story is receiving virtually no attention from mainstream media. In part, this is the white racial frame at play, drawing our attention to white victims and obscuring from view the lives of people of color.
Protesters are returning to the streets of Egypt, following violent overnight demonstrations across the country staged in defiance of a curfew.
Demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on Saturday morning, shouting "Go away, go away!", the Reuters news agency said.
Similar crowds were gathering in the cities of Alexandria and Suez, Al Jazeera's correspondents reported.
In Alexandria, our correspondent Rawya Rageh reported that dozens of marchers were calling on Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to step down.
"They are calling for regime change, not cabinet change," Rageh said.
In Suez, Al Jazeera's Jamal ElShayyal reported that protesters were gathering, and that the military was not confronting them.
ElShayyal quoted a military officer as saying that troops would "not fire a single bullet on Egyptians", regardless of where the orders to do so come from.
The latest protests reflected popular discontent with Mubarak's midnight address, where he announced that he was dismissing his government but remaining in power.
The several hundred protesters in Tahrir Square demonstrated in full view of the army, which had been deployed in the city to quell the popular unrest sweeping the Middle East's most populous Muslim country since January 25.
They also repeatedly shouted that their intentions were peaceful.
Reuters reported that the police "fired shots" on the protesters in Cairo. An independent confirmation of that report is awaited.
The road leading from Tahrir Square to the parliament and cabinet buildings has been blocked by the military, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Al Jazeera's Jane Dutton, reporting from Cairo, said the normally bustling city looked more like a warzone early on Saturday morning.
Tanks have been patrolling the streets of the capital since early in the morning.
Cairo, Alexandia, Giza and Suez are all involved in major revolt
Incredible images from Al Jazeera English: Live Stream
A Tale of two cams
On the left, Al Jazeera camera, on the right Egypt state TV
Over two hours after the 6pm curfew was implemented, the protesters have the upper hand and control the streets. Egypt's security apparatus has collapsed for the moment and the effects of that are bound to resonate across the Arab world and N. Africa in general, ushering in perhaps a new political era. Its amazing how quickly the world can change.
The protesters cheered the arrival of the army and the army personnel got out of their tanks shaking hands and embracing the protesters.There are early unconfirmed reports at the moment that the Egyptian army is clashing with the security police. If the army stands with the people it is the end of Mubarak's 30 year iron-fisted rule.
Stupid news you can't use:
A number of months ago, the rock band declined to allow the FOX series 'Glee,' about a high school choir, to cover its songs in a future episode. 'Glee' creator Ryan Murphy, in a feature in The Hollywood Reporter published Wednesday, hit out at the band.
Here's how Nathan Followill, the drummer of the band of brothers, replied via Twitter: "Dear Ryan Murphy, let it go. See a therapist, get a manicure, buy a new bra. Zip your lip and focus on educating 7yr olds how to say fuck."
Murphy is openly gay, and the show deals with many issues faced by homosexual students in high school.
Realizing how his comments could be seen, Followill later tweeted: "I'm sorry 4 anyone that misconstrued my comments as homophobic or misogynistic. I'm so not that kind of person. I really do apologize."
Still, he hasn't taken down the original post.
Followill was enraged by this quote from Murphy:
F--- you, Kings of Leon," Murphy said via the magazine. "They're self-centered assholes, and they missed the big picture. They missed that a 7-year-old kid can see someone close to their age singing a Kings of Leon song, which will maybe make them want to join a glee club or pick up a musical instrument. It's like, OK, hate on arts education. You can make fun of Glee all you want, but at its heart, what we really do is turn kids on to music."
I mean, that's what the protester's get for bragging about how they were coordinating their moves. What did they think their already repressive governments were going to do? Mind you, given that Egyptian businesses and government agencies also use the internet, it'll be interesting to see how long the darkness will continue.
The scary part is if the Muslim Brotherhood opposition gains an upper hand in the otherwise leaderless protests.
Confirming what a few have reported this evening: in an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet. Critical European-Asian fiber-optic routes through Egypt appear to be unaffected for now. But every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world. Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and all their customers and partners are, for the moment, off the air.
Senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition group have been detained in Egypt
Lawyer Abdel-Moniem Abdel-Maksoud said at least eight senior figures had been held in raids in the early hours of Friday, including spokesmen Essam El-Erian, Mohamed Mursi and Hamdy Hassan.
"The reason is of course known: it's what is expected to happen tomorrow," he said.
A security source confirmed that authorities had ordered a crackdown on the group overnight: "We have orders for security sweeps of the Brotherhood," the source told Reuters.
The Muslim Brotherhood has not been behind three days of protests by youth angry at poor living standards and authoritarian rule, but many followers of the group are expected to join demonstrations on Friday after weekly prayers.
An interesting theory to say the least.
By Alan Boyle
French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin says his years-long study of the Great Pyramid of Giza suggests that it was built inside-out, and that two unexplored chambers are hidden at the heart of the ancient structure. So far, Egyptian authorities haven't taken his ideas all that seriously, but there's a chance they'll actually be put to the test this year.
Researchers from Laval University in Quebec say they want to probe the pyramid's insides for a whole year using infrared thermography, a technology that they say would let them "see" through thick stone walls without disturbing the 4,500-year-old monument.
"It's a non-invasive technique," Xavier Maldague, an engineering professor who specializes in infrared thermography, told Postmedia News. "We won't even touch the surface of the pyramid."
Archaeologists have long puzzled over how the Egyptians built the Great Pyramid, which served as a monument to the Pharaoh Khufu (2589-2566 B.C.). Houdin proposes that the builders had stones brought up external ramps at first, but then constructed a corkscrew system of internal ramps to finish the 450-foot-high structure.
During a news conference in Paris today, Houdin said 3-D simulations point to the existence of two secret chambers at the pyramid's heart. He said similar chambers have been found in the pyramid of Snefru, Khufu's father, and that the hidden rooms in Khufu's pyramid might have held furniture meant for the pharaoh's use in the afterlife.
"I am convinced that there are antechambers in this pyramid," AFP quoted Houdin as saying. "What I want is to find them."
Houdin's past proposals for a pyramid probe have been rebuffed, but he was hopeful that the Laval expedition would turn up evidence to back up his claims.
Maldague said infrared imaging could reveal the outlines of the internal ramp. Thermal imaging devices could trace how different structures and materials within the pyramid radiate heat differently, he said. If there is an internal construction ramp, the thermal patterns would indicate anomalies. "By measuring the differences in temperatures on several parts of the pyramid, it will tell us where the ramp is," Maldague told Postmedia News.
Infrared cameras could be set up in a hotel located about 1,000 feet (300 meters) from the pyramid, and the imagery could be beamed back to Laval over the Internet, Maldague said. He hopes to get authorization from Egyptian authorities by the end of this year, and start his measurements by mid-2012.
By Ree Hines
It's not unusual for "American Idol" hopefuls to bring equal parts talent and sad backstory to the show, but the tale Chris Medina shared during his Wednesday night audition wasn't just sad. It was heartbreaking.
Before belting out an impressive rendition of The Script's "Break Even," Medina told the judges all about Juliana Ramos, his fiancée. Ramos suffered a traumatic brain injury just two months before she was set to marry Medina in 2009. He now cares for her.
Medina introduced Ramos to the panel prior to finding out his "Idol" future. Everyone's favorite judge of the season so far, Steven Tyler, kissed Ramos and whispered in her ear, "That's why he sings so good, because he sings to you."
Ugandan tabloid published photographs with names, addresses until court intervened
A prominent Ugandan gay rights activist whose picture was published by a newspaper next to the words "Hang Them" was bludgeoned to death, officials said Thursday.
David Kato, an advocacy officer for the gay rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda, was found with serious head wounds at his home in Uganda's capital Kampala on Wednesday, a police spokeswoman said. Kato died from his injuries on the way to hospital, police said.
A Ugandan tabloid newspaper called Rolling Stone listed a number of men they said were homosexuals last year, including Kato. Kato's picture was published on the front page, along with his name and a headline that said "Hang Them." A judge eventually barred the tabloid from printing such stories and photos.
"Witnesses told police that a man entered Kato's home in Mukono at around 1 p.m. on January 26, 2011, hit him twice in the head and departed in a vehicle," New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
The rights organization called for an urgent investigation into Kato's murder, saying that his work as a prominent gay rights campaigner had previously seen him face threats to his personal safety. The organization called on the Ugandan government to offer gay people in the country sufficient protection.
"David Kato's death is a tragic loss to the human rights community," said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "David had faced the increased threats ... bravely and will be sorely missed."
Rolling Stone published 29 photographs with names and, in some cases, addresses before the High Court ordered it to stop on grounds of privacy.
The first article -- which featured Kato -- ran under the headlines, "100 pictures of Uganda's top homos leak" and "Hang Them."
Story: Kenya leader: Homosexuals 'should be arrested'
A man reads the headline of the Ugandan newspaper "Rolling Stone" in Kampala. Kato's photo, top left, was published by the anti-gay newspaper next to the words "Hang Them."
Giles Muhame, the 22-year-old editor of the newspaper, told Reuters he condemned the murder and that the paper had not wanted gays to be attacked.
"If he has been murdered, that's bad and we pray for his soul," Muhame said. "There has been a lot of crime, it may not be because he is gay. We want the government to hang people who promote homosexuality, not for the public to attack them. We said they should be hanged, not stoned or attacked."
A gorilla has achieved fame for walking upright on his hind legs like a human at a British animal park.
Ambam, a Western lowland gorilla, was filmed strolling about his enclosure by animal researcher Johanna Watson.
The 21-year-old silverback, is part of a bachelor group of the critically endangered animals at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, which is run by an international conservation charity, The Aspinall Foundation.
Gorilla keeper Phil Ridges said Ambam, who now weighs 485 pounds, had been hand-reared at another animal park when he was a one-year-old for several months because he was ill.Family trait?
He said the human-like walking style seemed to run in the family.
"Ambam's father Bitam used to display the same behavior if he had handfuls of food to carry," Ridges said in a statement. "Ambam also has a full sister, Tamba, and a half sister ... who also sometimes stand and walk in the same way."
"We think he might use it to get a height advantage to look over the wall when keepers come to feed him and standing up can also help him in looking for food generally in his enclosure as it gives him a better vantage point."
Ridges added that Ambam could also carry more food if his hands were freed from walking and it also meant "he doesn't get his hands wet when it is raining."
2/3 of the trade deficit is oil importarion- T, Boone Pickens
...and in that, typical of the right wing's use of omission propaganda.
Notice in this still, taken from the video of her post SOTU address for the Tea Party below, that the chart she displays to blame Obama for the spike in unemployment is numbered only in odd years and doesn't show 2008.
This has the effect of making the increase in 2009 - which had more to do with the momentum of the polcies of the Bush years and financial disaster than Obama's policies which had yet to kick in - look much steeper than if 2008 was included on the chart.
And as Obama policies do start to kick she says nothing about falling unemployment rates that follow.
Let's look at the job losses that occurred in 2008, the last year of the Bush administration :
The momentum of unemployment after the 2008 financial disaster which would naturally carry over into Obama's first year in office is clear.
But what is also clear in Bachmann's chart, but totally unaddressed by her, is the fall in unemployment rates after Obama's policies have started. Economic momentum can't be turned around on a dime, its not like a speed boat, its more like an aircraft carrier.
So essentially the chart Bachmann is using is misleading and and was constructed that way intentionally...as is everything people like Bachmann and the right wing disseminate. Unless they are completely ignorant, then they are liars. In Bachmann's case, its likely both.
And that's just a tiny part of the whole cloth idiocy she spewed...here's the rest. See how many more such misdirections and outright lies you can spot.
I have saved 43 of Olbermann's Special comments for posterity here in case MSNBC or Comcast deletes them. Even if the flash vids disappear the transcripts will remain. Feel free to download any or all of them.
That is all.
How could they not? But that doesn't mean prosecutors will actually move to prosecute anyone. Money talks.
Financial Crisis Commission Finds Cause For Wall St Prosecutions
The bipartisan panel appointed by Congress to investigate the financial crisis has concluded that several financial industry figures appear to have broken the law and has referred multiple cases to state or federal authorities for potential prosecution, according to two sources directly involved in the deliberations.
The sources, who spoke on condition they not be named, declined to identify the people implicated or the names of their institutions. But they characterized the panel's decision to make referrals to prosecutors as a significant escalation in the government's response to the financial crisis. The panel plans to release its final report in Washington on Thursday morning.
In the three years since major lenders teetered on the brink of collapse, prompting huge taxpayer rescues and amplifying an already painful recession into the most punishing downturn since the Depression, public indignation has swelled while few people who played prominent roles in the crisis have faced legal consequences.
That may be about to change. According to the law that created the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the panel has a responsibility to refer for prosecution any evidence of lawbreaking. The offices that have received the referrals -- the Justice Department, state attorneys general, and perhaps both -- must now determine whether to prosecute cases and, if so, whether to pursue criminal or civil charges.
Though civil charges appear a more likely outcome should prosecution result, one source familiar with the panel's deliberations said criminal charges should not be ruled out.
The commission's decision to refer conduct for prosecution underscores the severity of the activities it has uncovered and plans to detail in its widely anticipated final report, the sources said.
A spokesman for the commission declined to comment. "I cannot comment on the commission's report or its activities until January 27th," said the spokesman, Tucker Warren.
by Darren Franich
James Cameron has spoken frequently about his intention to turn his mega-hit Avatar into a trilogy. Now, according to the director himself speaking at the PGA Awards on Saturday, those two sequels have release dates. Cameron tells EW, "I am in the process of writing the next two Avatar films now. We are planning to shoot them together and post them together, and we will probably release them not quite back to back, but about a year apart. Christmas '14 and '15 is the current plan." Of course, it's probably best to take those release dates with a grain of salt, since the first Avatar had several release dates before its December 2009 release. Still, now fans know that they'll have to wait at least three more years for a return to Pandora.
Cameron also notes that we'll see some familiar faces return. "Basically, if you survived the first film, you get to be in the second film, at least in some form," say the director. One thing's for sure: some percentage of the presumably-massive Avatar sequel gross will go to charity. "Fox has partnered with me to donate a chunk of the profits to environmental causes that are at the heart of the Avatar world," says the director. "I didn't want to make more Avatar movies without a grander plan in place."
What a complete dork.
MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell addresses Keith Olbermann's departure and his tremendous impact on television news.
Snippet from Huff Post:
A Tribute to Olbermann: Why He Is Different From the Pundits at Fox News
....To me, that was what made Olbermann such an essentially important commentator, especially during the Bush administration. Much focus is directed at how Olbermann made his points (his combative tone, his aggressive language, etc.), but it was the fact-based content that really mattered and separated him from his right-wing counterparts. The reason the founders accorded the press the protections of the First Amendment was under the belief that the press was, as Jeffery Smith described it, "A lash for government and a prod for the people." Under this point of view, government was rendered more stable by a free press, since it exposed problems (and allowed for reform), preserving the liberties of the people. What Olbermann did on his show, day in and day out, was to carry out that function, shining a light on elected officials (of both parties).
That's the difference between Olbermann and his Fox News counterparts. When Beck claims that radicals in the Obama administration want to kill 10 percent of the American population and overthrow the U.S. government, or Sean Hannity uses bogus footage to exaggerate attendance at a Tea Party event, or Fox News hosts give credibility to those claiming that the health care reform law included "death panels" or that the president wasn't born in the United States, they are not shining a light on anything. Instead, they are using the cloak of "the press" to lie, exaggerate and use innuendo as a way of promoting an agenda.
And one of the strengths of Olbermann's show was that he didn't only take on government officials, but he devoted part of nearly every program to fact-checking the lies being spewed by major right-wing media figures like Palin, Beck, Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly. Again, Olbermann was consistently looking to shine a light on the facts.... - Mitchell Bard
Proof of the cultural descent into barbarity. Remember Manning hasn't been charged or even connected to WikiLeaks Assange.
At my parents house yesterday there was a civil war movie on the TV being watched by my sister who was sitting with my bedridden mother. I watched a scene of blue and gray suited actors clashing in a reenactment of the gore and insanity of Americans slaughtering one another. I blurted out to my sister , "Its no wonder the American justice system is as cruel as it is considering how Americans on each side treated their prisoners of war." The majority of us are the progeny of people who not all that long ago ran such prison camps, flogged slaves to death and decimated native populations in the name of a belief that we had a god given right to plunder the continent; dominion by way of Manifest Destiny. Only the most obvious of these cruelties has been stricken from our modern culture...but many others remain. As a whole we celebrate violence and still have a fairly barbaric idea of what humanity means. Witness the modern prison system or tacit acceptance of torture of captured terrorists. But again those are blatant examples of the problem...more subtle examples follow:
America's Culture of Cruelty
by: Henry A. Giroux
The recent murderous acts of violence committed by Jared Lee Loughner in Arizona cannot be reduced to the mental instability of a young man out of touch with reality. Nor can such a horrendous act be reduced to a breakdown in civil discourse. Such rationales are too easy, and emulate what Frank Rich has called "classic American denial."
There is a deeper order of politics behind this murderous act, one that the American public is inclined to ignore. More specifically, the general responses to this violent act are symptomatic of a society that separates private injuries from public considerations, refusing to connect individual acts to broader social considerations.
I want to suggest that underlying the Arizona shootings is a culture of cruelty that has become so widespread in American society that the violence it produces is largely taken for granted, often dismissed in terms that cut it off from any larger systemic forces at work in the society.
The culture of cruelty is important for thinking through how entertainment and politics now converge in ways that fundamentally transform how we understand and imagine politics in the current historical moment - a moment when the central issue of getting by is no longer about working to get ahead but struggling simply to survive. And many groups, which are considered marginal because they are poor, unemployed, people of color, elderly or young, have not just been excluded from "the American dream," but have become utterly redundant and disposable, waste products of a society that no longer considers them of any value.
How else to explain the zealousness in which social safety nets have been dismantled, the transition from welfare to workfare (offering little job training programs and no child care) and recent acrimony over health care reform's public option? What accounts for the passage of laws that criminalize the behavior of the 1.2 million homeless in the United States, often defining sleeping, sitting, soliciting, lying down or loitering in public places as a criminal offense rather than a behavior in need of compassionate goodwill and public assistance? Or, for that matter, the expulsions, suspensions, segregation, class discrimination and racism in the public schools, as well as the more severe beatings, broken bones and damaged lives endured by young people in the juvenile justice system?
Is that possible? In some ways, yes. Both networks are in the habit of passing on junk science as factual news, but at least with Fox you are aware of the bias because of their obvious political slanting. CNN on the other hand, passes on complete crap surrepticiously. Take this article on opium which uses the North American hysteria-through-ignorance attitude toward drugs to paint an image of Afghani parents abuse their children through a cycle of intergenerational addiction. Oh, the horror!...
Afghan infants fed pure opium
By Arwa Damon
In a far flung corner of northern Afghanistan, Aziza reaches into the dark wooden cupboard, rummages around, and pulls out a small lump of something wrapped in plastic.
She unwraps it, breaking off a small chunk as if it were chocolate, and feeds it to four-year-old son, Omaidullah. It's his breakfast -- a lump of pure opium.
"If I don't give him opium he doesn't sleep," she says. "And he doesn't let me work."
Aziza comes from a poor family of carpet weavers in Balkh province. She has no education, no idea of the health risks involved or that opium is addictive.
"We give the children opium whenever they get sick as well," she says, crouching over her loom.
With no real medical care in these parts and the high cost of medicine, all the families out here know is opium. It's a cycle of addiction passed on through generations. The adults take opium to work longer hours and ease their pain.
Aziza's elderly mother-in-law, Rozigul, rolls a small ball in her fingers and pops it into her mouth with a small smile before passing a piece over to her sister.
"I had to work and raise the children, so I started using drugs," she says. "We are very poor people, so I used opium. We don't have anything to eat. That is why we have to work and use drugs to keep our kids quiet."
The entire extended family is addicted....
So what? Americans are addicted to porno, daily showers and coffee. As long as their can get their supply goes uninterrupted, there's no problem. its when you screw around with the supply that the bad happens,
In the middle of the article there's this link:
If you follow it out you might that the ONLY short term physical HARM from opium ingestion is possible constipation (or death if overdosing - like any other substance including water or oxygen). The ONLY long term harm is habituation.
Afghani's have been medicating themselves and their sick children opium for hundreds of years with no collapse to their civilization. Give them some credit for knowing what they are doing.
Picture in your mind the most insane possible story that could be contained in a book named Steampunk Palin. Go ahead, take ten seconds or so to imagine it perfectly in your mind's eye. Use this cover image for help.
Got it? Good.
You're wrong. You're absolutely wrong. It's at least ten times more insane than that. And to protect your own brain CLICK THE PIC TO FIND OUT WHY!
Which is another reason that the Citizens United SCOTUS decision granting personhood and ostensible "voting rights" (by way of unlimited financing of political campaigns) to corporations is so detrimental and off the wall. Corporations are NOT citizens in any sense of the word. Corporations have exactly one fealty; profit. The welfare of the nation state they are based in is at best secondary.
But here, Kruman calls into question the entire notion of using competition itself as a rationale for future national policy making.
The Competition Myth
Meet the new buzzword, same as the old buzzword. In advance of the State of the Union, President Obama has telegraphed his main theme: competitiveness. The President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board has been renamed the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. And in his Saturday radio address, the president declared that "We can out-compete any other nation on Earth."
This may be smart politics. Arguably, Mr. Obama has enlisted an old cliché on behalf of a good cause, as a way to sell a much-needed increase in public investment to a public thoroughly indoctrinated in the view that government spending is a bad thing.
But let's not kid ourselves: talking about "competitiveness" as a goal is fundamentally misleading. At best, it's a misdiagnosis of our problems. At worst, it could lead to policies based on the false idea that what's good for corporations is good for America.
About that misdiagnosis: What sense does it make to view our current woes as stemming from lack of competitiveness?
It's true that we'd have more jobs if we exported more and imported less. But the same is true of Europe and Japan, which also have depressed economies. And we can't all export more while importing less, unless we can find another planet to sell to. Yes, we could demand that China shrink its trade surplus -- but if confronting China is what Mr. Obama is proposing, he should say that plainly.
Furthermore, while America is running a trade deficit, this deficit is smaller than it was before the Great Recession began. It would help if we could make it smaller still. But ultimately, we're in a mess because we had a financial crisis, not because American companies have lost their ability to compete with foreign rivals.
But isn't it at least somewhat useful to think of our nation as if it were America Inc., competing in the global marketplace? No.
Consider: A corporate leader who increases profits by slashing his work force is thought to be successful. Well, that's more or less what has happened in America recently: employment is way down, but profits are hitting new records.
Who, exactly, considers this economic success?
...is crazy. He may be temperamental like many artistic types - and Olbermann is definitely a verbal performing artist - but crazy he is not, In fact, his penetrating rants are some of the most rational editorial discourses I've ever experienced. The fact that he constructs and then performs them with a sometimes loosely harnessed emotional intensity borne of conviction and a dedication to human core principles like justice, fair play and honesty only underscores his rationality in the end.
Does he take it over the top on occasion? Sure, but he is rational enough to know when he has and can laugh at himself when confronted with it. When Ben Affleck impersonated Olbermann on Saturday Night Live in a sketch of "Countdown" which hilariously mocked the MSNBC anchor and played him as an exaggerating, pompous cat-owner who speaks like a Shakespearean actor, cuts off his guests and lives with his mother, Obermann aired the segment and did the same with a Jon Stewart segment calling Olbermann out on his tendencies for exaggerated purple prose. Tell it to Shakespeare, the master of purple.
If there is one thing that Olbermann can be accused of its that he elevated rather than cheapened the broadcast news conversation. He also saved MSNBC's ass.
I have no doubt that his irrepressible talents will find new outlets in the near future and the millions of us who admire and see his efforts as essential and even heroic in these days of societal collapse will gladly follow him wherever he decides to perch.
Olbermann Split Came After Years of Tension
By Bill Carter and Brian Stelter
MSNBC never had any doubt about what it was getting when it made Keith Olbermann the face of the network in 2003: a highly talented broadcaster, a distinctive and outspoken voice and a mercurial personality with a track record of attacking his superiors and making early exits.
Even his own boss, Phil Griffin, offered this assessment in 2008, when Mr. Olbermann was being heavily criticized by supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton because he was urging her to drop out of the race to become the Democratic presidential candidate.
For Mrs. Clinton's supporters, Mr. Griffin said in an interview with The New Yorker magazine, "It was, like, you meet a guy and fall in love with him." But, he said, "then you commit yourself to him, and he turns out to be a jerk and difficult and brutal."
Still, the news of his abrupt departure from "Countdown" -- delivered by Mr. Olbermann on Friday night -- came as a shock to his many fans, some of whom accused Comcast, the incoming owner of MSNBC's parent, NBC Universal, of forcing out the host for political reasons.
Many people inside the television industry are astonished that a cable network's highest-rated host, whose forceful personality and liberal advocacy had lifted MSNBC from irrelevance to competitiveness and profitability, would be ushered out the door with no fanfare, no promoted farewell show and only a perfunctory thanks for his efforts.
But underlying the decision, which one executive involved said was not a termination but a "negotiated separation," were years of behind-the-scenes tension, conflicts and near terminations.
Mr. Griffin, along with Jeff Zucker, the head of NBC Universal, and Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, had long protected and defended Mr. Olbermann, even when insiders like the NBC anchor emeritus Tom Brokaw publicly took Mr. Olbermann to task. Mr. Brokaw said Mr. Olbermann had "gone too far" in campaign coverage that openly took Democratic positions.
Inside the offices of MSNBC, staff members grew more restive about Mr. Olbermann's temperament. Some days Mr. Olbermann threatened not to come to work at all and a substitute anchor had to be notified to be on standby.
Mr. Olbermann was within one move of being fired in November after he was suspended for making donations to Democratic Congressional candidates. He threatened to make an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" to protest the suspension; Mr. Zucker was prepared to fire him on the spot if he did, according to a senior NBC Universal executive who declined to be identified in discussing confidential deliberations.
Phoenix Jones is no stranger to danger. He said he has been patrolling the streets for the past nine months, keeping what he feels to be evil at bay. One adversary managed to stab him in the past, but he said most of his enemies flee at the sight of him.
Still it was a good shot at it... and what a guy. A fabulous inspiration. I remember as a young kid watching him in the mornings before school. So peppy, So happy, so kind. He taught me two vital things with me still; eat right and keep moving.
What an incredibly productive life. Good going, Jack, happy trails.
(AP) MORRO BAY, Calif. -- Fitness guru Jack LaLanne, who inspired television viewers to trim down and pump iron decades before exercise became a national obsession, has died at age 96.
His agent Rick Hersh says LaLanne died of respiratory failure due to pneumonia Sunday afternoon at his home in Morro Bay on California's central coast.
Hersh says Lalanne ate healthy and exercised every day of his life up until the end.
LaLanne credited fitness with transforming his life as a teen, and he worked over the next eight decades to transform others' lives, too.
He said, "The only way you can hurt the body is not use it." LaLanne's workout show was a television staple from the 1950s to '70s. He maintained a youthful physique into his 80s.
The putz side:
I can't die, it would ruin my image. - Jack LaLanne
I'll say why at the end.
Two Suns? Twin Stars Could Be Visible From Earth By 2012
Earth could be getting a second sun, at least temporarily.
Dr. Brad Carter, Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland, outlined the scenario to news.com.au. Betelgeuse, one of the night sky's brightest stars, is losing mass, indicating it is collapsing. It could run out of fuel and go super-nova at any time.
When that happens, for at least a few weeks, we'd see a second sun, Carter says. There may also be no night during that timeframe.
The Star Wars-esque scenario could happen by 2012, Carter says... or it could take longer. The explosion could also cause a neutron star or result in the formation of a black hole 1300 light years from Earth, reports news.com.au.
But doomsday sayers should be careful about speculation on this one. If the star does go super-nova, Earth will be showered with harmless particles, according to Carter. "They will flood through the Earth and bizarrely enough, even though the supernova we see visually will light up the night sky, 99 per cent of the energy in the supernova is released in these particles that will come through our bodies and through the Earth with absolutely no harm whatsoever," he told news.com.au.
In fact, a neutrino shower could be beneficial to Earth. According to Carter this "star stuff" makes up the universe. "It literally makes things like gold, silver - all the heavy elements - even things like uranium....a star like Betelgeuse is instantly forming for us all sorts of heavy elements and atoms that our own Earth and our own bodies have from long past supernovi," said Carter.
UPDATE: To clarify, the news.com.au article does not say a neutrino shower could be beneficial to Earth, but implies a supernova could be beneficial, stating, "Far from being a sign of the apocalypse, according to Dr Carter the supernova will provide Earth with elements necessary for survival and continuity."
UPDATE II: In a follow-up piece on news.com.au, Dr. Carter stressed that there is no way of knowing when the star may go supernova. U.S. astronomer Phil Plait added, "Betelgeuse might go up tonight, or it might not be for 100,000 years. We're just not sure."
Where to begin?
The two ad hoc corrections don't help of course...but wait there's more!
First of all, no star during the course of it's life produces any element heavier than iron. The heavier elements are produced during the massive cataclysm of going nova.
Secondly, the elements that Betelgeuse going nova would produce are not at all likely to benefit us on earth since it would take many many thousands of light years for such elements to travel the distance. After all, it takes light at least 640 years and elemental matter would travel magnitudes more slowly.than that.
The idea that we can predict with any degree of certainty just when Betelgeuse will go nova is ridiculous; some estimates are within a millennium and others as along as a million years...hardly a reason to claim we might have two suns by 2012.
Science speculation is fun and is good for the imagination, but that article was just bad science and painful rather than fun. Its like science fiction movies showing spaceships blowing up in space and making a huge explosive sounds - ruins it for me.
by John Markoff
In a step toward a generation of ultrafast computers, physicists have used bursts of radio waves to briefly create 10 billion quantum-entangled pairs of subatomic particles in silicon. The research offers a glimpse of a future computing world in which individual atomic nuclei store and retrieve data and single electrons shuttle it back and forth.
In a paper published this week in the journal Nature, a team led by the physicists John Morton of Oxford University and Kohei Itoh of Keio University describes an experiment in which they bombard a three-dimensional crystal with microwave and radio frequency pulses to create the entangled pairs.
This is one of a range of competing approaches to making qubits, the quantum computing equivalent of today's transistors.
Transistors store information on the basis of whether they are on or off. In the experiment, qubits store information in the form of the orientation, or spin, of an atomic nucleus or an electron. The storage ability is dependent on entanglement, in which a change in one particle instantaneously affects another particle even if they are widely separated. The new approach has significant potential, scientists said, because it might permit quantum computer designers to exploit low-cost and easily manufacturable components and technologies now widely used in the consumer electronics industry.
"I think this is a very neat piece of work," said Raymond Laflamme, a physicist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, "but I think it's important to see it as a piece of a big puzzle. Our mecca is to build a quantum computer that could have thousands of qubits; here we have only a few."
Indeed, there is still disagreement over whether scientific or commercially useful quantum computers will ever be built. Until now, scientists have designed prototype quantum computers based on only a handful of qubits, too small a number to gain meaningful speed over conventional computers.
Unlike today's binary computers, in which transistors can be in either an "on" or an "off" state, quantum computing exploits the notion of superposition, in which a qubit can be constructed to represent both a 1 and a zero state simultaneously.
The potential power of quantum computing comes from the possibility of performing a mathematical operation on both states simultaneously. In a two-qubit system it would be possible to compute on four values at once, in a three-qubit system on eight at once, in a four-qubit system on 16, and so on. As the number of qubits increases, potential processing power increases exponentially.
There is, of course, a catch. The mere act of measuring or observing a qubit can strip it of its computing potential. So researchers have used quantum entanglement -- in which particles are linked so that measuring a property of one instantly reveals information about the other, no matter how far apart the two particles are -- to extract information. But creating and maintaining qubits in entangled states has been tremendously challenging.
Papers please! How long before everybody will be required to have a national ID card and be required to have it on them at all times?
Black and brown unite to fight new Miss. immigration bill
This week, the Mississippi State Senate passed an Arizona-style immigration bill that would give law enforcement officers the authority to question the immigration status of anyone arrested for a traffic violation like speeding or failing to stop at a stop sign.
The Republican sponsored bill, similar to the Arizona SB1070 law that currently gives police officers the power to question anyone's immigration status, passed 34-15 enraging hundreds of African-American and Latino residents who label it as racist.
"I think the bill is absolutely racist", said state Senator John Horn who voted against the measure. "For Mississippi to go to the forefront in something like this turns the clock and sets us back towards the kind of progress we are trying to make".
The bill, known as SB2179, will require law enforcement officers to ask a person for proof of citizenship or legal residency if "reasonable suspicion" that the person is in the country illegally arises.
"A reasonable suspicion is not based on race, color or national origin", said Joey Fillingane, a Republican state Senator and the bill's main sponsor. "But one example would be if you can't speak a word of English".
George Washington, from his Farewell Address 1796:
Here's a good rundown of the major provisions of the bill. For those who like the short form.
* Would reduce the deficit by $230 billion over the first ten years. That is an updated CBO estimate. Would reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion dollars in the second ten years.
* Would expand coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured.
Health Insurance Exchanges:
* The uninsured and self-employed would be able to purchase insurance through state-based exchanges with subsidies available to individuals and families with income between the 133 percent and 400 percent of poverty level.
* Separate exchanges would be created for small businesses to purchase coverage -- effective 2014.
* Funding available to states to establish exchanges within one year of enactment and until January 1, 2015.
* Individuals and families who make between 100 percent - 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and want to purchase their own health insurance on an exchange are eligible for subsidies. They cannot be eligible for Medicare, Medicaid and cannot be covered by an employer. Eligible buyers receive premium credits and there is a cap for how much they have to contribute to their premiums on a sliding scale.
Federal Poverty Level for family of four is $22,050
Paying for the Plan:
* Medicare Payroll tax on investment income -- Starting in 2012, the Medicare Payroll Tax will be expanded to include unearned income. That will be a 3.8 percent tax on investment income for families making more than $250,000 per year ($200,000 for individuals).
* Excise Tax -- Beginning in 2018, insurance companies will pay a 40 percent excise tax on so-called "Cadillac" high-end insurance plans worth over $27,500 for families ($10,200 for individuals). Dental and vision plans are exempt and will not be counted in the total cost of a family's plan.
* Tanning Tax -- 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services.
* Closes the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole" by 2020. Seniors who hit the donut hole by 2010 will receive a $250 rebate.
* Beginning in 2011, seniors in the gap will receive a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs. The bill also includes $500 billion in Medicare cuts over the next decade.
* Expands Medicaid to include 133 percent of federal poverty level which is $29,327 for a family of four.
* Requires states to expand Medicaid to include childless adults starting in 2014.
* Federal Government pays 100 percent of costs for covering newly eligible individuals through 2016.
* Illegal immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid.
* Six months after enactment, insurance companies could no longer denying children coverage based on a preexisting condition.
* Starting in 2014, insurance companies cannot deny coverage to anyone with preexisting conditions.
* Insurance companies must allow children to stay on their parent's insurance plans until age 26th.
* The bill segregates private insurance premium funds from taxpayer funds. Individuals would have to pay for abortion coverage by making two separate payments, private funds would have to be kept in a separate account from federal and taxpayer funds.
* No health care plan would be required to offer abortion coverage. States could pass legislation choosing to opt out of offering abortion coverage through the exchange.
**Separately, anti-abortion Democrats worked out language with the White House on an executive order that would state that no federal funds can be used to pay for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or health of the mother.(Read more here)
* In 2014, everyone must purchase health insurance or face a $695 annual fine. There are some exceptions for low-income people.
* Technically, there is no employer mandate. Employers with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance or pay a fine of $2000 per worker each year if any worker receives federal subsidies to purchase health insurance. Fines applied to entire number of employees minus some allowances.
* Illegal immigrants will not be allowed to buy health insurance in the exchanges -- even if they pay completely with their own money.
How freaking arrogant is this?
New governor: Non-Christians 'not my brother,' 'not my sister'
by Jay Reeves
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley told a church crowd just moments into his new administration that those who have not accepted Jesus as their savior are not his brothers and sisters, shocking some critics who questioned whether he can be fair to non-Christians.
"Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother," Bentley said Monday, his inauguration day, according to The Birmingham News.
The Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday called Bentley's remarks shocking.
"His comments are not only offensive, but also raise serious questions as to whether non-Christians can expect to receive equal treatment during his tenure as governor," said Bill Nigut, the ADL's regional director.
Speaking at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church after the official inaugural ceremony, Bentley told the crowd that he considered anyone who believed in Jesus to be his brothers and sisters regardless of color, but anyone who isn't a Christian doesn't have that same relationship to him.
"If the Holy Spirit lives in you that makes you my brothers and sisters. Anyone who has not accepted Jesus, I want to be your brothers and sisters, too," Bentley said.
After his speech, Bentley said he did not mean to insult anyone.
Which just goes to show how completely arrogant and disconnected this jesus freak is.
Haitian police detained former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier on Tuesday after authorities said he would be questioned and could be prosecuted over money stolen from the national treasury during his 1971-1986 rule.
Armed police escorted Duvalier, 59, from the luxury hotel in Port-au-Prince where he had been staying since his surprise return on Sunday to his poor, earthquake-battered Caribbean homeland after 25 years in exile in France. Officers put him in a police SUV with tinted windows which drove away.
Duvalier, 59, was calm and did not say anything. Asked by journalists if he was being arrested, his longtime companion Veronique Roy, laughed but said nothing.
The former ruler, who is accused by human rights groups of being responsible for the killing and torture of opponents during his 15 years in power, was being taken to the office of the Port-au-Prince chief prosecutor, officials said.
"Mr. Duvalier is under the control of the judicial system. He's not free, he's going to my office," Chief Prosecutor Aristidas Auguste told Reuters.
The SUV drove in a convoy of police vehicles to a courthouse, even as dozens of Duvalier supporters blocked streets with overturned trash bins and rocks to try to prevent the former dictator from going to prison.
The courthouse was thronged with spectators and journalists trying to get in to view the proceedings. It was not immediately clear whether the session would be open to the public -- or what, if any, charges had been filed against him.
His removal from the hotel came after he met in private with senior Haitian judicial officials met inside his hotel room amid calls by human rights groups and other for his arrest.
Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on the nine days since Tucson. That awful night, I said this: We need to put the guns down. Just as importantly we need to put the gun metaphors away and permanently. Left, right, middle -- politicians and citizens -- sane and insane.
This age in which this country would accept "targeting" of political opponents and putting bullseyes over their faces, and of the dangerous blurring between political rallies and gun shows, ended.
I cited seven examples of violent rhetoric from the right; and only one from the left -- my own. Because the point of that Comment and this one was not that the right pulled the trigger in Tucson but that we as citizens must stop the next Loughner, and the only way to potentially do this is to accept personal responsibility and to pledge -- as I said that night -- that "violence, or the threat of violence, have no place in our Democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence."
This afternoon, former President Clinton issued a statement honoring what would have been Dr. King's 82nd birthday:
"...we'd all do well to heed this message. While no one intends their words or actions to incite the violence we saw in Tucson -- and it's wrong for anyone to suggest otherwise - we live in a world where what we say and how we say it can be read, heard, or seen by those who understand exactly what we mean and by those whose inner demons take them to a very different place.
"That's not an argument against free speech, but a reminder that, as with all freedoms, its use carries with it responsibility. Therefore, we should follow the example Dr. King set and exercise our freedom of speech in ways that both clarify our honest differences and nurture the best of us rather than bring out the worst."
Yet the response?
To date, only one commentator or politician has expressed the slightest introspection, the slightest self-awareness, the slightest remorse, the slightest ownership, of the existence of the fantasy dream cloud of violent language by which we are now nearly blinded.
"Our political discourse," John McCain wrote in an otherwise steaming serving of Washington Post Op-Ed partisan flab, "should be more civil than it currently is, and we all, myself included, bear some responsibility for it not being so."
Advertise | AdChoices
One individual assumed any personal responsibility for any of it, besides me: John McCain. Not Palin, not Beck. Not Limbaugh, not West. Not Kanjorski, not Malloy. Not O'Reilly, not Angle. Not Jesse Kelly, not President Obama.
It's me and John McCain.
I assume he's like me, not sure whether to laugh, cry, or be proud of that. So what did everybody else say?
They said it was everybody else's fault. And they often said it with more violence than before.
In approximate chronological order:
Same old,same old. Don't be stupid...Don't ever send anything of import identity-wise to anyone ever by text or email or even by phone..
Combines trickery of phishing scams with ease of text messages
A new security risk has crept into the world of online shopping, and it combines the trickery of phishing scams with the ease and availability of text messages.
Called "smishing" the scam is a nefarious update to the traditional
phishing hoax ; rather than sending the phishing bait -- a legitimate-looking offer from a supposedly trusted source such as a bank -- through e-mail, the message is sent via SMS (text). The victim is told in the text that an urgent bank matter needs to be discussed; the text instructs the recipient to call a toll-free number and provide their account number and password to a fake automated voice-response system.
Because most people are more apt to trust text messages than suspicious-looking emails, smishing provides malware perpetrators another vector for attack, according to Smart Shop Magazine. With a high number of gift purchases made online, security experts expect to see smishing scams rise during the holiday shopping season.
Security experts advise people to be wary of text messages claiming to contain important information about bank account and to call the bank rather than the 800 number mentioned in the text message.
Hard to fathom, I know, but you can help by signing the petition.
The trafficking of children for sale at the Super Bowl is well documented. Texas Attorney General Abbott is taking a stand and has prepared a task force to identify and respond to traffickers who plan to sell children at the Super Bowl. However, it is not enough to expect law enforcement and victim advocates to bear the entire burden of responding to this issue, which is expected to include many victims. In support of the efforts of the task force, we are requesting the Super Bowl Host Committee embrace a proactive approach with community members by endorsing the "I'm Not buying It" campaign, which would raise awareness and deter the buying of children during the Super Bowl.
As evidenced by the tremendous amount of work and money the Host Committee has channeled into Slant 45, clearly improving the lives of children is a priority. Countless children in the DFW region have benefitted by the commitment and opportunities provided by this program.
However, the children trafficked to DFW to meet the demand of the Super Bowl are being left to fend for themselves. According to the Dallas Police Department children exploited through sex trafficking have an average life expectancy is just seven short years. The average age a child is tricked and trapped in sexual slavery is just 13 years old. These children are beaten, brutalized and tortured for the profit and pleasure of others.
This Super Bowl Host Committee's hard work has turned the North Texas Region into a showcase with a record number of million-dollar sponsors, state-of-the-art infrastructure and events that appeal across audiences. They've set the standard for the Super Bowl experience.
Now, let's join together and ask the Host Committee to take a stand and set the standard for all Super Bowl Host Committees to come. The Host Committee has the biggest megaphone to prevent the buying and selling of American children during this year's festivities. Law enforcement, legislators, non-profits, churches and business all are stepping up to the plate to stop this horrific abuse of our children. It's time that the Host Committee faces the reality that children will be trafficked to North Texas and answer the question - What role will they play in preventing the sex trafficking of children during the Super Bowl?
DFW-based Traffick911 is leading a comprehensive game plan to protect American children. Local, national and international organizations have joined forces with Traffick911 in the I'm Not Buying It campaign. This Super Bowl Host Committee has proven it has the power and influence to make history. Join me in asking the Super Bowl Host Committee to endorse and fund the "I'm Not buying it" campaign to protect and defend children during the Super Bowl!!
This is the 25th MLK Day Celebration
by Barbara Ransby
Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been 82 this month, and his assassination occurred nearly 43 years ago. As we get further and further from that time, memories get fuzzy and a kind of collective amnesia sets in, as Vincent Harding has observed, some of it deliberately promoted amnesia. So, the question is how to remember King clearly and to see that amazing moment in history that he participated in through a sharp and focused lens? Three things come to mind.
First of all, King was a radical. Not the venomous kind that promotes reckless violence against innocent people; quite the opposite. King was a radical in his criticism of the root causes of injustice, and in his brilliantly imaginative vision of a different, more just and humane world. For example, King did not just urge protesters to be non-violent, he urged politicians and governments to be non-violent. In 1968 he took a brave stance against the war in Vietnam, in a speech in New York City's Riverside Church, that cost him some of his liberal supporters. He criticized the injustices of capitalism: persistent poverty, inadequate aid to workers and the poor, and growing wealth disparity. Let us remember he died demanding not simply integration, but labor rights for striking sanitation workers in Memphis.
Secondly, King was not a king. He was not a superhero who rushed in to singularly rescue black people from the evils of American racism. He acted in concert with others, many others, some of them with longer careers in social justice struggles than himself. There is a famous analogy in King's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, one he used many times, in which he compares his work to that of a pilot guiding a plane. The pilot is important, King concedes. However, that safe journey could not be achieved without the sometimes invisible work of a very skilled and committed ground crew. I might chose a slightly different analogy, but the point is an important one. As Ella Baker was fond of saying, "King didn't make the movement, the movement made King."
King understood this. We cannot build a movement for social justice by hanging our hopes on a single charismatic leader, no matter how articulate, committed, and brilliant he or she may be (not King and not Obama).
Individuals change their minds, and their loyalties. They get assassinated. Most fundamentally, individuals are only as strong as the collectives and communities that surround them, that keep them safe and honest and grounded and accountable. So, celebrations of King have to go hand in hand with celebrations of the maids and porters students and teachers who struggle tirelessly in what we now term the civil rights movement.
We have to also remember the folks like Ella Baker, who was an activist and strategist for over 50 years in groups fighting racism, poverty, and repression. And Fannie Lou Hamer, who had no formal education and lacked the credentials that King enjoyed, but who was one of the most courageous and revered leaders in the civil rights movement of the South. And, of course, there are white activists like Anne Braden, who dared to stand up for justice and freedom at the risk of being attacked and ostracized in her own southern community.
Finally, part of remembering King's legacy is remembering the dangers of political repression and vitriolic persecution. Recent events in Tucson come to mind. King lived under a constant fear of assassination because his visibility and outspokenness made him a target. But something else made him a target, too: The way in which his critics vilified him, attributed sinister motives to his actions, called him un-American and a danger to the traditional values of our nation.
Those folks are outliers now, but they were not outliers in King's time. They were politicians and editors, civic leaders and sheriffs. The violent rampage that left six people dead in Arizona last week and many others injured was carried out by one troubled man. However, he chose a political event and targeted a politician. And he did so in a climate where that same politician had been a literal bulls-eye on political hit list. When violent metaphors are used to "target" opponents we should not be surprised when one disturbed person takes the bait.
But here is a sad and troubling irony: Tea party organizers can bring guns to rallies and put their political rivals under bulls-eyes on websites and have that accepted as legitimate political activity, while non-violent activists who criticize government policy are under attack by the FBI. I refer here to the Supreme Court decision in June against the Humanitarian Law Project, which essentially criminalized their efforts to offer conflict resolution training to people immersed in violent conflicts around the world. This decision made it a crime to provide "material support" to any organization the government designates a terrorist group, but established a ridiculously broad definition of support. The ruling has been the basis of FBI raids on the homes of activists who support Palestinian rights and oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The people the FBI is targeting do not advocate the use of guns or even own them; they advocate peace and justice.
King, too, was a peace activist who supported anti-colonial struggles and was under constant FBI surveillance. His phone was tapped, his mail was opened, he was followed and watched. People he trusted were enlisted to spy on him. Government agents plotted how to undermine his leadership, especially as he moved more toward the left.
So, let's remember three things this MLK Day: the honorable tradition of progressive democratic radicalism that looks deeply and widely at the causes of injustice and tries to root them out; the danger of investing all our hopes and dreams in a savior-type leader; and the persistent danger of witch hunts that seek to silence and intimidate dissidents and make everyone else afraid to come to their aid.
In King's words, "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent." Instead of praising King for battles already fought, let's look around at the pervasive injustices that still exist, from the obscene disparity in wealth to the abandonment of our educational institutions. From the unchecked growth of prisons for the poor to the escalating oppression of the Palestinian people in Israel and Palestine. Let's pay tribute to King, and Baker and Hamer and all the others who fought the good fight by building a sustainable movement for a more just and humane world.
A really good synopsis:
Darkness on the Edge of the Universe
By Brian Greene
In a great many fields, researchers would give their eyeteeth to have a direct glimpse of the past. Instead, they generally have to piece together remote conditions using remnants like weathered fossils, decaying parchments or mummified remains. Cosmology, the study of the origin and evolution of the universe, is different. It is the one arena in which we can actually witness history.
The pinpoints of starlight we see with the naked eye are photons that have been streaming toward us for a few years or a few thousand. The light from more distant objects, captured by powerful telescopes, has been traveling toward us far longer than that, sometimes for billions of years. When we look at such ancient light, we are seeing -- literally -- ancient times.
During the past decade, as observations of such ancient starlight have provided deep insight into the universe's past, they have also, surprisingly, provided deep insight into the nature of the future. And the future that the data suggest is particularly disquieting -- because of something called dark energy.
This story of discovery begins a century ago with Albert Einstein, who realized that space is not an immutable stage on which events play out, as Isaac Newton had envisioned. Instead, through his general theory of relativity, Einstein found that space, and time too, can bend, twist and warp, responding much as a trampoline does to a jumping child. In fact, so malleable is space that, according to the math, the size of the universe necessarily changes over time: the fabric of space must expand or contract -- it can't stay put.
For Einstein, this was an unacceptable conclusion. He'd spent 10 grueling years developing the general theory of relativity, seeking a better understanding of gravity, but to him the notion of an expanding or contracting cosmos seemed blatantly erroneous. It flew in the face of the prevailing wisdom that, over the largest of scales, the universe was fixed and unchanging.
Einstein responded swiftly. He modified the equations of general relativity so that the mathematics would yield an unchanging cosmos. A static situation, like a stalemate in a tug of war, requires equal but opposite forces that cancel each other. Across large distances, the force that shapes the cosmos is the attractive pull of gravity. And so, Einstein reasoned, a counterbalancing force would need to provide a repulsive push. But what force could that be?
Uglier than ever in blue.
A Former Dictator Reappears in Haiti
By Randal C. Archibold
Haiti's political crisis took a stunning turn on Sunday when Jean-Claude Duvalier, the dictator known as Baby Doc who was overthrown in 1986, arrived unexpectedly in the capital from exile in France.
Haitian television and radio stations reported that Mr. Duvalier, dressed in a blue suit, landed shortly after 6 p.m. in Port-au-Prince on an Air France flight and told reporters that he had simply come to help Haiti, moved by images of the first anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the country.
The sudden appearance of Mr. Duvalier, 59, who ruled Haiti with brutality and corruption for nearly 15 years, threatened to further convulse a country struggling to recover from the earthquake and a lingering cholera epidemic.
The Haitian government had no immediate comment.
I do...kill him now...just for old times sake.
by Saul Cornell
The public debate over gun policy has fallen into a somewhat predictable pattern. A tragic shooting -- like Jared Loughner's rampage in Tucson, Ariz., a week ago -- prompts outrage from across the political spectrum. After an immediate cathartic and emotional response, the two sides in the gun debate fall into their familiar postures. Proposals for new gun regulation are made, prompting push-back from gun rights advocates, who circle their wagons, issue warnings about the threats to our Second Amendment rights, and -- in a more recent twist -- begin calling for a relaxation of existing gun regulation so that citizens can more easily defend themselves.
Although the Second Amendment is often invoked in this debate, the dynamics of America's battle over guns have almost nothing to do with either the historical Second Amendment bequeathed to us by the framers, or even the more individualistic Second Amendment conjured by the present-day Supreme Court of John Roberts in two controversial decisions. The original Second Amendment was the product of a world in which a well-regulated militia stood as check against the danger of a professional standing army. The framers certainly believed in a right of self-defense, but most viewed it as something that was so well-established under the English common law that there was no need to write it into constitutional law. Even among those eager to secure a bill of rights, the dominant view (with a few notable exceptions) was that the right of self-defense was best left to the care of individual states to regulate as part of their criminal law. Even the more expansive modern notion of the Second Amendment popular today (an interpretation endorsed by the Roberts court) permits ample room for reasonable regulation. American courts are still wrestling with how to implement this new model, but most legal schools of thought agree there's plenty of room for regulation.
A Dinka man dancing circa 1950
It can happen here.
Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi said late Friday in a televised address that President Zine El Abidine? ??Ben Ali has surrendered power and left Tunis.
Ghannouchi said that he would serve as interim president, Reuters reported.?????
Al Arabiya said a six-member leadership council would be formed to rule the country until elections. The council will be led by the head of Parliament and will include the defense minister.
Ben Ali had reportedly fled to Malta and was traveling under Libyan protection, Reuters reported.
"I vow that I will respect the constitution and implement the political, economic and social reforms that have been announced ... in consultation with all political sides including political parties and civil society," he said in the live address to a nation rocked by unrest.
The shakeup was certain to have repercussions in the Arab world and beyond -- as a sign that massive public outrage could bring down a leader as entrenched and powerful as Ben Ali.
He had tried vainly to hold onto power amid riots, declaring a state of emergency, dissolving the government and promising new legislative elections within six months. A day earlier, he slashed prices on key foods such as sugar, bread and milk.
Paul Krugman's NY Times article regarding the great ideological divide, "A Tale of Two Moralities" produced some excellent commentary on the topic. Here is one of the better ones:
New York, NY
January 14th, 2011
About a year ago a dinner companion, an accountant in LA, noted that some of his clients, farm owners in the Imperial Valley, had to scramble to raise the money to pay estate taxes, and wasn't that unfair?
And I noted that the Imperial Valley is a desert, and his clients are millionaires because government dammed the Colorado River, bringing water and cheap electro power to the desert. And he said "I never thought of that."
Frankly, I found that totally amazing.
For a couple of decades now the propaganda of the elite right has gone totally unanswered, and people have come to agree with such nonsense as "government doesn't create wealth," "government doesn't create jobs," and "people can make choices to spend their money better than government can spend it for them." As if the Hoover Dam, the TVA, the space program and the internet would have been built without government, and as if the shareholders of UPS and FedEx would have any interest in these investments if government hadn't built the highway system.
It's long past time. We need to look at nonsense and say, "That's nonsense."
Technology is evolving us, says Amber Case, as we become a screen-staring, button-clicking new version of homo sapiens. We now rely on "external brains" (cell phones and computers) to communicate, remember, even live out secondary lives. But will these machines ultimately connect or conquer us? Case offers surprising insight into our cyborg selves.
Q: Should chicken be eaten with the fingers?
A: No, the fingers should be eaten separately.
But seriously, folks...
A 4-month-old baby boy from Grain Valley, Missouri, was in critical condition after a family pet ferret ate seven of the infant's fingers, and the boy's parents are under investigation for neglect and failure to obtain a $100 license for the exotic pet, police chief Aaron Ambrose told CNN Tuesday.
Authorities are not releasing the names of the baby or his parents, Ambrose said.
The mother was awakened at 2:30 a.m. Monday to her baby's crying, and she awakened her husband with screams upon discovering what happened, Ambrose said.
The dad killed the pet by hurling it across the house, Ambrose said.
The baby now has only two thumbs and a partial pinkie, the chief said. The ferret was about six months old, a police report said.
"It's very unusual, there's no doubt about it," Ambrose said of the incident.
Ambrose said he believed the ferret was a young animal recently acquired by the family.
"We're trying to figure out if this thing had a crate or a cage, or was it running around the house," Ambrose said. "It jumped into the rocker thing that the baby was sleeping in and ate seven of its fingers."
The parents said "they never heard the baby crying" until late into the ordeal, Ambrose said. "Who knows what's going on there. These are all things we're working on now -- where they were sleeping and where the baby was in conjunction with them."
Upon seeing the ferret, the father "just grabbed it and threw it," Ambrose said. "It hit a dishwasher or cabinet or something like that."
A necropsy is being performed on the ferret to examine its stomach contents and determine whether the animal had rabies, Ambrose said.
Our Allies and Their Terror Alerts
by John C
1.) The British are feeling the pinch of recent terrorist threats and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The British have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.
2.) The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards." They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.
3.) The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.
4.) Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."
5.) The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."
6.) Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.
7.) The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.
8.) Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be alright, Mate." Three more escalation levels remain: "Crikey!", "I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend", and "The barbie is canceled." So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.
hit tip to Mr Baker
It could all be solved by going back to the drawing board and inserting a single payer ,ie, public option, component.
Schizo with sophomoric illogic and victim of paranoid extremist rhetoric.
Now a 9 yr old girl won't be 10.
Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, speaking about Arizona:
"When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.
"It's not unusual for all public officials to get threats constantly, myself included. And that's the sad thing of what's going on in America. Pretty soon, we're not going to be able to find reasonable, decent people who are willing to subject themselves to serve in public office."
He later added:
DUPNIK: Let me just say one thing, because people tend to poo-poo this business about all the vitriol that we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech. But it's not without consequences.
REPORTER: How do you know that that's what caused it.
DUPNIK: You don't.
Top Massachusetts court voids foreclosures on two homes
In a decision that may affect foreclosures nationwide, Massachusetts' highest court voided the seizure of two homes by Wells Fargo & Co and US Bancorp after the banks failed to show they held the mortgages at the time they foreclosed.
Bank shares fell, dragging down the broader U.S. stock market, after the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts on Friday issued its decision, which upheld a lower court ruling.
The unanimous decision is among the earliest to address the validity of foreclosures done without proper documentation. That issue last year prompted an uproar that led lenders such as Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Ally Financial Inc to temporarily stop seizing homes.
"A ruling like this will slow down the foreclosure process" for banks, said Marty Mosby, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities. "They're going to have to be really precise and get everything in order. It doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room."
Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp lacked authority to foreclose after having "failed to make the required showing that they were the holders of the mortgages at the time of foreclosure," Justice Ralph Gants wrote for the Massachusetts court.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Robert Cordy lambasted "the utter carelessness" that the banks demonstrated in documenting their right to own the properties.
Courts in other U.S. states are considering similar cases, and all 50 state attorneys general are examining whether lenders are forcing people out of their homes improperly.
Neil Pasricha's blog 1000 Awesome Things savors life's simple pleasures, from free refills to clean sheets. In this heartfelt talk from TEDxToronto, he reveals the 3 secrets (all starting with A) to leading a life that's truly awesome.
Working with a team of physicists, Dr. Deborah Rhodes developed a new tool for tumor detection that's 3 times as effective as traditional mammograms for women with dense breast tissue. The life-saving implications are stunning. So why haven't we heard of it? Rhodes shares the story behind the tool's creation, and the web of politics and economics that keep it from mainstream use.
Prosecutors should never have the power to decide whether allow DNA testing requested after a conviction as it's an obvious conflict of interest. Nor should evidence ever be destroyed.
By Eugene Robinson
Race still matters in America and justice is not completely blind. Anyone who believes otherwise should examine the case of Cornelius Dupree Jr., who was ruled innocent Tuesday after spending 30 years in prison--almost his entire adult life--for a brutal carjacking and rape that he did not commit.
Dupree is just the latest of 21 inmates from the Dallas area, almost all of them black, who have been exonerated since a 2001 Texas law permitted DNA testing of the evidence against them. At least another 20 convicts from other parts of the state have similarly been cleared of their crimes. Imagine the wrongs that could be righted if every state had a law like the one in Texas--and if every jurisdiction saved years-old evidence the way Dallas does.
If you don't believe me, listen to Craig Watkins, the Dallas County district attorney who is waging a systematic crusade to uncover and redress these miscarriages of justice. Elected in 2006, Watkins is the first Democrat since 1986--and the first African-American ever--to hold the job. Last year, amid the Republican wave, he somehow managed to get re-elected.
Of the inmates exonerated thus far, "we've had maybe three white guys," Watkins told me in a telephone interview. "All the rest are black, and all of them were wrongfully identified at trial. Eyewitness identification, on its own, is flawed. And then there's prosecutorial misconduct. You've got to talk about that too."
Keep in mind that these are innocent men. It's not that re-examining the evidence has raised "reasonable doubt" about their convictions, and it's not that they are being freed on some technicality. According to the DNA, there's no doubt at all: They didn't do it.
Most of the Texas cases involve violent crimes that include sexual assault--which means that the perpetrators left DNA behind.
The assault for which Dupree was convicted took place on Nov. 23, 1979. A young couple had stopped at a liquor store to buy cigarettes and use a pay phone. Two armed men commandeered the couple's car, kicked the man out, raped the woman, and drove away. A week later, Dupree and another man, Anthony Massingill, were arrested not far from the crime scene; officers said they resembled two men who were being sought for a similar crime.
The rape victim identified Dupree and Massingill in a photo lineup, although her companion was unable to identify either man. At trial, both victims identified Dupree as one of the assailants.
Dupree always claimed innocence, but his appeals were turned down by the courts. In 2006, his case was accepted by the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center that has represented inmates nationwide in wrongful-conviction cases.
Meanwhile, Watkins--a former defense lawyer--took office and quickly established a Conviction Integrity Unit to examine hundreds of cases in which inmates' requests for new DNA testing had been denied by the previous district attorney. Watkins is one of the few prosecutors nationwide to welcome and support the Innocence Project's interventions.
He told me that 18 of the Dallas DNA exonerations have come on his watch. In quite a few of the cases he examines, the defendant turns out to be guilty. But not in all of them.
The mentality of prosecutors is "convictions, convictions, convictions," Watkins said. "Really, it is the job of a district attorney to seek justice. If there's a person who was wrongfully convicted, it's my job to make it right."
Testing of the evidence used to convict Dupree revealed DNA that came from two unidentified men--and no DNA at all from Dupree or Massingill. Since there were only two attackers, Dupree had been telling the truth all along. He was innocent.
Dupree won parole in July, after three decades behind bars, and was a free man at the time of his exoneration. He was eligible to be released in 2004 but would have had to attend a treatment program for sex offenders; he refused, seeing participation as an admission of guilt. Massingill remains in prison on conviction from an unrelated case, now also being re-examined.
It's an explosive combination--African-American men, false allegations of rape, eyewitness testimony that proves to be wrong, years of unjust punishment for innocent men. Craig Watkins is proving that this sociological bomb can be defused with a combination of science and integrity. Prosecutors around the nation should follow his courageous example.
by Matt Taibbi
He's a lazy, double-talking shill for corporate interests. So how's he going to fare with the Tea Party?
John Boehner is the ultimate Beltway hack, a man whose unmatched and self-serving skill at political survival has made him, after two decades in Washington, the hairy blue mold on the American congressional sandwich. The biographer who somewhere down the line tackles the question of Boehner's legacy will do well to simply throw out any references to party affiliation, because the thing that has made Boehner who he is -- the thing that has finally lifted him to the apex of legislative power in America -- has almost nothing to do with his being a Republican.
The Democrats have plenty of creatures like Boehner. But in the new Speaker of the House, the Republicans own the perfect archetype -- the quintessential example of the kind of glad-handing, double-talking, K Street toady who has dominated the politics of both parties for decades. In sports, we talk about athletes who are the "total package," and that term comes close to describing Boehner's talent for perpetuating our corrupt and debt-addled status quo: He's a five-tool insider who can lie, cheat, steal, play golf, change his mind on command and do anything else his lobbyist buddies and campaign contributors require of him to get the job done.
As for what that job is, here's the thing: In this age of greed-enabling bailouts and rampaging Tea Parties and coast-to-coast voter rage toward the entire political process, Congress in particular now ranks as one of the single most unpopular political entities on earth. Recent polls show that only 13 percent of Americans approve of the job performance of their national legislature -- which makes our elected representatives even less popular here at home than, say, Al Qaeda is in Pakistan. (Bin Laden and Co. scored an 18 percent approval rating not long ago.)
The reasons aren't hard to figure. Voters are fatigued not only by the seemingly endless kinky-sex and corruption scandals emanating from Capitol Hill, but also by the increasingly infuriating fact that no matter which party is in power, the leadership inevitably borrows like dice addicts on the Vegas strip and uses the money to pay for huge Frankensteinian initiatives that bloat the size and power of the federal government, often without semblance of sense or plan. The underlying dynamic is bought-off congressmen ignoring real social problems and using the legislative process to construct massive perpetual handouts for their campaign-contributor sponsors. Both parties have now made the servicing of the giant handout machine their primary raison d'être -- and it's this perception, that Washington is occupied by an unbreakable bipartisan conspiracy of favor-churning hacks, that has inspired anti-Washington revolts like the Tea Party.
"Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, the Patriot Act -- practically any significant piece of legislation that came out of the Bush presidency, it was a joke," says Chris Littleton, who heads a coalition of 58 Tea Party groups in Boehner's home state of Ohio.
The anger of Tea Partiers like Littleton erupted when they suddenly realized that their elected leaders in Congress had developed a primary allegiance not to constituents back home or even to ideology, but to themselves and their own dissolute, pay-for-play, you-scratch-mine, I'll-scratch-yours intramural bureaucratic calculus. Voters got mad when leaders covered up sex scandals, partied on corporate junkets when they should have been working on the public dime, wasted mountains of taxpayer money on political witch hunts instead of working to stave off another financial crisis or terrorist attack -- and they got mad, especially, when congressional leaders stopped having the common decency to hide the lavish gifts funneled to them by their lobbyist pals in exchange for political favors, parading around in public with their goodies in hand without even caring how it looked.
The irony is, no one -- no one -- represents all of these bile-inspiring qualities better than John Boehner. His most striking achievement is that there's a check mark next to his name on virtually every entry on the list of common public complaints about Congress. And yet, when the Republicans rolled back into the control of the House this past November on the strength of a nationwide Throw-the-Bums-Out movement, it was Boehner, the prototypical bum, who somehow clambered onto the congressional throne. It's hard to imagine that in all of American political history there has been a more unlikely marriage than John Boehner and the pitchfork-wielding, incumbent-eating Tea Party, whose blood ostensibly boils at the thought of business as usual. Because John Boehner is business as usual, a man devoted almost exclusively to ensuring his own political survival by tending faithfully to the corrupt and clanking Beltway machinery. How? Let us count the ways.
by Robert Reich
In 1968, 1,300 sanitation workers in Memphis went on strike. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to support them. That was where he lost his life. Eventually Memphis heard the grievances of its sanitation workers. And in subsequent years millions of public employees across the nation have benefited from the job protections they've earned.
But now the right is going after public employees.
Public servants are convenient scapegoats. Republicans would rather deflect attention from corporate executive pay that continues to rise as corporate profits soar, even as corporations refuse to hire more workers. They don't want stories about Wall Street bonuses, now higher than before taxpayers bailed out the Street. And they'd like to avoid a spotlight on the billions raked in by hedge-fund and private-equity managers whose income is treated as capital gains and subject to only a 15 percent tax, due to a loophole in the tax laws designed specifically for them.
It's far more convenient to go after people who are doing the public's work -- sanitation workers, police officers, fire fighters, teachers, social workers, federal employees -- to call them "faceless bureaucrats" and portray them as hooligans who are making off with your money and crippling federal and state budgets. The story fits better with the Republican's Big Lie that our problems are due to a government that's too big.
Above all, Republicans don't want to have to justify continued tax cuts for the rich. As quietly as possible, they want to make them permanent.
But the right's argument is shot-through with bad data, twisted evidence, and unsupported assertions.
Irrespective of his legal acumen, its apparent the man has no concept of subcategories or set theory. The 14th Amendment peaks of equality before the law for "citizens" which includes the subcategories of gender or sexual preference.
By John Turley
While the legal profession debates the propriety of his decision to participate in the educational sessions for conservative new members of Congress, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia is also causing a stir over his public statement that the 14th Amendment does not prohibit discrimination against women or gays.
Scalia's statement came in an interview with California Lawyer magazine. Scalia stated "You know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that's fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly, the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't."
Once again, this statement is not a violation of judicial ethics but rather a violation of a core principle of judicial self-restraint. In the past, justices avoided public appearances beyond occasional law school commencements and ceremonial appearances. That was before the advent of the celebrity justice where members increasingly appear in high profile events. I take a highly conservative view of such appearances. I believe it undermines the integrity of the court for justices to be holding forth on their personal views in interviews and conferences. They are given one of nine unique positions that require a degree personal discipline in public appearance and, yes, insularity. As noted in this column, I admired John Paul Stevens for his practice of having his opinions speak for themselves. Scalia has helped inspire a new model of the celebrity justice that appears to appeal to many of his colleagues. These interviews and speeches tend to be self-aggrandizing exercises and not only do not do justice to the Court but to Scalia himself. He is certainly not alone in yielding to the temptation to appear in public. Both liberal and conservative justices have increasingly made controversial appearances.
Scalia's views on gender discrimination are well-known. However, such arguments should be precedent not personality driven. Scalia is rightfully viewed as an intellectual leader of the conservative wing of the Court. If there is anyone who could allow his opinions to speak well for himself, it is Justice Scalia. He clearly enjoys exchanges with students and lawyers. He is also one of the most entertaining and dynamic members of the Court. I truly like that about him. However, this is a job that requires the small sacrifice in one's public persona. Scalia's legacy would be better served with less of the justice in the public arena.
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Nugent perfectly demonstrates the stupidity and kneejerk gullibility that is the Teaparty
Talk about perverting justice.
In Nevada, the sentence of Michelle Lyn Taylor, 34, is attracting considerable debate. Taylor was convicted of lewdness with a minor under 14 after kissing a friend's 13-year-old child, putting his hand on her breast, and offering to have sex with him. Her sentence? Life in prison.
Taylor is the latest example of how mandatory minimums can produce grotesque results. While what she did was wrong and deserved punishment, she has been given a longer sentence than some murderers and rapists in this country. Her public defender noted that she was wearing a bra at the time of the touching and Stacey Thoman, who actively participated in the sexual abuse of her daughter in another case, received only a four-to-20 year sentence.
Elko County District Attorney Gary Woodbury was unapologetic and noted that Taylor would not plead guilty because she did not want to register as a sex offender.
The case is an excellent example of how mandatory minimum sentencing laws can mutate our legal system. Prosecutors can threaten life imprisonment if a person does not enter a plea on a lesser charge. If they refuse, they prosecute in the full knowledge that a conviction would result in a life sentence. Notably, the prosecutor in the video below from the sentencing hearing admits that "the sentence is way out of line."
The public defender noted that the jury was never told that a conviction would require a sentence of life in prison. She claims that the prosecutor never offered a plea agreement and that the prosecutor refused to bring an alternative charge in full knowledge of the likely outcome. She also argues that the law is cruel and unusual punishment. However, the Supreme Court has effectively gutted the limitation on such sentencings under the Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment clause. In Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63 (2003), the Court ruled that it did not violate the Constitution for a California jury to impose a 50 years to life sentence under its three-strikes law for a man convicted of shoplifting nine videotapes from a KMart. These petty theft charges would normally be treated as misdemeanors with a $150 fine, but the court and prosecutor insisted on treating them as a felony to trigger the three-strikes law.
On the same day, the Court upheld the sentence of Gary Ewing who stole three golf clubs worth $399 each from the pro shop of the El Segundo Golf Course in El Segundo, California. Again, the Court in Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11 (2003), upheld the 25-to-life sentence under California's three strikes law in a decision by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
The sentencing law allows for probation after ten years.
A favorite musician of mine...I especially admired the fact that he loathed the music industry and refused its call to ultimate fame.
Gerry Rafferty, Songwriter, Dies at 63
By Douglas Martin
Gerry Rafferty, a Scottish singer and songwriter who combined a gift for melody, a distinctive voice and a fatalistic worldview to produce 1970s hits like "Stuck in the Middle With You" and "Baker Street," died Tuesday in Dorset, England. He was 63.
His death was confirmed by Michael Gray, his former manager, in an obituary he wrote for the London newspaper The Guardian, and later by his agent, Paul Charles, in a report by The Associated Press. Various news reports said Mr. Rafferty had been hospitalized for severe liver and kidney problems.
Mr. Rafferty's 1978 album, "City to City," reached No. 1 in the United States. One track, "Baker Street," made the Top 10 in both Britain and the United States. So did "Stuck in the Middle With You," a song Mr. Rafferty and Joe Egan recorded with their group Stealers Wheel in 1972. That song reached a new generation of listeners when Quentin Tarantino used it in the notorious ear-slicing scene in his 1992 movie "Reservoir Dogs."
In all, Mr. Rafferty sold more than 10 million albums over three decades.
But Mr. Gray, writing in The Guardian, said Mr. Rafferty's success was a shadow of what it might have been. At the peak of his popularity, Mr. Rafferty declined to tour the United States and turned down chances to play with Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney. In his later years his output declined, then stopped altogether as he "spiraled into alcoholism," Mr. Gray said. Mr. Rafferty himself said in a rare interview in 2009 with The Sunday Express that he suffered from depression.
But at his peak Mr. Rafferty drew rave reviews for his synthesis of country, folk and rock music. Reviewing "City to City" in Rolling Stone, Ken Emerson said Mr. Rafferty "writes with the sweet melodiousness of Paul McCartney and sings with John Lennon's weary huskiness."
Mr. Emerson discerned "a prayerful quality" in Mr. Rafferty's voice, reminiscent of "the dim dawn after a dark night of the soul."
Almost from his birth in Paisley, Scotland, on April 16, 1947, Gerald Rafferty knew plenty about life's dark side. He and his mother would hide from his father to avoid being beaten when he stumbled home drunk, Mr. Gray wrote. But music pervaded the family's life, as young Gerry assimilated Roman Catholic hymns, traditional folk music, 1950s pop and even the Irish rebel tunes his deaf father bellowed.
Its true...evil is hard to kill.
Mr. Cheney's heart will never beat at full strength again, doctors say. His new mechanical pump, a partial artificial heart known as a ventricular assist device, leaves patients without a pulse because it pushes blood continuously instead of mimicking the heart's own beat. Most pulse-less patients feel nothing unusual, but the devices do pose significant risks of infection. They are implanted as a last resort either for permanent use or as a bridge to transplant until a donor heart can be found. Mr. Cheney, who has participated in some of the nation's toughest decisions for decades, now faces a crucial one of his own: whether to seek a full heart transplant.
Calling all bacteria...
I understand the reasoning behind this PC attempt to remove the 'n' word from Twain's brilliant period novel, but like almost all things PC, it diminishes the original power of intent and thereby reduces Twain's point in use of the word. Thankfully, the original Huckleberry Finn is in the public domain and freely available.
by Keith Staskiewicz
What is a word worth? According to Publishers Weekly, NewSouth Books' upcoming edition of Mark Twain's seminal novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will remove all instances of the "n" word--I'll give you a hint, it's not nonesuch--present in the text and replace it with slave. The new book will also remove usage of the word Injun. The effort is spearheaded by Twain expert Alan Gribben, who says his PC-ified version is not an attempt to neuter the classic but rather to update it. "Race matters in these books," Gribben told PW. "It's a matter of how you express that in the 21st century."
Unsurprisingly, there are already those who are yelling "Censorship!" as well as others with thesauruses yelling "Bowdlerization!" and "Comstockery!" Their position is understandable: Twain's book has been one of the most often misunderstood novels of all time, continuously being accused of perpetuating the prejudiced attitudes it is criticizing, and it's a little disheartening to see a cave-in to those who would ban a book simply because it requires context. On the other hand, if this puts the book into the hands of kids who would not otherwise be allowed to read it due to forces beyond their control (overprotective parents and the school boards they frighten), then maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge. It's unfortunate, but is it really any more catastrophic than a TBS-friendly re-edit of The Godfather, you down-and-dirty melon farmer? The original product is changed for the benefit of those who, for one reason or another, are not mature enough to handle it, but as long as it doesn't affect the original, is there a problem?
What do you think? Unnecessary censorship or necessary evil?