Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pakistan Militant Group Scraps Truce

On the road to World War III:

A powerful Taliban faction in a northwestern tribal region has said it is withdrawing from a peace deal with the government to protest continuing strikes by American drones, confronting the Pakistani military with a possible two-front campaign against militants, according to Pakistani news reports on Tuesday.

The Taliban faction, led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, operates in the mountainous North Waziristan area along the border with Afghanistan.

It struck a peace deal with the authorities in February 2008, but Mr. Gul Bahadur said the truce was no longer operative. The development Monday came as American reinforcements have been moving into Afghanistan. Taliban fighters there have traditionally relied on havens in Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions.

Soon after the Pakistani Taliban’s announcement that it was abandoning the truce, as many as 150 militants attacked a Pakistani military convoy about 22 miles west of Miramshah, the capital of North Waziristan. At least 30 soldiers —the Taliban claimed 60 — were believed to have been killed in the ambush, which highlighted the army’s vulnerability in the area.

Separately, The Associated Press reported that four people were killed in southwestern Pakistan when a car bomber attacked trucks taking supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan.

And Americans are still dying in Iraq:
The U.S. military says an American soldier has been killed in combat in Iraq.

A statement says the Multi-National Division — Baghdad soldier died Sunday but further details weren't released.

The statement was issued Monday, on the eve of a deadline for U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities.

American soldiers will still be in urban areas but their mission will shift from one of combat to training and advising their Iraqi counterparts.

The statement says the soldier's death is under investigation.

At least 4,319 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003. That's according to an Associated Press count.

And despite an invasion that was based in part to gain control of Iraq's oil, we could loss out there too:
After a year in preparation, a much-heralded auction of licenses to develop Iraq’s huge oil reserves began Tuesday but seemed to run into difficulties when oil and gas companies demanded far more remuneration than the authorities were ready to pay.

Symbolically, the sale, broadcast on television, coincided with the formal handover by American forces of security arrangements in urban areas to Iraqi forces — an economic counterpoint to the striving for political military independence underpinning the Iraqi takeover of patrolling Iraq’s restive cities.

At the auction, each contender offered a sealed bid containing details of how much oil the developing company would produce and how much it expected to be paid for each barrel of oil produced.

The auction has been billed as one of huge economic importance to Iraq, whose oil fields have been closed to foreigners for decades since they were nationalized. Iraq is seeking to increase its oil production after six years of war.

But, according to reporters watching the auction, the first round of bidding for the vast Rumaila field — the biggest on offer — stalled when Exxon Mobil and a consortium of BP and the China National Petroleum Corp. both wanted to earn more than the government’s offer of $2 for each barrel above a guaranteed minimum production level. Exxon said it would produce 3.1 million barrels daily with each additional barrel at a fee of $4.80, news reports said. The BP consortium said it would produce 2.85 million barrels a day and wanted $3.99 for each additional barrel.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Paul Krugman: The Global Warming Deniers Betray the Environment

Krugman says it all in his NY Times op-ed column:

So the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. In political terms, it was a remarkable achievement.

But 212 representatives voted no. A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhousegases.

And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.

To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research.

The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.

China Made 50 Percent of Recalled Goods Last Year

All that matters to the free traders is those cheap products made from repressed labor.

Chinese manufacturers made more than half of the goods that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled last year, but few of them paid any price for producing defective wares.

The long list of faulty products included Chinese-made highchairs whose seat backs failed, steam cleaners that burned their users, bikes whose front-wheel forks broke, saunas that overheated, illuminated exit signs that stopped working when commercial power failed, dune buggies whose seat belts broke on impact and coffee makers that overheated and started fires.

It also included loosely knotted soccer goal nets that entrapped and strangled a child and a toy chest whose poorly supported lid fell on a toddler's neck and killed him, according to CPSC filings.

The difficulty in recovering damages is a lesson that U.S. homeowners who are stuck with defective and possibly toxic Chinese drywall are likely to learn in the coming months. Builders installed the drywall in 2004-5 when the home building boom outstripped U.S. drywall supplies. The CPSC and the Environmental Protection Agency are investigating the consequences.

While everyone involved is likely to be sued — installers, contractors, distributors, importers and Chinese manufacturers — the last are the hardest to reach by far.

For starters, suing a Chinese company in a Chinese court isn't a good idea for most American plaintiffs, said Michael Lyle, a seasoned international lawyer. "It's like suing Michael Jordan in Chicago."

Yet many Chinese manufacturers also evade trial in the U.S. simply by persuading judges that their companies had no substantial business presence in the states in which they've been sued. That's not hard for Chinese manufacturers, which typically rely on independent importers to sell to the American market.

What if Bush had Decided to Remain President?

The left seems to be all hot and bothered about the "coup" used to remove Hoduran President, Manuel Zelaya, from office. It doesn't seem to matter to them that Zelaya had refused to abide by the constitution limiting his term as President. What if George W. Bush had decided he wanted a third term? Sound far fetched? In NYC, the Mayor, Mike Bloomberg, has decided he will ignore the will of the people and run for a third term. His predecessor left office without challenging term limits. What's to stop some U.S. politician from saying he's entitled to be office perpetually? Wait. We already have that. It's called the U.S. Congress.
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Rise in Cyber Crime, Cyber Terrorism and Cyber Espionage Tied Heavily to Data-Stealing Malware

This is becoming an ever greater problem. And we know it is a threat now to national security. Can we count on the government to protect us? I'm not so sure.

While the term "data-stealing malware" is a relatively new one, its sole purpose for existence is a familiar story: To steal proprietary information such as online banking credentials, credit card numbers, social security numbers, passwords, and more from compromised networks and PCs in order to fuel an underground cyber crime economy driven by profit-seeking criminal networks that cross geopolitical boundaries.

Trojans: The Rising Star in Data-Stealing

Trojans are the fastest growing category of data-stealing malware, according to data from TrendLabs(SM), Trend Micro's global network of research, service, and support centers committed to constant threat surveillance and attack prevention. Trojan attacks pose a serious threat to computer security. True to their name, they typically arrive disguised as something benign such as a screen saver, game, or joke. Based on TrendLabs research:

-- In 2007, 52 percent of data-stealing malware were Trojans; in 2008, that number increased to 87 percent; as of Q1 2009, 93 percent of data-stealing malware were Trojans.

-- Trojans and Trojan spyware are the predominant type of data-stealing malware in all regions monitored by TrendLabs, including Australia, Asia, Africa, South America, North America and Europe.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

We Need Term Limits (6-28-09)

Another politician who refuses to leave office...

Soldiers detained the president of Honduras, Jose Manuel Zelaya, on Sunday - the day he set for a referendum on changing the constitution to allow him to run for another term.
...despite his time being up. It took the military to force him out. Even a law breaker like George W. stepped down when his time was up. Let's hope it doesn't come to this in the U.S. We have a mayor in New York that bought his way into office and now has overturned term limits, with the help of the City Council...
[...]why doesn’t he respect the fact that twice New Yorkers voted for term limits, yet Bloomberg felt that he had the right to overturn the will of the people and put himself on the ballot again for a third term. What is Bloomberg afraid of, he has no respect for the voters of New York and he bribed the members of the City Council to ok a third term for him by promising a third term for those who would have been also been termed out this year, he is once again trying to buy to office of the mayor. They way that the mayor is trying secure his third term I think is enough to vote him out, and any council member who supported the mayors efforts should also be removed from office.
...to remain as Mayor indefinitely. This decision ignores the will of people whom put term limits in the first place. We don't want to end up like Chicago, which has the Daley dynasty. Is it any wonder that the NY State legislators are behaving like thugs. Even former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani agrees on the need for term limits:
NEW YORK STATE government is not working. This has been true for some time. But the paralysis and confusion that has overtaken the capital demonstrates the need to confront this dysfunction directly and take decisive steps to solve it once and for all. That’s why I’m calling on Albany to convene a state constitutional convention.

[...]All statewide elected officials and members of the Legislature should be term limited to bring new blood into Albany while stopping the careerism that too often blocks real progress. A citizens’ legislature would be more effective in addressing New Yorkers’ problems with a fresh perspective.
If it's good for the state legislatures than why not Congress. What do we have to lose?
Fifteen state legislatures have term limits in effect today and most have experienced a complete turnover in their membership. Term limits have prevented more than a thousand experienced legislators from running for reelection. New legislators have to learn their jobs in less than six years, chair important committees in their first term, and even serve as Speaker of the House after just two or three years in office. The leadership, culture and organization inside those legislatures have had to adjust to limited terms in office. So have those who work outside the legislative halls, such as bureaucrats, governors and lobbyists.

Voter initiatives of the 1990s are responsible for states adopting legislative limits. In an online column, Wall Street Journal columnist Steve Moore wrote that “limits on politicians' time in office were enacted or reaffirmed by enormous margins nearly everywhere they were on the ballot in what might have been the loudest referendum for term limitation by voters ever.” The Republicans hopped on the bandwagon.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Obama Takes the Bush Line on Guantánamo Detainees

The solution is military tribunals or trying these individuals in the world court. It is inexcusable for the President, a constitutional professor, to be seemingly taking the same position his predecessor did. Which was an outrage.

The Obama administration is considering forgoing legislation and issuing an executive order that would authorize the president to incarcerate some terrorism suspects indefinitely, White House officials said Friday.

Such an order would be controversial — seemingly aligning the administration with a disputed legal doctrine of former President George W. Bush, whose lawyers held that the president had sweeping authority in wartime to imprison those he deemed threats to national security.

Obama officials sought to play down the significance of the discussions by an administration panel, saying that consideration of such an order was still in an early phase and subject to change. They said that lawyers had not written a specific proposal and that nothing had been submitted to the White House for review by senior officials.

Still, the possibility of the order appeared to reflect increasing frustration within the administration over the difficulties posed by the effort to meet Mr. Obama’s commitment to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, by January and the dwindling options for dealing with the detainees before then.

This from the Huffington Post:
First, there is no legitimate reason for a government official to claim anonymity here. It simply echoes the official line from the article, which is likely to be Robert Gibbs' line when reporters press the issue in Monday's briefing.

Second, the response is a classic dodge -- there is no executive order now, and no decision has been made. Of course, the article is not reporting that an order has already been issued. The news is that Obama officials are preparing to advance President Bush's Gitmo detention regime through a unilateral executive order soon, cutting out Congress, and thus any democratic accountability, while extending a controversial, unpopular policy.

Even though Obama's National Archives speech asserted the importance of working with other branches of government. ("We must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded," he said, "They can't be based simply on what I or the executive branch decide alone.")

Even though the Bush administration already tried this unilateral tack, only to have its system invalidated by the Supreme Court precisely because Congress was shut out. (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.)

And even though decades of legal precedent show, as Professor/President Obama knows, that the executive branch operates at the nadir of its constitutional power when acting without the cooperation of Congress, even in the national security arena. (A point most famously established for President Truman in the Youngstown case.)

Obama's argument for preventive detention "violates basic American values and is likely unconstitutional," warned Sen. Russ Feingold in a recent letter to the President, cautioning that detention without trial "is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world." Advancing such a controversial precedent on American soil, without the participation of Congress or the American people, would be disastrous.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson: The Price of Fame in America

He will be remembered by many as bizaar and tragic figure. But for those who loved music Michael Jackson will live on in memories as a music giant. His contribution to the popular culture will be unsurpassed. He is a icon. Who, despite committing terrible crimes, will be the standard by which all other musical performers are measured.

I personally grew up with his music, and revere his memory as the great talent he was. He gave me many years of entertainment happiness. I just wish he could've found help for his personal demons.

But Michael Jackson was as much a victim as a victimizer. Super stardom in the entertainment industry is a death sentence (e.g., Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, etc). Child stars in particular.

Then there is the issue of celebrities having easy access to drugs. The government should look into the whole question of doctors prescribing drugs to celebrities at their whim. Such doctors should be prosecuted. Their job should be to heal rather than help destroy lives.
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Obama Interview with ABC's Good Morning America: Transcript (6-24-09)

Read the complete transcript. Excerpt below:

DIANE SAWYER: Do you still expect to get health care by the end of the year?


SAWYER: Absolutely?

OBAMA: Absolutely.

SAWYER: If you don't, is it over for four years?

OBAMA: We're going get it done. So, I won't engage in hypotheticals in which we don't. And the reason its going get done is because the American People understand it has to get done. I travel all across the country. And I've done so for the last two years now. Every town I visit, every city I go, people ask me, you know, "Why is it that my premiums have gone up-- two, three times in the last nine, ten years? What can I do when my employer says to me, 'We just can't afford to provide health care anymore'?"

Governors who say Medicaid is-- breaking the bank. We're dealing here in Washington with a enormous federal deficit and debt that is largely driven by health care costs. So, with its families, businesses, or government, we know that we're going have to-- reform this system. And I'm confident that-- if everybody puts their minds to it, we can get it done.

SAWYER: I'd like to start with family experience of health care.

OBAMA: Right.

SAWYER: If I can. Because we hear over and over again, from both sides, from all sides, that we are locked in a vicious cycle of quantity not quality.

OBAMA: Right.

SAWYER: As one doctor wrote. We pay doctors for what they do to to patients, but not what they do for--

OBAMA: Right.

SAWYER: --patients. Is it time for Americans to recognize they're going to get fewer scans, fewer procedures, fewer tests, because the vicious cycle has to stop?

OBAMA: Well, I think what's important is to say to the American People that you should get the best possible care to make you well. And that the measure of the quality of care is not quantity, but whether or not it is making you better. Now, what we've seen is that there's some communities and some health systems that do this very well. Mayo Clinic, a classic example. In Rochester, Minnesota. People go there. They-- spend about 20-30 percent less than some other parts of the country, and yet have better outcomes.

And in other cases, you've got more spending, worse outcome. So, what we've said is let's put out the research. Let's study and figure out what works and what doesn't. And let's encourage doctors and patients to get what works. Let's discourage what doesn't. Let's make sure that our payment incentives allow doctors to do the right thing. Because sometimes our payment incentives don't allow them to do the right things. And if we do that, then I'm confident that we can drive down costs significantly.

SAWYER: Will it just be encouragement? Or will there be a board making Solomonic decisions--

OBAMA: Well, what I-- what I--

SAWYER: --about best practices? And--

OBAMA: What I've suggested is-- is that we have a-- a commission that helps-- made up of doctors, made up of experts, that helps set best-- best practices.

SAWYER: By law?

OBAMA: Well, what it does is-- that if we know what those best practices are, then I'm confident that doctors are going want to engage in best practices. But I'm also confident patients are going insist on it. Because one of the things they're going say is, "Well, gosh, Doctor. If-- if-- if-- what I'm hearing is, is that I just need one test instead of five. Am I paying for the other five?"

Employers are going start asking, when they're shopping around for health systems for their employees, "Are we getting the best deal possible?" So, I-- I think that-- we-- we shouldn't be overly cynical. In some cases, people just don't know what the best practices are. And certain cultures build up. And we can change those cultures, but it's going require some work.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Iranian Protesters Greatest Weapon: Video Cameras

It would seem the government in Iran has the upper hand with it's police and soldiers. But those protesting against the stolen election there have greatest weapon of all -- video cameras and the Internet.

If it were not for the videos and pictures being broadcast out of Iran over the Internet, the press would int he West wouldn't pay much attention. Remember the Tibetan protests of last year. We were all outraged up until the phone videos started drying up. Now we no longer talk about Tibet, again. And how about the genocide in Darfur, or the AIDs catastrophe in the rest of the African continent. It doesn't exist. No video, no attention.

The US government would, if it wants to help, and the Republicans keep running their mouths about how much their concerned, should fund operations that would surreptitously supply video cameras and internet ready phones to the protesters.

This is the weapon of the future.
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Obama News Conference Transcript 6-23-09

Read the complete transcript. Excerpt below:

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Your administration has said that the offer to talk to Iran’s leaders remains open. Can you say if that’s still so even with all the violence that has been committed by the government against the peaceful protesters?

And if it is, is there any red line that your administration won’t cross where that offer will be shut off?

OBAMA: Well, obviously what’s happened in Iran is profound, and we’re still waiting to see how it plays itself out.

My position coming into this office has been that the United States has core national security interests in making sure that Iran doesn’t possess a nuclear weapon and it stops exporting terrorism outside of its borders.

We have provided a path whereby Iran can reach out to the international community, engage, and become a part of international norms.

It is up to them to make a decision as to whether they choose that path. What we’ve been saying over the last several days, the last couple of weeks, obviously is not encouraging in terms of the path that this regime may choose to take.

And the fact that they are now in the midst of an extraordinary debate taking place in Iran, you know, may end up coloring how they respond to the international community as a whole.

We are going to monitor and see how this plays itself out before we make any judgments about how we proceed. But to reiterate, there is a path available to Iran in which their sovereignty is respected, their traditions, their culture, their faith is respected, but one in which they are part of a larger community that has responsibilities and operates according to norms and international rules that are universal.

We don’t know how they’re going to respond yet, and that’s what we’re waiting to see.

QUESTION: So should there be consequences for what’s happened so far?

OBAMA: I think that the international community is, as I said before, bearing witness to what’s taking place. And the Iranian government should understand that how they handle the dissent within their own country, generated indigenously, internally, from the Iranian people, will help shape the tone, not only for Iran’s future, but also its relationship to other countries.

[...]QUESTION: Yes, I did, but I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian. We solicited questions on tonight from people who are still courageous enough to be communicating online. And one of them wanted to ask you this: Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad? And if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn’t that a betrayal of -- of what the demonstrators there are working to achieve?

OBAMA: Well, look, we didn’t have international observers on the ground. We can’t say definitively what exactly happened at polling places throughout the country.

What we know is that a sizable percentage of the Iranian people themselves, spanning Iranian society, consider this election illegitimate. It’s not an isolated instance, a little grumbling here or there. There is significant questions about the legitimacy of the election.

And so, ultimately, the most important thing for the Iranian government to consider is legitimacy in the eyes of its own people, not in the eyes of the United States.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Video, Internet the key to Iranian Protest Movement

It is the Internet, that posts the video and pictures, that has made possible the popular uprising in Iran. Without those things there will be no revolution. The Iranian government knows that. The popular media in the West doesn't care about bloodshed or injustice if there is no video.

Protesters and security forces gather. They collide in a cloud of tear gas and a shower of rocks and bottles.

In most cases — when the battles are big and the stakes are high — journalists from around the world are there. But in the possibly history-shaping struggles now unfolding in Iran, the international media has been blocked from its normal front-line role and is quickly making adjustments to counter an official ban on firsthand reporting.

Instead of the main dispatches coming from the scenes, the equation has been greatly reversed. Many major news outlets now rely on phone calls, e-mails and Web chats — and other methods — to contact Iranian protesters and officials for information that bolsters the reports from colleagues in Tehran, who must remain in their offices.

The media clampdown also has been a test on other fronts: challenging the ability of authorities to control information in the Internet age and requiring editors and journalists to quickly decide what to pursue from the avalanche of rumors, tips and observations on social networking sites.

Some news organizations have added Farsi-speaking staff members to their usual coverage teams and stepped up attention to Web sites such as Twitter for comments and images that — if deemed credible — offer a wider view on the unfolding events.

Thomas Warhover, an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, calls the social networks a "counterpart" to traditional reporting rather than a competitor.

"It's democratic impulses," he said. "People are going to find a way to be heard — new and exciting ways. That civil function is pretty incredible."

An international media corps remains in Tehran — mostly Iranians who work as reporters, photographers and camera operators for international or non-Iranians news organizations. But they are now being restricted to their offices, allowed only to conduct phone interviews or cite official sources such as state broadcasters.

The role of Twitter:
Social networking, a distinctly 21st-century phenomenon, has already been credited with aiding protests from the Republic of Georgia to Egypt to Iceland. And Twitter, the newest social-networking tool, has been identified with two mass protests in a matter of months — in Moldova in April and in Iran last week, when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to oppose the official results of the presidential election.

But does the label Twitter Revolution, which has been slapped on the two most recent events, oversell the technology? Skeptics note that only a small number of people used Twitter to organize protests in Iran and that other means — individual text messaging, old-fashioned word of mouth and Farsi-language Web sites — were more influential. But Twitter did prove to be a crucial tool in the cat-and-mouse game between the opposition and the government over enlisting world opinion. As the Iranian government restricts journalists’ access to events, the protesters have used Twitter’s agile communication system to direct the public and journalists alike to video, photographs and written material related to the protests.

McCain: Obama has "Done Well" - Face the Nation Transcript (6-21-09)

Read the complete transcript of McCain's interview on Face the Nation. Excerpt below:

SCHIEFFER: So you want to see more detail. How do you think President Obama is doing so far?

MCCAIN: I think he’s done well. I think he has been -- If you want to look at a legislative scorecard, he has achieved literally every one of his legislative accomplishments. Unfortunately, it’s by picking off a couple of Republicans. It’s not been bipartisan.

So there really hasn’t been that change in the climate in Washington. But elections have consequences. On the issue of national security, I think the president is facing a major challenge here, North Korea and others. And it’s sort of an incomplete. Health care is another major challenge.

SCHIEFFER: What about health care?

MCCAIN: I’m on the health committee. We have been having these endless conversations and some amendments without two major portions of the bill -- with two major portions of the bill being blank. I’ve never seen anything like it since I’ve been in the Senate.

One on whether there will be government plan and whether employers will have to provide -- will be required to provide insurance to their employees. I mean, those are two major fundamental problems with the issue. The Finance Committee, the other committee as you know, has now said that they won’t come to a decision on how you pay for it until after the election. A real devastating blow to their plans was a Congressional Budget Office report last week that said the present plan -- the one we’re considering in the health committee -- would only ensure one-third of the uninsured and would cost $1 trillion.

On Iran:
What does the United States do then?

MCCAIN: Well, I think we’re faced with the same dilemma that we were during the Cold War, throughout centuries. If I could -- very briefly, Daniel Webster, one of the great senators in history, spoke about the Greek revolution in 1823.

MCCAIN: And he said when he was responding to people that said that mere rhetorical support would do no good, and I quote him, he said “I hope it may. It may give them courage in spirit. It may assure them of public regard, teach them that they’re not wholly forgotten by the civilized world, and inspire them with constancy in the pursuit of their great end.” And then he said, “whether it helped or not,” he said, “it was due to our character and called for by our own duty.”

Daniel Webster was right then. Ronald Reagan was right. Harry Truman was right. Scoop Jackson was right. Jack Kennedy was right when he said we’ll go anywhere and bear any burden.

The fact is that America has been and will be the beacon of hope and freedom. And we are not saying that the people who are now risking their lives and some giving them in the streets in cities -- of cities and towns in Iran, but we are saying we’re on their side as they seek freedom.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

NY Times Reporter Escapes from Taliban Captivity

A small victory against the Taliban. This reporter is lucky not to be beheaded.

A New York Times reporter known for making investigative trips deep inside dangerous conflict zones escaped from militant captors after more than seven months in captivity by climbing over a wall, the newspaper said Saturday.

David S. Rohde was abducted Nov. 10 along with an Afghan reporter colleague and a driver south of the Afghan capital, Kabul. He had been traveling through Logar province to interview a Taliban commander, but was apparently intercepted and taken by other militants on the way.

The Times reported that Rohde and Afghan reporter Tahi Ludin on Friday climbed over the wall of a compound where they were held captive in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan.

The two then found a Pakistani army scout, who led them to a nearby base, the Times said. On Saturday, the two were flown to the U.S. military base in Bagram, the Times reported.

A U.S. military spokeswoman, Lt. Cmdr. Chrstine Sidenstricker, said the military had not been involved. She could not say whether the State Department or CIA had flown the two to the military facility.

Rohde, reported to be in good health, said his driver remained with their captors.

In Washington, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the U.S. is "very pleased" that Rohde is safe and returning home. He said the escape "marks the end of a long and difficult ordeal."

Afghan officials confirmed the kidnapping in the days after the abduction, but The Associated Press and most other Western news outlets respected a request from the Times to not report on the abductions because the publicity could negatively affect hostage rescue efforts and imperil Rohde's life.

"From the early days of this ordeal, the prevailing view among David's family, experts in kidnapping cases, officials of several governments and others we consulted was that going public could increase the danger to David and the other hostages. The kidnappers initially said as much," Bill Keller, the Times' executive editor, said in a story posted on the Times' Web site.

"We decided to respect that advice, as we have in other kidnapping cases, and a number of other news organizations that learned of David's plight have done the same. We are enormously grateful for their support."

"We are very relieved that our New York Times colleague escaped safely, and this episode has ended happily," said AP Senior Managing Editor John Daniszewski. "It was an unusual and difficult news judgment to withhold reporting on his abduction, but our practice is to avoid transmitting stories if we believe they endanger someone's life."

The Times said there had been "sporadic communication" from Rohde and his kidnappers during the last seven months but that no ransom money had been paid.

Kristen Mulvihill, Rohde's wife, told the Times that the two had been married for nine months, "and seven of those David has been in captivity." She thanked the Times, the U.S. government and "all the others" who helped the family during the kidnapping.

Rohde was on leave from the Times when he was taken. He had traveled to Afghanistan to work on a book about the history of American involvement in Afghanistan when he went to Logar to interview a Taliban commander. Before setting out, he notified the Times' bureau in Kabul on whom to notify if he did not return, the Times said.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Judge to review Cheney interview with FBI

Will anyone have the courage and sense of honor to do the right thing and bring Cheney to justice? We can not allow 8 years of fascist criminality escape without the architects of that tyranny being punished for their treason:

A federal judge said Thursday that he wants to look at notes from the FBI's interview with former Vice President Dick Cheney during the investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA operative.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan's decision to review the documents followed arguments by Obama administration lawyers that sounded much like the reasons the Bush administration provided for keeping Cheney's interview from the public.

Justice Department lawyers told the judge that future presidents and vice presidents may not cooperate with criminal investigations if they know what they say could become available to their political opponents and late-night comics who would ridicule them.

"If we become a fact-finder for political enemies, they aren't going to cooperate," Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Smith said during a 90-minute hearing. "I don't want a future vice president to say, `I'm not going to cooperate with you because I don't want to be fodder for 'The Daily Show.'"

Sullivan said the Justice Department must give him more precise reasons for keeping the information confidential than they had in previous court filings.

Cheney agreed to talk to FBI agents in June 2004 as they were investigating the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to reporters the year before. Her name was revealed after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, criticized the Bush administration's prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bush's Legacy: VA Approaches 1 Million Soldier Claims

George W. Bush was total disaster as President. But the worst victims of all are the ones he praised the most--our troops. He sent thousands to their deaths needlessly. And many of those who survived are physically and financially harmed for life:

The Veterans Affairs Department appears poised to hit a milestone it would rather avoid: 1 million claims to process.

The milestone approaches as the agency scrambles to hire and train new claims processors, which can take two years. VA officials are working with the Pentagon under orders from President Barack Obama to create by 2012 a system that will allow the two agencies to electronically exchange records, a process now done manually on paper.

Meanwhile, veterans, some of whom were severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, continue to endure financial hardship while their claims are processed. They wait more than four months on average for a claim to be processed, and appealing a claim takes a year and a half on average.

Adding to the backlog are factors ranging from the complexity of processing mental health-related claims of Iraq veterans, to a change that made it easier for Vietnam veterans exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide to qualify for disability payments. The VA says it's receiving about 13 percent more claims today than it did a year ago.

The VA's Web site shows the department has more than 722,000 claims and more than 172,000 appeals it currently is processing, for a total of about 900,000. That is up from about 800,000 total claims in January, according to the site.

Since early 2007, the VA has hired 4,200 claims processors and with that has seen improvements in the number of claims it's processing. It's also working to modernize its system.

Last year, Congress passed legislation that sought to update the disability rating process. A hearing Thursday by a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee will look into whether the law's changes are being implemented and whether the VA will be able to handle a million claims.

Veterans advocates acknowledge there have been improvements in the claims process, but say it still is too cumbersome. They say some injured veterans from the recent wars are paying bills with credit cards, pending their first disability payments, at a time when it is challenging enough to recover from or adapt to their injuries.

U.S. Report: Global Warming is Impacting Environment Now

This report confirms what we see around us on a daily basis. The extremes in weather are apparent to everyone. You have to be a fool not to realize that. Global warming is a reality that must be dealt with now:

The harmful effects of global warming are being felt "here and now and in your backyard," a groundbreaking US government report on climate change has warned.

"Climate change is happening now, it is not something that will happen decades or centuries in the future," Jerry Melillo of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, one of the lead authors of the report, told AFP.

Climate change, which the report blames largely on human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases, "is under way in the United States and projected to grow," said the report by the US Global Change Research Program, a grouping of a dozen government agencies and the White House.

The report is the first on climate change since President Barack Obama took office and outlines in plain, non-scientific terms how global warming has resulted in an increase of extreme weather such as the powerful heatwave that swept Europe in 2003, claiming tens of thousands of lives.

Hurricanes have become fiercer as they gather greater strength over oceans warmed by climate change.

Global warming impacts everything from water supplies to energy, farming to health. And those impacts are expected to increase, according to the report titled "Global Change Impacts in the United States."

Areas of the country that already had high levels of rain or snowfall have seen increases in precipitation because of climate change, says the report, which focuses on the United States but also tackles global climate change issues.

It's even affecting the wind:
A new study shows that winds in the United States have slowed down from 15 to 30 percent over the past 30 years. Scientists are saying that global warming, something that wind power is supposed to be helping, maybe the cause. The report might not be as big a shock to wind farming, because the study also shows that wind speeds in certain parts of the country are actually speeding up.

The wind reduction seems to be taking place more in the eastern part of the country and predominantly in the great lakes. Scientists note that wind moves faster over ice than it does over water, because of the friction. This would confirm climate change as a possible candidate for the slowing winds. As the ice caps continue to melt, the increased friction of water will slow down the air flow. Eugene Takle, one of the leaders of the study and professor of atmosphere at Iowa State University, said that a drop in temperatures at the poles will lower the differential pressure over the earth’s surface. Takle said that this could be a cause of the slowing wind speeds.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Another Republican Politician Involved in a Sex Scandal

Another one bites the hypocritical dust:

Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, a conservative Republican with evident presidential ambitions, abruptly announced Tuesday he carried on an extramarital affair for much of last year with a woman on his campaign staff, a confession that jarred his scandal-weary state as well as his party.

"It is the worst think I have ever done in my life," Ensign said in a brief appearance before reporters. He provided few details other than to say he does not intend to resign from Congress, and he did not disclose what prompted his decision to declare his infidelity. "If there was ever anything in my life that I could take back, this would be it," he added.

Ensign, 51, belongs to the men's group Promise Keepers, a Christian ministry. A member of the Senate Republican leadership, he was chairman of the party's campaign committee leading up to the 2008 elections in which Republicans lost eight seats to Democrats.

His announcement drew no public reaction from Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the party's leader in the Senate, or other members of the leadership.

[...]At home, Ensign's admission comes on top of a string of disclosures and allegations about Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons. Since his election in 2006, Gibbons has been accused of sexual assault, sending love notes on a state phone and improperly firing a state employee. In recent court documents related to divorce proceedings, his wife, Dawn, accused him of a history of infidelity.

Within the Senate, Ensign's admission of an affair placed him in a lengthening line of Republicans to grapple with such issues. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, retired at the end of his term last year, several months after pleading guilty in connection with charges resulting from an airport bathroom sex sting operation.

Last summer, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., apologized for a "very serious sin in my past" after it was disclosed that his Washington phone number was among those called several years ago by a Washington-area escort service that prosecutors have said was a front for prostitution.

The list is long and shocking:
  • Randal David Ankeney is the Republican activist who was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault on a child with force. He was charged with six counts related to getting a 13-year-old girl stoned on pot and then having sex with her. Ankeny has also been accused of sexually assaulting another girl. Source: Denver ABC Article
  • Bob Barr is the Republican Congressman from Georgia who sponsored the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, saying "The flames of hedonism, the flames of narcissism, the flames of self-centered morality are licking at the very foundation of our society, the family unit." He was married three times, and paid for his second wife's abortion (she also suspected he was cheating on her). he failed to pay child support to the children of his first two wives and while married to his third and present wife and was photographed licking whipped cream off of strippers at his inaugural party.
  • Parker J. Bena was a Republican activist and a key player in the campaign to elect George W. Bush as President. Bena was charged and later pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and lying to the FBI. Bena reportedly told the feds that he had received an unsolicited e-mail containing pictures of children (some as young as three years old) performing various sexual acts, but agents learned that he had in fact voluntarily entered a number of child pornography websites and downloaded the images himself. This is said to have involved acts with children as young as 3 years old, on his home computer. Parker J. Bena was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison and fined $18,000. Source: DemocracyUnderground.com
  • Louis Beres is a past chairman of the Christian Coalition of Oregon. Three of his family members accuse him of molesting them as children, when they were pre-teens. In an Editor and Publisher article, in August 2006, Beres confessed to the accusations facing him. The Portland Mercury

Obama wants Financial Watchdog to Protect Consumers

What we really need is a revolutionary consumer bill of rights. Buyer beware is still the law of the land. We need comprehensive laws that protect consumers. But the lobbies won't allow it. But the President gets credit for trying:

When President Obama takes the podium on Wednesday to talk about his proposals for avoiding the next financial crisis, he is expected to unveil one idea that speaks directly to consumers and their pocketbooks.

Obama will call for the creation of a new financial watchdog agency. Its mission will be to protect consumers from deceptive or dangerous mortgages, credit cards and other financial products.

Proponents have dubbed it a "financial products safety commission" akin to the federal agency that oversees safety of toys and other products. Obama himself broached the subject on Jay Leno's "The Tonight Show" in March.

"When you buy a toaster, if it explodes in your face, there's a law that says, 'Your toasters need to be safe,' " Obama said. "When you get a credit card or you get a mortgage, there's no law on the books that says, 'If that explodes in your face, financially, somehow you're going to be protected.' "

The consumer protection idea is one of a series of legislative proposals Obama will lay out on Wednesday -- from beefing up the power of the Federal Reserve to giving regulators authority to wind down big banks.

The consumer protection plan is the only one that already has broad support among key Democrats and could gain a consensus in Congress.

And it's also the only one that so far the banking industry uniformly doesn't like.

"It's bad for the consumers," said Steve Bartlett, president of the Financial Services Roundtable, a lobbying group for banks.

Financial industry advocates object to the idea of carving out the enforcement of consumer protection from the mandates of existing regulatory agencies that oversee companies. They argue that consumer protection is intertwined with ensuring that a financial firm is on stable footing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Obama AMA Speech: Transcript, Video (6-15-09)

Watch the complete video or read the transcript of President Obama's speech before the American Medical Association. Excerpt below:

From the moment I took office as President, the central challenge we've confronted as a nation has been the need to lift ourselves out of the worst recession since World War II. In recent months, we've taken a series of extraordinary steps, not just to repair the immediate damage to our economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting and sustained growth. We're here to create new jobs, to unfreeze our credit markets. We're stemming the loss of homes and the decline of home values.

All this is important. But even as we've made progress, we know that the road to prosperity remains long and it remains difficult. And we also know that one essential step on our journey is to control the spiraling cost of health care in America. And in order to do that, we're going to need the help of the AMA. (Applause.)

Today, we are spending over $2 trillion a year on health care -- almost 50 percent more per person than the next most costly nation. And yet, as I think many of you are aware, for all of this spending, more of our citizens are uninsured, the quality of our care is often lower, and we aren't any healthier. In fact, citizens in some countries that spend substantially less than we do are actually living longer than we do.

Make no mistake: The cost of our health care is a threat to our economy. It's an escalating burden on our families and businesses. It's a ticking time bomb for the federal budget. And it is unsustainable for the United States of America.

It's unsustainable for Americans like Laura Klitzka, a young mother that I met in Wisconsin just last week, who's learned that the breast cancer she thought she'd beaten had spread to her bones, but who's now being forced to spend time worrying about how to cover the $50,000 in medical debts she's already accumulated, worried about future debts that she's going to accumulate, when all she wants to do is spend time with her two children and focus on getting well. These are not the worries that a woman like Laura should have to face in a nation as wealthy as ours. (Applause.)

Stories like Laura's are being told by women and men all across this country -- by families who've seen out-of-pocket costs soar, and premiums double over the last decade at a rate three times faster than wages. This is forcing Americans of all ages to go without the checkups or the prescriptions they need -- that you know they need. It's creating a situation where a single illness can wipe out a lifetime of savings.

Our costly health care system is unsustainable for doctors like Michael Kahn in New Hampshire, who, as he puts it, spends 20 percent of each day supervising a staff explaining insurance problems to patients, completing authorization forms, writing appeal letters -- a routine that he calls disruptive and distracting, giving him less time to do what he became a doctor to do and actually care for his patients. (Applause.)

Iran Election: A Gift to the Israeli Lobby, Neocons

The apparent stolen election in Iran is a victory for those who want to bomb that country. Israel plans on bombing Iran sometime in the near future. A victory for Moussavi would've made it more difficult to argue for an attack on Iran. Now we face more disaster in that region.

Iran's supreme leader may have ordered an investigation into allegations of election fraud, but a near-clampdown on information and conflicting reports from Tehran make it unclear what Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's stance really is.

If confirmed, the order would mark a stunning turnaround by the country's most powerful figure and offer hope to opposition forces who have waged street clashes to protest the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer says, however, that the reports of an investigation being ordered can not be confirmed, and may be premature.

What CBS News can confirm is that the Guardian Council has received pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi's official complaint of fraud, and has said it will report back within 10 days.

The President's hands are tied now:
The re-election of Iran's hard-line president and a tough speech by Israel's hawkish prime minister signaled an increasingly difficult road ahead for President Obama's hopes for ending Tehran's nuclear threat and brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

A setback on either foreign policy front would have been unwelcome in the Obama White House, but difficulties on both issues - which are deeply entangled - were likely to slow progress on the president's ambition of changing the landscape across the Middle East.

Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday that Mr. Obama's effort to engage Tehran after a nearly three-decade estrangement would continue, nevertheless. Mr. Obama, shifting course from his predecessor, has said he wants to talk to the theocratic regime in Tehran, with the central goal of stopping it from producing a nuclear weapon. He has set a year-end deadline for a positive response to his overture.

AMA Resists Obama's Plan to Reform Health Care Industry

It is the American Medical Association that is responsible for the sad state of the health care industry. And if the President wants to reform it he's got a war on his hands. The Clinton administration learned, to the chagrin of the Democrats, that taking on the AMA is risky politically. And those Congresspeople bought off by the AMA will resist any reform of the health care industry:

President Barack Obama, continuing to barnstorm for his health care proposals, will urge doctors gathered in Chicago to support wider insurance coverage and targeted federal spending cuts.

Obama planned to tell the American Medical Association's annual meeting in his hometown on Monday that overhaul cannot wait and that bringing down costs is the most important thing he can do to ensure the country's long-term fiscal health, a senior administration official said.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the president's remarks before they were delivered.

The nation's doctors, like many other groups, are divided over the president's proposals to reshape the health care delivery system. The White House anticipates heavy spending to cover the almost 50 million Americans who lack health insurance and has taken steps in recent days to outline just where that money could be found.

For instance, Obama wants to cut federal payments to hospitals by about $200 billion and cut $313 billion from Medicare and Medicaid. He also is proposing a $635 billion "down payment" in tax increases and spending cuts in the health care system.

To an audience of doctors Obama plans to say the United States spends too much on health care and gets too little in return. He says the health industry is crushing businesses and families and is leading to millions of Americans losing coverage, the administration official said.

Obama's turn before the 250,000-physician group in his latest effort to persuade skeptics that his goal to provide health care to all Americans is worth the $1 trillion price tag it is expected to run during its first decade.

The president plans to acknowledge the costs. But he also will tell the doctors it is not acceptable for the nation to leave so many without insurance, the official said.

Unified Republicans and some fiscally conservative Democrats on Capitol Hill have said they are nervous about how the administration plans to pay for Obama's ideas.

The New York Times reported Monday that Obama has been quietly making a case for reducing malpractice lawsuits to help control costs, long a goal of the AMA and Republicans. Obama has not endorsed capping jury awards

Obama has got a battle ahead of him:
Obama is up against powerful interests -- with diverse standpoints, and strong messaging and money behind them. (Quick -- list three things the opponents of health-care reform will say about the Obama plan? Now tell us what the Obama plan is.)

He could use the AMA doctors to get it all done. With a 12:15 pm ET address, the president brings a sense of urgency with him to Chicago.

“The president will use this address to the American Medical Association to outline why health care reform that brings down costs can't wait another year or another administration,” a senior administration official tells ABC’s Jake Tapper.

“The president will address the heart of problem of rising costs: that we're spending too much money on treatments that don't make Americans any healthier, and that our system equates more expensive core with better care. He'll lay out his vision for a system that replicates best practices, incentivizes excellence, and closes cost disparities -- and he'll ask for our medical professionals' help in getting the job done.”

He’ll reiterate that his plans “include a health insurance exchange where private plans compete with a public option that drives down costs and expands choice. The president will be clear about what a public option does and doesn't mean for patients, physicians, and our broader health care system.”

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A recent series of hate crimes can be attributed to several factors. The large number of guns out there in America makes it easy to commit hate crimes. Additionally, we live an increasingly morally and intellectually deteriorating society where reason is being crowded out by hate. That is the legacy of the Bush years. Lowering standards of living with no hope in site leave many alienated and frustrated. Those are the ones willing to through their lives away by seeking vengeance against some scapegoat. Further inflaming them is the hateful rhetoric of one party that is willing to incite this element. And most of that hate is directed at Barack Obama.

This concerns me greatly. And it should you. It is a culture of hate reminiscent of the Kennedy years. And it could end up the same way. And if it does, the Republicans will be largely to blame.
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Update: This article by the well known NY Times columnist, Frank Rich, echoes my words. I did not read it until after I had written the above.

H.I.V. Found in 22 Actors in Sex Films Since 2004

This is another reason why the porn industry should be shutdown. Porn "actors" should be treated like regular prostitutes under the law. And porn producers should be treated like pimps:

Health officials in Los Angeles said Friday that 22 actors in adult sex movies had contracted H.I.V. since 2004, when a previous outbreak led to efforts to protect pornography industry employees.

The officials accused an industry-supported health clinic of failing to cooperate with state investigations and of failing to protect not only industry workers but their sexual partners as well.

“We have an industry that is exposing workers to life-threatening diseases as part of their employment,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of public health for Los Angeles County. “That is outrageous and anachronistic. These infections are virtually entirely preventable.”

They are breaking the law. Shut them down:
Occupational health officials have long argued that failing to require that performers wear condoms during intercourse and other acts is a violation of safe-workplace regulations.

But Deborah Gold, a senior safety engineer with the California occupational health department, said violations in the pornography industry were so widespread that the state had a difficult time cracking down.

“Many of these companies have two sound stages where they do two to four scenes a day with actors hired from talent agencies,” Ms. Gold said. “In that case, it’s clearly a violation” to have performers have sexual intercourse without condoms.

Six Flags Files for Bankruptcy

A sign of the times:

Six Flags, the big theme park operator, filed for bankruptcy in early Saturday morning in Delaware after failing to reach an agreement with lenders over a plan to reorganize its debt outside of court.

Six Flags became only the latest company to prove unable to cope with its debt load at a time when previous solutions like refinancings are largely unavailable. The theme park operator, which had $2.4 billion in debt, faced nearly $300 million in payments to preferred stockholders due in August.

But the company is hoping to make its ride through bankruptcy a short one. In a statement, Six Flags said that it is seeking court approval for a pre-negotiated restructuring plan, one that has the unanimous approval of its lenders. That proposal would eliminate $1.8 billion in debt and slice off the $300 million in preferred stock payments.

“The current management team inherited a $2.4 billion debt load that cannot be sustained, particularly in these challenging financial markets,” Mark Shapiro, Six Flags’s chief executive, said in a statement. “As a result, we are cleaning up the past and positioning the Company for future growth.”

In its bankruptcy filing, Six Flags said that 37 of its subsidiaries, including parks like Great Adventure and Hurricane Harbor, had also sought court protection. The parks will continue to operate normally, but analysts have questioned whether attendance would fall off as some consumers shun waiting in line for roller coasters at a bankrupt theme park operator.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Afghan Violence hits Highest Level since 2001

There will be no military victory in Afghanistan. And it is likely that the Taliban will prevail. The unstable situation in Pakistan guarantees defeat for us there. Unfortunately, the President will continue to pursue a military solution with the loss of more American lives. The solution is what was done in Serbia and in our own country. Vice President Biden offered it for Iraq. But it won't happen. We do not have the necessary leadership or vision to solve the problem:

The violence that has surged for two years in Afghanistan reached a new high last week, and more difficulty lies ahead, the United States' top war zone commander said Thursday.

Gen. David Petraeus said the number of attacks in Afghanistan over the last week hit the highest level since the December 2001 fall of the Taliban.

"Some of this will go up because we are going to go after their sanctuaries and safe havens as we must," Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, said during a speech at the Washington think-tank Center for a New American Security.

"But there is no question the situation has deteriorated over the course of the past two years in particular and there are difficult times ahead," he said.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

WHO Declares 1st Flu Pandemic in over 40 Years

Why isn't this getting more media coverage. Why aren't politicians calling for action to be taken. Do you trust them to protect us? We should be demanding the government start taking more measures to insure greater preparedness. The 9-11 and the economic meltdown happened because we are not vigilant. Wake up before it's too late.

The World Health Organisation declared an influenza pandemic on Thursday and called on governments to prepare for a long-term battle against an unstoppable flu virus.

The United Nations agency raised its pandemic flu alert to phase 6 on a six-point scale, indicating the first influenza pandemic since 1968 is under way.

"With today's announcement, WHO moves from an emergency to a longer-term response. Based on past experience, this pandemic will be with us for some months, if not years, to come," WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said in a letter to staff, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

People aged 30-50, pregnant women or people suffering from chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes or obesity are deemed at highest risk, she told a news conference.

Countries from Australia to Chile and the United States are also reporting that the new virus, commonly known as swine flu, is "crowding out" seasonal flu, becoming the predominant influenza strain, she said.

In fact the government is doing the opposite when they should be protecting us.
Well, as it turns out, volcano monitoring wasn't the only worthwhile public safety program that was deemed extravagant in the stimulus package, funding for pandemic preparation was axed as well. And playing a critical role was Susan Collins -- for whom the necessity of obtaining her vote is in inverse proportion to the intelligence she shows in policy making.

Via The Nation:

Famously, Maine Senator Collins, the supposedly moderate Republican who demanded cuts in health care spending in exchange for her support of a watered-down version of the stimulus, fumed about the pandemic funding: "Does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill No, we should not."

Even now, Collins continues to use her official website to highlight the fact that she led the fight to strip the pandemic preparedness money out of the Senate's version of the stimulus measure.

But we should not panic. Just prepare:
It's official: We're in a swine flu pandemic, the World Health Organization declared today.

"The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, MD, said at a news conference.

That sounds scary. But neither the H1N1 swine flu virus nor the disease it causes are any worse today than they were weeks ago.

The only thing that's changed is that the WHO now officially acknowledges that H1N1 swine flu is circulating in communities in widespread parts of the globe, and that all nations can eventually expect to see cases.

"This does not mean there is any difference in the severity of the flu. This is not, at this point, a flu pandemic that is anywhere as severe as the 1918 pandemic," said Thomas R. Frieden, MD, in his first news conference since taking over as director of the CDC.

The announcement also triggers the pandemic preparedness plans of nations not yet affected by swine flu. It will have little or no effect on the U.S., which since mid-April has been aggressively putting national pandemic plans into action.

"For all intents and purposes, the U.S. has been in a flu pandemic for some time," Frieden said. "But this means the virus is here and is here to stay, and we must prepare our response."

You would think Iran, given all the propaganda, was an Islamo-dictatorship. It turns out that country has a thriving democratic electoral process. We are constantly bombarded with the quotes of the current President Ahmadinehad. We are led to believe that he is the next Hitler. It turns out he is no different a politician than the typical Republican nowadays. The language could be equated with the utterances of Dick Cheney. And it comes down to the same thing, pandering to neo-fascist elements in both countries. The Islamo extremists want to destroy Israel and their benefactors the U.S. In this country the Bush-Cheney administration was controlled by the neocons, a powerful pro-Israel clique. The Iranian people are just as victimized at the hands of politicians as are Americans.
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Russia urges U.S. to Drop Missile Shield to help ties

If President Obama is really smart (he is quite smart) he will give the Russians what they want on this issue. Pursuing the shield matter has a disaster for relations between our two countries. We need Russia as a bulwark against the rapidly growing threat from China.

Russia said on Thursday that full dialogue with the United States on missile threats could only begin if Washington dropped its plans to deploy a missile defense system in Europe.

"Only a rejection by the United States of plans to create a ... missile defense system in Europe could lay the groundwork for our fully fledged dialogue on questions of cooperation in reacting to potential missile risks," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told reporters.

He said that Moscow viewed the U.S. missile plans as a way to counter Russia's strategic forces, but he added that Moscow hoped to find a way to reach a compromise with Washington.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2 Japanese Carrying $134 bil. Worth of U.S. Bonds Detained in Italy

Very suspicious:

Two Japanese nationals were detained by Italian financial police last week after trying to enter Switzerland with $134 billion worth of undeclared U.S. bonds, mostly Treasury bonds, an Italian daily said Wednesday.

The Japanese consulate general in Milan confirmed that the detention had taken place and said it was trying to confirm with Italian authorities whether the two were indeed Japanese nationals and their identities.

According to the report in il Giornale, two unidentified Japanese in their 50s concealed the bonds, including 249 U.S. Treasury bonds each worth $500 million, in a suitcase with a false bottom that was searched by the Italian authorities June 3 when they were in Chiasso, at the border with Switzerland, about 50 kilometers north of Milan.

I'm for tasing individuals who resist arrest. It gives cops more options. But using it against a 70+ year-old great grandmother? That's just plain stupid. And the fact that the brass defended that trooper is doubly insane. The woman was resisting but the officer could have easily subdued her and placed cuffs on the tiny woman. This case makes it more difficult for legitimate uses of the tactic to be employed by other police departments. The result will be a backlash. Congress might have to step in and provide guidance. You canno use excessive force against the citizenry and expect there not be consequences. This will ultimately undermine our ability to fight real crime. It also undermines the publics' trust in law enforcement.
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Video: David Letterman's Top Ten List on Palin's NY Visit

This was predictably hysterical. See the video. Listed below:

Top Ten Highlights Of Sarah Palin's Trip To New York:

10. Visited New York landmarks she normally only sees from Alaska

9. Laughed at all the crazy-looking foreigners entering the U.N.

8. Made moose jerky on Rachael Ray

7. Keyed Tina Fey's car

6. After a wink and a nod, ended up with a kilo of crack

5. Made coat out of New York City rat pelts

4. Sat in for Kelly Ripa. Regis couldn't tell the difference.

3. Finally met one of those Jewish people Mel Gibson's always talking about

2. Bought makeup from Bloomingdale's to update her "slutty flight attendant" look

1. Especially enjoyed not appearing on Letterman

Sarah, you might imagine, was not happy:
California-based radio show host John Ziegler asked Palin what she thought about the joke during his show on KGIL-1260 yesterday. Palin said Letterman was “sad” not to realize she was in New York “doing some good things here for good people,” including an autism walk.

“That’s pretty pathetic, good ol’ David Letterman,” Palin said.

Poll: 52% Say No One Speaks for the Republicans

It keeps getting worse for the Republicans. This USA Today/Gallup poll shows how bad it really is:

Republicans, out of power and divided over how to get it back, are finding even the most basic questions hard to answer.

Here's one: Who speaks for the GOP?

The question flummoxes most Americans, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, which is among the reasons for the party's sagging state and uncertain direction.

A 52% majority of those surveyed couldn't come up with a name when asked to specify "the main person" who speaks for Republicans today. Of those who could, the top response was radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh (13%), followed in order by former vice president Dick Cheney, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Former president George W. Bush ranked fifth, at 3%.

So the dominant faces of the Republican Party are all men, all white, all conservative and all old enough to join AARP, ranging in age from 58 (Limbaugh) to 72 (McCain). They include some of the country's most strident voices on issues from Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court to President Obama's policies at home and abroad. Two are retired from politics, and one has never been a candidate.

This comes in the wake other polls showing a party in decline:
A new Gallup analysis shows that the precipitous decline in the number of people who identify themselves as Republicans is widespread across nearly every demographic group -- a development that suggests that there is no simple solution to solving the party's current problems.

As we have written about before, the number of self-identifying Republicans stood at 21 percent last month -- the lowest it has been since the fall of 1983.

This tendency for people to disassociate themselves with the Republican Party is echoed in Gallup's data. Combining several months of surveys -- with a large sample of more than 7,000 adults -- shows that over the last eight years self-identifying Republicans have gone from 44 percent to 39 percent while self-identifying Democrats have risen from 45 percent to 53 percent. (These numbers push independents who lean in one direction or the other into the party toward which they lean.)

It's a white male party. This Gallup poll is from 6/1:
More than 6 in 10 Republicans today are white conservatives, while most of the rest are whites with other ideological leanings; only 11% of Republicans are Hispanics, or are blacks or members of other races. By contrast, only 12% of Democrats are white conservatives, while about half are white moderates or liberals and a third are nonwhite.

Baptist Preacher Calls for Obama's Death on FOXnews

This is another example of FOX promoting anti-Obama hate. Found this shocking story at Firedog Lake:

Crazy Christian Wiley Drake--pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., former running mate of American Independent Party presidential candidate Alan Keyes, a former second vice-president of the SBC--boasted after the assassination of Dr George Tiller that he had prayed for Tiller's death. On a recent webcast of his daily radio talk show, Drake the murder of Tiller "an answer to prayer."

Then he appeared on Alan Colm's Fox radio show and explained that Tiller's real sin wasn't abortion but not being right with Jesus, though Dr. Tiller's church thought he was right enough with Jesus to been usher. He also laid out his prayer style to Fox's Alan Combs:

Imprecatory prayer is agreeing with God, and if people don't like that, they need to talk to God. God said it, I didn't. I was just agreeing with God.

When Colms asked if there are others for whom Drake is praying "imprecatory prayer," Drake hesitated before answering that there are several.

The usurper that is in the White House is one, B. Hussein Obama.

Colms then asked:

Are you praying for his death?

Drake replied:


Colms pressed on:

So you're praying for the death of the president of the United States?

The pastor replied:


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

British Police used Water Torture on Drug Smugglers

This is the result of Bush/Cheney's torture policies. The police are now the law breakers. We are headed back to the middle ages. And they call this freedom.

Six Metropolitan police officers have been suspended from duty following ­allegations they used a form of water-based torture on suspected drugs ­smugglers, it emerged last night.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it was investigating the conduct of officers based in Enfield, north London, during drugs raids in the borough last November.

Neither the IPCC nor Scotland Yard would comment on the nature of the ­allegations but sources said the officers were accused of pushing suspects' heads into buckets of water.

One IPCC document is said to use the word "waterboarding" – the CIA technique condemned as torture by Barack Obama – in connection with the allegations.

The torture claims are part of an ­investigation which also includes accusations that evidence was fabricated and suspects' property was stolen. It has already led to the abandonment of a drug trial, it was reported last night.

Review: Palm Pre, iPhone 3GS Neck-And-Neck

A new challenge to iphone and blackberry:

The smart phone wars have heated up over the past few days with the release of Palm's new Pre and Apple's announcements of a new iPhone, a cheaper price for its existing phone and a new operating system for users of all iPhones.

The Palm Pre, which hit stores on Saturday for $199 after rebate (and a two year contract with Sprint) is a very worthy competitor for Apple. Unlike the iPhone it has a physical keyboard which, while a bit small, is quite good. But it also has a touch screen that you can use to launch programs, zoom, shrink or move windows and dial the phone, although there's no onscreen virtual keyboard for entering text.

One of the things I like best about the Pre is that you can synchronize it over the air. Rather than connect it to a PC or Mac to move over contacts and calendar items, you simply sign in to your existing accounts and it brings over all the data via the Sprint network. It works with Google's calendar and Gmail, Yahoo and other web-based services as well as for businesses with Microsoft Exchange servers. Apple does this through its $99 a year MobileMe service but Palm does it for free with a variety of services.

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Using Twitter and Facebook to Find a Job