Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tom Toles, Copyright 2011 Universal Press Syndicate

US Toughens Sanctions against Syria

The Obama administration on Friday imposed financial penalties against three top Syrian officials, Syria's intelligence agency and Iran's Revolutionary Guard over the violent crackdown on demonstrators in Syria. 

The penalties freeze any assets that the officials, including two relatives of Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as Syria's General Intelligence Directorate and the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them. 

President Barack Obama authorized the action for what he said was repression and human rights abuses committed by Syrian authorities seeking to quell six weeks of protests.

Activists say more than 500 people have been killed, dozens on Friday alone.

Appeals Court Lifts Stem Cell Research-Funding Injunction

A three-judge panel of a US Appeals Court lifted an injunction against the NIH's revised policy on the funding of stem cell research.

The new policy, which would open up research funding to many more human embryonic stem cell lines (hESCs), attracted a lawsuit from researchers who focus on adult stem cells, who claimed that their chances of obtaining grants had been diminished.

That suit produced an injunction that would block the National Institutes of Health from distributing funding for hESC work. The Appeals Court had previously stayed this injunction; now it has lifted it entirely, although the case is continuing towards trial at the District Court level.

YouTube Founders Buy Delicious from Yahoo

The founders of video-sharing site YouTube have bought bookmarking service Delicious from Yahoo. 

Chad Hurley and Steve Chen will use Delicious as a key part of their next net venture called Avos. 

The startup is thought to be based around tools that help people get to grips with the vast amount of information generated by web sites and services. 

How much the pair paid to acquire Delicious has not been revealed.

Mubarak 'Could Face Death Penalty'

Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak could face the death penalty if he is convicted of ordering the shooting of protesters during the uprisings which brought him down, the country's justice minister said today.

Mohammed el-Guindi told the daily Al-Ahram newspaper that Mr Mubarak, his two sons and wife are also facing allegations of corruption.

Palin on Raising the Debt Ceiling: ‘Hells No!’

There are a lot of scary stories out there about what might happen if the federal government’s ability to borrow is shut off because it has reached the limits of the statutorily enacted debt ceiling.

But former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin thinks those threats don’t measure compared to debt and deficit situation facing country. 

In an interview Friday on Fox News Channel’s “Special Report,” Palin told host Bret Baier she wouldn’t support raising the debt ceiling.  “Hells no, I would not vote to increase the debt ceiling,” Palin said. “Otherwise it just shows the American people we’re not serious yet. We’re still going to incur more debt. And we don’t have to increase the debt ceiling in the next few weeks. It turns my stomach to hear the assumption articulated that we have to, despite the fact we’re raking in, the federal government, $6 billion a day. Take that money and service our debt first and pay down some of that debt. Make sure that we’re showing the international financial markets and our lenders that we’re serious about getting our debt and deficit problems under control.” 

Palin suggested to her fellow Republicans considering such a vote to take into account where taxpayer dollars are being spent and to make the states take a leading role in their expenditures.

Anthony Bourdain on the Tea Party

Bachmann Uses Holocaust to Illustrate Tax Point

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann on Saturday described the loss of "economic liberty" that young Americans face today as a "flash point of history" in which the younger generation will ask what their elders did to stop it.

In a speech to New Hampshire Republicans, Bachmann recounted learning about a horrific time in history as a child — the Holocaust — and wondering if her mother did anything to stop it. She said she was shocked to hear that many Americans weren't aware that millions of Jews had died until after World War II ended.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Why Conspiracy Theories Die Hard

Recent polls have found that as much as 15% to 20% of the public, including about 30% to 45% of Republicans, falsely believe that President Barack Obama was not born in this country.

Will Wednesday's release of Obama's long-form birth certificate put an end to the birther myth? 

The odds aren't good. The problem is that people can be extremely resistant to unwelcome factual information. In 2005 and 2006, I conducted a series of experiments to study this problem with Jason Reifler, a political scientist at Georgia State University. 

In these studies, undergraduate participants were given news articles in which a political figure made a misleading claim. In some cases, this claim was followed by a correction that set the record straight.

Disturbingly, we found that corrective information in news articles often fails to reduce misperceptions among the ideological or partisan group that is most vulnerable to the false belief. 

In some cases, corrections even made misperceptions worse -- a result we call a "backfire effect."  Unfortunately, this sort of response is typical.

Many other studies have found that people tend to resist or reject information, including scientific evidence, that contradicts their pre-existing views.

Superman 'May End US Citizenship,' Says Action Comics

Superman intends to give up his US citizenship, a story in the new issue of Action Comics declares.

"I'm tired of having my actions construed as instruments of US policy," the character says in a story that sees him flying to a Tehran protest.

Adopted by an American family, Superman decides he is better-off serving the world.

Though he only talks about his plans to give up citizenship, the story has been criticised by commentators worldwide.

The superhero, originally from the fictional planet Krypton, does not clearly renounce his citizenship in the issue.

Action Comics co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio said: "Superman announces his intention to put a global focus on his never ending battle, but he remains, as always, committed to his adopted home and his roots as a Kansas farm boy from Smallville."

The disputed story sees the hero standing silently at the protest, wanting to show demonstrators that they are not alone.

BP Received $13 billion Tax Break for Gulf Disaster

BP is refusing to say whether or not they are paying any taxes at all for 2010.

This group initially thought that BP was getting a $10 billion tax break but then concluded, it was actually $13 billion.

Anyone else think the tax code is ever so slightly wrong?

Libya: Pro-Gaddafi Forces Cross into Tunisia

Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi crossed into neighboring Tunisia and fought a gun battle with Tunisian troops in a frontier town as Libya's conflict split beyond its borders.

Pro-Gaddafi forces fired shells into the town of Dehiba, damaging buildings and injuring at least one resident, and a group of them drove into the town in a truck, local people and a Reuters photographer in the town said.

The Libyan government troops were pursuing anti-Gaddafi rebels from the restive Western Mountains region of Libya who fled into Tunisia in the past few days after Gaddafi forces overran the border post the rebels had earlier seized.

"There were lots of clashes in the town this morning. Lots of gunshots. The Tunisian military clashed with Gaddafi's forces ... Some of Gaddafi's people were killed," said Reuters photographer Zoubeir Souissi from the town.

"There are a lot of Gaddafi's people who were injured. They are in the hospital in Dehiba," he said.

Two residents also told Reuters that shells had fallen on the town from pro-Gaddafi positions across the border in Libya.

Louisiana Republican: Ban Abortion, Sterilize Poor Women and Pay the Wealthy to Procreate

Louisiana State Rep John Labruzzo (R) has introduced "feticide" legislation to ban all abortion in his state and sentence women and doctors who violate the ban to 15 years hard labor.

The law would make no exceptions for cases of danger to the health of the mother, incest or rape, and would essentially be an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade in the state of Louisiana. 

In previous attempts to manipulate, penalize and reward women's reproductive choices, Labruzzo has also suggested Louisiana law should pay poor women to be sterilized and well-to-do women to crank out more financially secure kids into the American gene-pool.

France Dropping Concrete Bombs In Libya

Forget the United States’ low-collateral damage Small Diameter Bomb, France has begun using concrete filled training bombs to literally crush Gadhafi’s tanks without causing massive explosions that can harm nearby civilians. 

Apparently, the 660-pound “training bombs” have not been pressed into combat due to a lack of explosive munitions.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nate Beeler, Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

Meet the Religious Right Charlatan Who Teaches Tea Party America The Totally Pretend History They Want to Hear

David Barton is a Republican Party activist and a fast-talking, self-promoting, self-taught, self-proclaimed historian who is miseducating millions of Americans about U.S. history.

Scholars have criticized Barton for presenting facts out of context or in misleading ways, but that hasn’t stopped him from promoting his theories through books, television, and, yes, the textbooks that will teach the next generation of Americans.

He promotes conspiracy theories about elites hiding the truth from average Americans in order to undermine the nation from within. Last summer, he declared that liberal and media attacks on the Tea Party were just like attacks on Jesus.

In February, Barton spoke at the Connect 2011 Pastors Conference, where he said that Christians needed to control the culture and media so that “guys that have a secular viewpoint cannot survive.” Said Barton, “If the press lacks moral discrimination, it’s because we haven’t been pushing our people to chop that kind of news off.”

Medical Marijuana Bill Could Pass in Illinois

Although a piece of legislation that would legalize medical marijuana in Illinois failed by a slim margin last December, a Republican leader in the House has shifted his support, raising the chances that the bill could pass. 

Tom Cross, the House Minority Leader, announced last week that he would support legalization.  His change of heart, he said, was because he spoke with some people who use medical marijuana, including a disabled veteran.

An Embarrassment to the Country

This Wednesday morning become one of the most surreal and ridiculous moments in the history of American politics when the White House decided to release copies of President Barack Obama’s “long form birth certificate,” in an attempt to quiet conspiracy theorists who believe the president was born elsewhere.

The president had already released a version certified by the state of Hawaii, but because of the “volume of requests” for the birth certificate, the president asked the state to make an exception and release the original document. 

It’s tempting to make this simply about reality television personality Donald Trump, who rocketed to the top of the Republican presidential field by promoting the slander that the president wasn’t born in the United States. But there are a number of other factors that created the current situation.

Chief among them is that Trump’s lunacy emboldened conservative media sources to fully embrace birtherism. According to Media Matters, Fox News has spent over two hours promoting false claims about Obama’s birthplace across 54 segments, and only in ten did Fox News hosts challenge those claims.

This isn’t just about Trump. All he did was encourage the communications wing of the conservative movement to go into overdrive in an attempt to make birtherism mainstream. 

Aside from being one of the most idiotic moments in American political history, this marks a level of personal humiliation no previous president has ever been asked to endure.

Other presidents have been the target of crazy conspiracy theories, sure, but few have been as self-evidently absurd as birtherism. None has been so clearly rooted in anxieties about the president’s racial identity, because no previous American president has been black.

Republicans Can't Stop Confusing Our Constitution With Their Bible

When Congressional representatives take office, they take an oath to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and they “take the obligation freely without mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”

The oath was especially prescient this year in the 112th Congress because Republicans and teabags arranged for the body to read portions of the Constitution as a reminder of what legislators swore to support.

It appears that many legislators missed the 14th Amendment when they read the Constitution because Republicans are opposing equal rights for all Americans; but it is nothing new. 

Republicans have made it their stock and trade to deprive Americans of their rights based on religious dogmata, and their primary targets have been women and gays. 

Since the start of 2011, Republicans nationwide have passed hundreds of laws that discriminate against women by taking away their right to choose their own reproductive health.

It is no secret that the attacks on women’s rights are borne of Christian-inspired ideology meant to force women to give birth and relinquish their equal rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

The same bible-based ideology is being used to discriminate against gays and their ability to marry and move around the country.

A Tale of Two Realities: Fact vs. Belief

It has struck me more and more lately how discussions about politics with conservative acquaintances become debates between belief and fact.

To some extent it seems Republicans (and Tea Partiers) confuse the two. For example, you will hear things like, “do you believe in evolution?” Evolution is science; it is not something you believe in because science isn’t about belief. It’s about demonstrable facts. You can believe in creationism, but you can’t believe in evolution. You either accept the facts or you deny them and hide behind unassailable belief. 

Birtherism is another issue that comes down to facts vs. belief. A conservative relative of mine says there is reason to doubt that Barack Obama was born in the United States. No, there is no reason to believe any such thing. The facts are there – birth announcement, birth certificate, etc. But birthers chose to disbelieve the evidence. 

You can pile the evidence up but none of it will matter because it’s not an issue of provable, demonstrable fact; it’s an issue of belief.  The same can be said of a great many other important issues of our age, including climate change, American history (the Christian nation myth), Sharia law, the “homosexual agenda” etc.

These are all debates fueled by belief, not fact. There is evidence of climate change but this is ignored. There is no evidence of either “creeping” Sharia law or a homosexual agenda, yet these are almost issues of faith for conservatives. The evidence is again irrelevant.

The Birther Disgrace

Even for the small band that sustained the phony controversy until now, the birth certificate so-called issue ends today. 

Any last lingering doubts that maybe, perhaps, a pregnant Stanley Ann Dunham in the summer of 1961 boarded a propeller plane from Honolulu to Los Angeles, then from Los Angeles to New York City, then from New York City to Gander, then from Gander to London, then from London to Nairobi – and then repeated the trip backward a few weeks later – all so that her baby could acquire Kenyan nationality – those doubts are definitively squelched, as they should have been three years ago. 

Now the more haunting question: How did this poisonous and not very subtly racist allegation get such a grip on our conservative movement and our Republican party? 

I know there will be Republican writers and conservative publicists who will now deny that birtherism ever did get a grip. Sorry, that’s just wrong.

Not only did Trump surge ahead in Republican polls by flaming racial fires – not only did conservative media outlets from Fox to Drudge to the Breitbart sites indulge the birthers – but so also did every Republican candidate who said, “I take the president at his word.”

Birthers did not doubt the president’s “word.” They were doubting the official records of the state of Hawaii. It’s like answering a 9/11 conspiracist by saying, “I take the 9/11 families at their word that they lost their loved ones.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Enormous Statue of Powerful Pharaoh Unearthed

Archaeologists unearthed one of the largest statues found to date of a powerful ancient Egyptian pharaoh at his mortuary temple in the southern city of Luxor, the country's antiquities authority announced Tuesday. 

The 13 meter (42 foot) tall statue of Amenhotep III was one of a pair that flanked the northern entrance to the grand funerary temple on the west bank of the Nile that is currently the focus of a major excavation. 

The statue consists of seven large quartzite blocks and still lacks a head and was actually first discovered in the 1928 and then rehidden, according to the press release from the country's antiquities authority.

Archaeologists expect to find its twin in the next digging season. 

Excavation supervisor Abdel-Ghaffar Wagdi said two other statues were also unearthed, one of the god Thoth with a baboon's head and a six foot (1.85 meter) tall one of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet.

Copyright, CartoonArts International

Ron Paul Launches Presidential Campaign

Paul took 10 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses and 8 percent in New Hampshire’s primary. He finished second, with 14 percent of the vote, in the Nevada caucuses, and eventually finished fourth in the Republican nominating process with 5.6 percent of the total vote. Paul’s campaign book, The Revolution: A Manifesto also reached No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list in 2008.

This would seem to be an ideal year for Paul: Since the last election, the Republican Party has moved much closer to his view on deficit reduction, which made him an early tea party favorite. All of the party's top-tier presidential hopefuls are focusing on lowering debt, government spending, and tax rates, issues Paul has long advocated.

SETI Institute to Shut Down Alien-Seeking Radio Dishes

If E.T. phones Earth, he'll get a "disconnect" signal. 

Lacking the money to pay its operating expenses, Mountain View's SETI Institute has pulled the plug on the renowned Allen Telescope Array, a field of radio dishes -- popularized in the Jodie Foster film "Contact" -- that scan the skies for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. 

In an April 22 letter to donors, SETI Institute CEO Tom Pierson said that last week the array was put into "hibernation," safe but nonfunctioning, because of inadequate government support. 

The timing couldn't be worse, say SETI scientists. After millenniums of musings, this spring astronomers announced that 1,235 new possible planets had been observed by Kepler, a telescope on a space satellite.

They predict that dozens of these planets will be Earth-sized -- and some will be in the "habitable zone," where the temperatures are just right for liquid water, a prerequisite of life as we know it. 

"There is a huge irony," said SETI Director Jill Tartar, "that a time when we discover so many planets to look at, we don't have the operating funds to listen." 

SETI senior astronomer Seth Shostak compared the project's suspension to "the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria being put into dry dock. "... This is about exploration, and we want to keep the thing operational.

It's no good to have it sit idle.

15 Bus Passengers Burned Alive in Southwest Pakistan

Fifteen passengers were burned alive when a passenger bus was set on fire by unknown men in Pakistan's volatile southwestern Balochistan province, an official said. 

Naseer Ahmed Nasir, deputy commissioner in the city of Sibi, said four men on motorcycles initially opened fire on a parked passenger bus at a hotel.

"The armed men then came close to the bus and sprinkled petrol, setting it on fire," he said. 

He said most of the dead were either children or women.

'At Least 25 Killed as Syrian Tanks Storm Daraa'

Thousands of Syrian troops backed by tanks stormed the flashpoint town of Daraa on Monday killing at least 25 people, witnesses said, as a leading rights activist accused Damascus of opting for a “military solution” to crush dissent. 

Troops also launched assaults on the Damascus suburbs of Douma and Al Maadamiyeh, witnesses said, as the head of the UN human rights agency slammed what she called the security forces’ disregard for human life. 

A military official later said that troops entered Syria’s flashpoint southern town of Daraa on Monday at the request of citizens to hunt “extremist terrorist groups”.  “In response to calls for help from the inhabitants of Daraa, who urged the armed forces to intervene and the killings and destruction by extremist terrorist groups, units entered Daraa this morning to restore calm and security,” state television quoted a military official as saying. 

“The army is now pursuing these groups with the help of the security forces and has arrested several of them and seized large quantities of weapons and ammunition,” a statement said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Raises Minimum Wage 26.5%

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced a 26.5% increase of the minimum wage late Monday, which will take effect in two stages beginning May 1. 

Next month, minimum wage will be raised 15% followed by a second hike in September, bringing the monthly salary to 1,548 bolivars or $360 at the state-set exchange rate.

The new wage will cover roughly 1.4 million workers, according to a government official who joined Chavez in unveiling the measure on state television.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Copyright © 2011 Creators Syndicate

Taliban Tunnel Breakout Outwits Afghan Jailers

Nearly 500 inmates of Kandahar prison disappear down 1,000ft tunnel – just in time for 'fighting season'

Afghan and Nato forces have launched a huge operation to try to recapture 475 prisoners, nearly all of them Taliban insurgents, who staged an extraordinary mass prison breakout using a tunnel.

Officials said the inmates had escaped through the tunnel, dug from a house to the wing of the prison where political prisoners are detained in Kandahar. In an email, Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the tunnel was 1,050ft (320m) long and had taken five months to construct, "bypassing enemy check-posts and Kandahar-Kabul main highway leading directly to the political prison."

He said just three insurgents inside the prison had known about the plot. They helped ferry the prisoners out of the jail in an operation lasting four and a half hours.

Michele Bachmann gets OWNED on Birther Issue

The Mean Spirited Mentality Behind the GOP’s War On Seniors and Jobs

When Republicans took control of the House in January, political observers had a basic idea of the agenda the new majority would pursue based on promises during the midterm campaigns. 

It was not surprising there was a vote to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act even though the vote was symbolic and had no chance of passing the Senate or President Obama’s veto pen. 

What was and is still surprising is that Republicans have not proposed any measures to create jobs or bolster the still sluggish economy regardless the budget deal Congress worked out with the president and Democrats.

It isn’t that the Republican majority has been lax during their first three months, they have actually been working tirelessly to change the nature of our country as seen in the Heritage Foundation’s budget that Representative Paul Ryan is pimping to the country. 

Ryan is finding that Americans are not as excited with Heritage’s reworking of America as conservatives hoped, and it may be that the mean, hateful vision of America controlled by corporations is not representative of Americans’ values.

However, before Ryan presented the Heritage plan for the future, Republicans had already proven that this group may well be the most hateful, mean-spirited assembly America has ever witnessed.

One thing is absolutely certain; Republicans are out to destroy the middle class and drive the country into the ground now and for generations to follow, all in the name of socially conservative values and corporate rule.

Sex Trafficking in the U.S. Called 'Epidemic'

Sex trafficking is so widespread, said Nathan Wilson, founder of the Project Meridian Foundation in Arlington, which helps police identify traffickers and their victims, that “no country, no race, no religion, no class and no child is immune.”

He said 1.6 million children younger than 18 — native and foreign-born — have been caught up in this country’s sex trade. 

But, he said, the number of victims is hard to quantify because of the lengths to which traffickers go to keep their crimes hidden.  Analysts say the number of children sexually exploited in the U.S. or at risk of being exploited is between 100,000 and 300,000.

Living Proof of the Armenian Genocide

The US wants to deny that Turkey's slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 was genocide. But the evidence is there, in a hilltop orphanage near Beirut

It's only a small grave, a rectangle of cheap concrete marking it out, blessed by a flourish of wild yellow lilies. Inside are the powdered bones and skulls and bits of femur of up to 300 children, Armenian orphans of the great 1915 genocide who died of cholera and starvation as the Turkish authorities tried to "Turkify" them in a converted Catholic college high above Beirut.

But for once, it is the almost unknown story of the surviving 1,200 children – between three and 15 years old – who lived in the crowded dormitory of this ironically beautiful cut-stone school that proves that the Turks did indeed commit genocide against the Armenians in 1915.

We're #1 -- Ten Depressing Ways America Is Exceptional

Recent research contradicts the fundamental tenet of American exceptionalism.

A Brookings Institution report comparing economic mobility in the United States and other countries concludes, “…“Starting at the bottom of the earnings ladder is more of a handicap in the United States than it is in other countries.” 

For Republican presidential candidates the phrase American Exceptionalism has taken on almost talismanic qualities. Newt Gingrich’s new book is titled, A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters.

“American the Exceptional” is the title of a chapter in Sarah Palin’s book America by Heart.  And woe be to those who take issue with the phrase. 2008 Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee declares, “To deny American exceptionalism is in essence to deny the heart and soul of this nation.” 2012 Presidential candidate Mitt Romney insists, “The reorientation away from a celebration of American exceptionalism is misguided and bankrupt.”

Guantánamo Leaks Lift Lid on World's Most Controversial Prison

More than 700 leaked secret files on the Guantánamo detainees lay bare the inner workings of America's controversial prison camp in Cuba.

The US military dossiers, obtained by the New York Times and the Guardian, reveal how, alongside the so-called "worst of the worst", many prisoners were flown to the Guantánamo cages and held captive for years on the flimsiest grounds, or on the basis of lurid confessions extracted by maltreatment.

The 759 Guantánamo files, classified "secret", cover almost every inmate since the camp was opened in 2002. More than two years after President Obama ordered the closure of the prison, 172 are still held there.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Walt Handelsman Copyright 2011 Tribune Media Services

Palestinian Christians Denied Access to Holy Places in Jerusalem During Easte

Since Israel cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories in the early 1990s, Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been required to get Israeli army permission before they can enter Jerusalem. 

The situation worsened since the turn of the century and restrictions got tighter after a 20-foot concrete wall was built all around East Jerusalem barring both Muslim and Christian Palestinians from reaching their holy sites in Jerusalem and its Old City.  “For Christians, Holy Week in Jerusalem has a special spiritual connection,” said a statement issued by the Christian community in the West Bank.

“The Old City, its gates and roads, the Mount of Olives, Via Dolorosa and the Holy Sepulchre Church, where pilgrims from all over the world journey to, are equally important to the Palestinian Christians of Gaza and the West Bank, who want to join their Jerusalemite Christian brethren in the liturgical events leading to the resurrection, the holiest celebration in Christianity.” 

But West Bank and Gaza Christians reaching Jerusalem even during holidays has become a privilege, rather than a spiritual right. To get to Jerusalem, any Palestinian resident of the West Bank or Gaza of any age or religion has first to get a permit issued by the Israeli military government.  These permits do not come easily. They are usually issued to sick people trying to get treatment in Jerusalem or Israeli hospitals, or to businesspeople. Often they are given to workers because Israel can use the cheap West Bank and Gaza labor force.

But for people who want to visit family members living in East Jerusalem or take a tour of the Old City or pray at their holy sites, permits become a scarcity.

Ryan's Medicare Plan Would Be a Windfall for Insurance Companies

Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare would accelerate a trend started several years ago by corporate CEOs and their political allies to shift ever-increasing amounts of risk from Big Business and the government to workers and retirees. 

If enacted, the Ryan plan would represent a windfall of unprecedented proportions for insurance corporations and other businesses.  For millions of average Americans, many of whom already are finding it impossible to save for retirement, it would represent financial calamity.

The nation's middle class would pay dearly for Ryan's proposed shredding of the social safety net that Medicare currently provides.

Undocumented Workers Pay More Taxes than Major U.S. Corporations

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (, undocumented workers paid billions in state and local taxes last year. GE, remember, paid NOTHING.

Though conservatives will likely put ITEP alongside FactCheck and PolitiFact as liberal propaganda machines, ITEP is, as the NY Daily News reports, “a prestigious, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that works on federal, state and local tax policy issues.”

In Four Months, Republicans Introduced 916 Bills Against Women's Right To Choose

It’s almost an unbe­liev­able fig­ure — 916. That’s the amount of leg­is­la­tion that has been intro­duced so far this year, in an attempt to reg­u­late a woman’s repro­duc­tive sys­tem, and we’re only in April.

Teabagger Uses Racism to Explain that the Tea Party is not Racist.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pat Bagley Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

The Koch Brothers Sent Political Mailers to 50,000 Employees Just Before the 2010 Elections

On the eve of the November midterm elections, Koch Industries sent an urgent letter to most of its 50,000 employees advising them on whom to vote for and warning them about the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise. 

The Nation Magazine obtained the Koch Industries election packet for Washington State—which included a cover letter from its president and COO, David Robertson; a list of Koch-endorsed state and federal candidates; and an issue of the company newsletter, Discovery, full of alarmist right-wing propaganda. 

Legal experts interviewed for this story called the blatant corporate politicking highly unusual, although no longer skirting the edge of legality, thanks to last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which granted free speech rights to corporations.

'More Will Die': Mexico Drug Wars Claim US lives

While U.S. officials have long been concerned about the mindless violence bred by Mexico’s bloody and brutal drug wars, they have a new reason to worry: Americans are increasingly getting caught in the deadly crossfire. 

Some who have died were themselves working for the drug cartels. But more and more often, experts say, the casualties are U.S. law enforcement officers and innocent victims who died simply because they ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Las Vegas Police Officer Beats Unarmed Man for Video Taping

Tennessee Senate Passes 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

As introduced, the bill would have put into law a declaration that it is illegal to discuss any sexual behavior other than heterosexuality prior to the ninth grade. 

But when it came before the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, contended current law already prohibits such instruction by deeming it a misdemeanor to teach any sex education that is not part of the “family life curriculum” adopted by the state Board of Education. 

Campfield contends homosexuality is being discussed in classrooms. Spokesmen for the Board of Education and the state Department of Education told the committee they are unaware of any such activity.

Two Year Anniversity of Sean Hannity Agreeing to get Waterboarded for Charity

Friday, April 22, 2011

KeithEllison vs Sean Hannity

Syria: Anti-Assad Protests Resume

New unrest has been reported in Syria as thousands of people gather after Friday prayers to protest against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

There are unconfirmed reports of security forces firing near protesters in Homs and in Hama, as well as tear gas being used on crowds near Damascus. 

In concessions to protesters on Thursday, President Assad formally ended five decades of emergency rule.  Human rights groups say more than 200 people have died in weeks of protests. 

A spokesman for Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Mr Assad "has the opportunity to prove his intentions by allowing (Friday's) protests to proceed without violent repression." 

"The reforms will only be meaningful if Syria's security services stop shooting, detaining, and torturing protesters," said Joe Stork, HRW's deputy Middle East director. 

The Syrian government says it is listening to protesters' demands and President Assad is pushing through a programme of reforms. Thursday's concessions included abolishing state security courts and allowing peaceful protests.

Patients Are Not Consumers

Medical care is an area in which crucial decisions — life and death decisions — must be made; yet making those decisions intelligently requires a vast amount of specialized knowledge; and often those decisions must also be made under conditions in which the patient is incapacitated, under severe stress, or needs action immediately, with no time for discussion, let alone comparison shopping.

Huckabee Blasts Glenn Beck

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has a bone to pick with Glenn Beck.

The current Fox News host isn't pleased that Beck, a departing Fox News host, has called him a progressive, a term which Beck has also previously likened to cancer and the Nazi movement. 

Beck also compared Huckabee to Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain on his radio show Tuesday, labeling both as progressives, because of Huckabee's vocal support for Michelle Obama's anti-obesity initiatives.  "I think Mike Huckabee is the one, if you are somebody who understands progressives are on both sides of the aisle, I think Mike Huckabee is John McCain," he said. 

But Huckabee, who's name has been floated as a possible contender for the GOP presidential nomination, took to his PAC blog Thursday to blast Beck in response, saying, "This week Glenn Beck has taken to his radio show to attack me as a progressive, which he has said is the same as a 'cancer' and a 'Nazi.' What did I do that apparently caused him to link me to a fatal disease and a form of government that murdered millions of innocent Jews?"

Pakistani Court Upholds 5 Acquittals in Rape Case

The Supreme Court announced Thursday that it would uphold the acquittals of five of the six men accused in the gang rape of Mukhtar Mai, the woman who gained international recognition and emerged as a symbol of voiceless and oppressed women in Pakistan.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Shakirullah Jan, upheld a decision by the Lahore High Court and acquitted five of the accused in a judgment that rested on flaws in the prosecution’s account of the rape and discrepancies in Ms. Mukhtar’s statements during initial investigations. 

The five men who were acquitted have been jailed for years already in connection with the rape, which occurred in 2002, and are expected to be released this week. The sixth, Abdul Khaliq, is to complete a life sentence. 

Ms. Mukhtar was raped on the orders of the village council in Meerwala, a dusty farming village in Punjab Province in a case that jolted the country and ignited international outrage. 

The rape was said to be a punishment for her younger brother’s supposed illicit relations with a woman from a rival tribe, the Mastoi. Later police investigations found that the boy had been molested by three Mastoi tribesmen and that the accusation against him had been a cover-up.

French Riot Police Threaten to Strike Over Alcohol Ban

France's riot police have complained about being "treated like children" following a new ban on drinking alcohol while on duty.

Following photos of riot police drinking bottles of beer during Paris street protest, police chiefs have decided to put an end to the tradition. 

They were wearing body armour and carrying weapons as they sipped from beer and wine bottles. Some were also smoking.  Didier Mangione, national secretary of the police union, said bosses were "trying to turn us into priests, but without the altar wine."

"Nobody should object to a small drink on jobs," he said.

"CRS officers do not have any more or less alcohol problems than anybody else in society. They should be allowed to drink in moderation."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dana Summers, Copyright 2011 Tribune Media Services

Banksy Exhibit 'Inspires Criminals', Police Insist

They called it "art in the streets" and that is exactly what they got. The Museum of Contemporary Art (Moca) in Los Angeles finds itself at loggerheads with the city's police force, amid allegations that its latest blockbuster exhibition has led to a spike in spray can-fuelled vandalism. 

A week after it opened America's largest major show devoted entirely to graffiti, Moca has been accused of turning the Little Tokyo neighbourhood surrounding its Geffen Contemporary Gallery into a "magnet" for petty criminals.

As a result, the success of an exhibition which is attracting huge crowds to admire work by Banksy, Os Gemeos, Shepard Fairey and others is being overshadowed by controversy.

In addition to being accused of celebrating and inspiring vandalism, the gallery is also being forced to remove graffiti from nearby streets.  Moca's PR department was also yesterday asked to explain why at least four of the artists invited to Los Angeles to contribute pieces for the exhibition devoted a portion of their stay to doing what comes naturally: illegally defacing some of the city's most prominent walls.

France and Italy Will Send Military Liaisons to Libya

France and Italy said Wednesday that they would join Britain in sending liaison officers to support the rebel army in Libya, in what military analysts said was a sign that there would be no quick and easy end to the war in Libya. 

The dispatching of the liaison officers — probably fewer than 40 of them, and carefully not designated as military trainers — is a sign also, they said, that only a combination of military pressure from the sky, economic pressure on the government and a better-organized and coordinated rebel force will finally convince Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi that he has no option but to quit. 

“Some countries thought the Libya operation could be over quickly,” said a senior NATO ambassador. “But no military commander thinks so.”

Five Reasons Not to Count Sarah Palin Out in 2012

1. She just launched a new website yesterday that could significantly boost her grassroots outreach and fundraising.  

2. Palin has said repeatedly that she'd only get into the race if there was no other viable candidate. "I would consider it if there is no one else running who represents the common sense principles our country needs to secure our children and grandchildren's futures," she told me last November.   

3. Palin has always set herself up as the anti-Obama. She told me last November that the only path to victory is by drawing the strongest contrast.  

4. Palin has always promised to be an untraditional candidate who refuses to kiss up to the establishment (In Madison, she declared: "I'll take on the GOP establishment… We didn't elect you just to rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic. 

5. Palin has been unusually low-key of late - she's not putting herself out there as relentlessly as she did in 2010.

The Great GOP Charade: Corporate Welfare in a Job Creation Disguise

Republicans in the House have spent their time passing legislation they knew would never reach fruition, but they gave the illusion that they were working to defeat President Obama’s agenda for their conservative and teabag supporters.

Their time-wasting exercise of voting to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act excited their people but accomplished little else. They were not serious about repealing the health law any more than they were serious about creating jobs, but they did manage to get through a month without doing a thing.

John Boehner made the rounds on talk shows bragging that the Republicans were serious about doing the will of the American people, even though the American people elected them to work with Democrats to fix the economy.

It was a waste of time to vote to repeal the health law, because even if President Obama and Senate Democrats agreed to repeal the health law, it would not have created any jobs or helped the economy.

It’s obvious that Republicans are not serious about the work they were elected to do, and people should be irate.

US Sues over 'Human Trafficking' in Farm Industry

A US government agency has launched a multi-million dollar lawsuit in what it calls the largest human trafficking case in the US farming industry. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is seeking damages for 200 Thai workers recruited to work on farms in Hawaii and Washington state. 

The workers were allegedly abused and forced to live in rat-infested housing. 

A California-based labour contractor and farms in the two states have been named in the lawsuit.

$6 Gas? Could Happen if Dollar Keeps Getting Weaker

A dollar plumbing three-year lows is hitting Americans squarely in the gas tank, and one economist thinks it could drive prices as high as $6 a gallon or more by summertime under the right conditions. 

With the greenback coming under increased pressure from Federal Reserve policies and investor appetite for more risk, there seems little direction but up for commodity prices, in particular energy and metals.  Weakness in the US currency feeds upward pressure on commodities, which are priced in dollars and thus come at a discount on the foreign markets. 

One result has been a surge higher in gasoline prices to nearly $4 a gallon before the summer driving season even starts, a trend that economists say will be aggravated as demand increases and the summer storm season threatens to disrupt oil supplies.

The Truth About GOP Hero Ayn Rand

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Brian Fairrington Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

Gold Price Hits rRcord at $1,500 an Ounce

The gold price has risen above $1,500 an ounce for the first time after concerns about global economic recovery lifted the metal's appeal as a haven.

In Hong Kong trade, gold hit a record $1,500.70 an ounce, which traders said was mainly due to Standard & Poor's downgrade of its outlook on US debt.

Silver also touched a 31-year high of $44.34 an ounce. "In a word, sensational. Everything's feeding into this, sovereign debt, weak dollar, inflation," said one analyst.

But analysts were divided about whether the price could go higher and are waiting to see if trading in Europe and the US continues the momentum seen in Asia.

CIA Declassifies WWI-Era Secret Documents

The CIA lifted the lid on one corner of the cloak and dagger world of World War I, declassifying six of the oldest secret documents in the U.S. government archives, the agency announced Tuesday.

The documents show top techniques used by spies, generals and diplomats to send secret messages in a diplomatic war that raged long after the guns stopped. The records reveal how invisible ink was used to send word between allies, and spies learned to open letters to read each others' secrets without leaving a trace.

There's even a document written in French of the German's secret ink formula, showing the French had cracked the enemy's code.

Palin Camp Complains of Lack of Coverage

With Donald Trump garnering much of the political media's attention in recent weeks, the rest of the declared and undeclared potential GOP presidential candidates may be feeling some pangs of frustration.

The Donald has dominated every network and cable channel the last few days with his road show, complete with noteworthy quotes, such as, "I know many people at the White House, and one in particular, and the last person he wants to run against is Donald Trump, that I can tell you."

But none of those contemplating or actually in the hunt for the Republican nomination appears to be as frustrated as Sarah Palin's camp.

The Decade the GOP Hopes You've Forgotten

It wasn't that long ago that America solved a debt crisis by (gasp) ... raising taxes on the rich

If there's one aspect of the deficit reduction plan that President Obama outlined last week that congressional Republicans most object to, it's probably his call for higher income tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. Specifically, Obama wants to let the Bush-era rates for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans expire at the end of 2012.

With a few notable (and, within their party, increasingly marginalized) exceptions, Republicans have vehemently attacked this suggestion. According to the GOP's line, to raise taxes on anyone now, even (or especially) the wealthy, would kill the recovery and cost jobs, depriving the Treasury of revenue and only making the deficit problem worse.

"We don't have deficits because Americans are taxed too little, we have deficits because Washington spends too much," is House Speaker John Boehner's standard line on the issue -- a refrain that is echoed by virtually every other Republican on the national stage. If this anti-tax adamance -- and the dire warnings of what life in a post-tax hike America would look like -- sounds familiar, it's for good reason.

Republicans issued the exact same warnings the last time a president proposed addressing exploding deficits (in part) through tax increases on the wealthy. This was back in 1993, when Bill Clinton came to office after a campaign in which the national debt -- which had then just crossed the $4 trillion mark -- played an unusually prominent role.

The '92 White House race had taken place against the backdrop of high unemployment and widespread economic anxiety and pessimism.

The Scam Behind the Rise in Oil, Food Prices

Speculation on the futures market, rather than supply and demand, is driving up costs, analysts say.

The global economy and its recovery, and the living standards of millions of plain folks, are now at risk from the sudden rise in oil and commodity prices.

Gas at the pump is up, and going higher. Food prices are following.

The consequences are catastrophic for the global poor as their costs go up while their income doesn't. It's menacing American workers too, who in large part have not seen a meaningful raise since the days of Reagan (keeping it this way is clearly behind the current flurry of attacks on unions).

Already, unrest in the Middle East and many African countries is being blamed for these dramatic increases. It seems as if this threat to global stability is being largely ignored in our media, one that treats the oil business as just another mystical world of free market trading.

Why is it happening? Why all the volatility? Is oil getting scarcer, leading to price increases? Is the cost of food, similarly, a reflection of naturally increasing commodity prices?

Japan to End Whaling

The top spokesperson for the Japanese government announced that Japan will no longer hunt and kill whales for research.

"Effective immediately, Japan will no longer conduct scientific research on whale populations which require capture and dissection," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Makoto Inoue, speaking at a press conference in Tokyo.

"The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has revoked all permits for whaling research." Asked about the motivation behind the sudden announcement, Inoue said, "It cannot be denied that that whaling severely and unnecessarily damages the image of Japan in the international community, due to the strong sentiment against whaling in many countries," speaking through an interpreter.

"There is no longer any economic need for Japan to obtain protein from the whales, so it would be irrational and pointless to continue catching whales."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Castro Resigns From Party Leadership and Calls for Liberalization

Fidel Castro, 84, announced his resignation from leadership of the Cuba Communist Party today in an article published on 

Along with the changing face of the Communist Party comes the easing of Cuba's property laws.

John Darkow Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

Roy Moore Exploring Run for President

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, famous for his defiant display of the Ten Commandments in the state judicial building, has formed an exploratory committee for a possible presidential run. 

Moore made the announcement Monday on the Des Moines radio station WHO. Moore has been making speeches in Iowa, the traditional first stop in the battle to be president.

"Today our country is in a moral, economic and constitutional crisis which threatens our future and that of our children and grandchildren. Basic institutions of family, faith, and freedom are under assault, and our leadership is divided by petty party politics and a special interest agenda," Moore wrote in a statement on his campaign website. 

Moore in his announcement statement criticized the size of federal government, said he supports the flat tax as an alternative to the current tax system, and said he will also protect the rights of the unborn. Moore said marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman, and the West Point graduate said homosexuality is incompatible with the military's mission.

Libya Death Toll 'Touches 10,000'

Libya's opposition leaders have said that at least 10,000 people have died since the start of the conflict in February. 

Al Jazeera's correspondent, Mike Hanna reporting from Benghazi, said: "Given the intensity of the conflict, it doesn't come as a surprise.  "We have focused on areas like Misurata, where the humanitarian crisis is well documented, however it is happening throughout Libya, the full extent of the crisis is not known and there is no real idea of (casualty) figures." 

The United Nations says it has been guaranteed humanitarian access to Misurata, while Britain says it will fund efforts to evacuate thousands of stranded migrant workers by boat from the besieged port city. 

A Libyan official told Valerie Amos, the UN humanitarian chief, that Muammar Gaddafi's government was willing to set up "safe passage" out of the city, which remains partially in opposition hands after weeks of attacks by Gaddafi loyalists. 

Amos secured the deal through talks in Tripoli, apparently pledging to up the UN presence in the capital in return for humanitarian access in other Libyan cities. 

But she said that while she had received assurances the UN would be able to access the city, she received "no guarantees" of a cessation of hostilities "to enable people to move" or for supplies to be delivered. Witnesses said government forces continued to pound the area with rockets and artillery.

The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science

"A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point." So wrote the celebrated Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger, in a passage that might have been referring to climate change denial—the persistent rejection, on the part of so many Americans today, of what we know about global warming and its human causes.

But it was too early for that—this was the 1950s—and Festinger was actually describing a famous case study in psychology.  Festinger and several of his colleagues had infiltrated the Seekers, a small Chicago-area cult whose members thought they were communicating with aliens—including one, "Sananda," who they believed was the astral incarnation of Jesus Christ.

The group was led by Dorothy Martin, a Dianetics devotee who transcribed the interstellar messages through automatic writing.  Advertise on  Through her, the aliens had given the precise date of an Earth-rending cataclysm: December 21, 1954. Some of Martin's followers quit their jobs and sold their property, expecting to be rescued by a flying saucer when the continent split asunder and a new sea swallowed much of the United States.

The disciples even went so far as to remove brassieres and rip zippers out of their trousers—the metal, they believed, would pose a danger on the spacecraft.  Festinger and his team were with the cult when the prophecy failed.

First, the "boys upstairs" (as the aliens were sometimes called) did not show up and rescue the Seekers. Then December 21 arrived without incident. It was the moment Festinger had been waiting for: How would people so emotionally invested in a belief system react, now that it had been soundly refuted? 

At first, the group struggled for an explanation. But then rationalization set in. A new message arrived, announcing that they'd all been spared at the last minute. Festinger summarized the extraterrestrials' new pronouncement: "The little group, sitting all night long, had spread so much light that God had saved the world from destruction."

Their willingness to believe in the prophecy had saved Earth from the prophecy!  From that day forward, the Seekers, previously shy of the press and indifferent toward evangelizing, began to proselytize. "Their sense of urgency was enormous," wrote Festinger. The devastation of all they had believed had made them even more certain of their beliefs.

Bachmann Versus Palin: A Crazy 'Squirmish'

With Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin both being tossed around as potential GOP candidates in 2012, it makes sense to pit the two "real Americans" in a head to head showdown.

Both political figures are known for saying some ridiculously dumb stuff, but when it comes to a no-holds-barred quote off, it's actually hard to tell which one's the crazier candidate.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Vetoes 'Birther' Bill

The governor of Arizona has vetoed a bill requiring presidential candidates to prove US citizenship in order to get on the state's election ballot. 

Republican Jan Brewer said the bill would have allowed officials to judge who is eligible to run for office. 

A lingering "birther" conspiracy theory asserts US President Barack Obama was not born in the US and is thus ineligible to hold the office.  But the bill's Republican backers insisted it was not aimed at Mr Obama.

More Black Men Now in Prison System Than Were Enslaved

“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,” Michelle Alexander told a standing room only house at the Pasadena Main Library this past Wednesday, the first of many jarring points she made in a riveting presentation. 

Alexander, currently a law professor at Ohio State, had been brought in to discuss her year-old bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness More Black Men Now in Prison System than Were Enslaved. Interest ran so high beforehand that the organizers had to move the event to a location that could accommodate the eager attendees.

That evening, more than 200 people braved the pouring rain and inevitable traffic jams to crowd into the library’s main room, with dozens more shuffled into an overflow room, and even more latecomers turned away altogether. Alexander and her topic had struck a nerve. 

Growing crime rates over the past 30 years don’t explain the skyrocketing numbers of black — and increasingly brown — men caught in America’s prison system, according to Alexander, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice  Harry Blackmun after attending Stanford Law. “In fact, crime rates have fluctuated over the years and are now at historical lows.”

Michele Bachmann Says Top 1 Percent Pay 40 Percent of All Federal Taxes

Total federal tax share for the top 1 percent: 28.1 percent 

So -- using 2007 numbers at least -- Bachmann is off by quite a bit. She’s even further off if you use an estimate for 2010 by the centrist to liberal Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, which pegs the share of all federal taxes for the top 1 percent at 22.7 percent. 

Bachmann would have been right if she’d said, "the top 1 percent of income earners pay about 40 percent of all income taxes into the federal government."

But she didn’t say that -- and even if she had, her decision to focus on income taxes, rather than looking at the whole federal tax picture, would have presented the numbers in such a way that wealthier Americans would look more heavily taxed than they are.

Shep Smith: WikiLeaks Releases ‘The Only Straight Answers We Get Any More’

Shepard Smith is sick of the government lying to us.

“The list is so long, we don’t have room for it on the screen any more!” he exclaimed today during Studio B. Smith was covering the latest WikiLeaks release in the Washington Post that details the United States’ secret backing of Syrian opposition forces and he made it abundantly clear just who he thought was fighting the good fight. “Man, we’ve learned a lot from the WikiLeaks people, haven’t we?” Smith asked with a smile.

Rep. Frank: Administration 'Wasting Time' with Online Poker Crackdown

The Obama administration is wasting time and resources by targeting online poker sites, according to Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.), the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.

"What an incredible waste of resources," Frank said in an interview with The Hill regarding last Friday's crackdown, which saw the FBI and Justice Department shut down the three largest online poker sites in what appears to be the largest sting to date on illegal online gambling.  

Frank mocked the seizures as the administration "protecting the public from the scourge of inside straights," and lamented that the Justice Department is more focused on prosecuting online poker sites than those responsible for the mortgage crisis and financial meltdown.

Last Supper was a Day Earlier, Scientist Claims

Christians have long celebrated Jesus Christ's Last Supper on Maundy Thursday but new research released Monday claims to show it took place on the Wednesday before the crucifixion.

Professor Colin Humphreys, a scientist at the University of Cambridge, believes it is all due to a calendar mix-up -- and asserts his findings strengthen the case for finally introducing a fixed date for Easter.  Humphreys uses a combination of biblical, historical and astronomical research to try to pinpoint the precise nature and timing of Jesus's final meal with his disciples before his death.

Researchers have long been puzzled by an apparent inconsistency in the Bible.  While Matthew, Mark and Luke all say the Last Supper coincided with the start of the Jewish festival of Passover, John claims it took place before Passover. 

Humphreys has concluded in a new book, "The Mystery Of The Last Supper", that Jesus -- along with Matthew, Mark and Luke -- may have been using a different calendar to John.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jeff Parker, Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

Andres Serrano's Piss Christ Destroyed by Christian Protesters

The controversial work Piss Christ by the New York photographer Andres Serrano has been destroyed at a gallery in France after weeks of protests. 

The photograph, which shows a small crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine, outraged the US religious right in 1987, when it was first shown, with Serrano denounced in the Senate by the Republican Jesse Helms.

It was later vandalised in Australia, and neo-Nazis ransacked a show by the artist in Sweden in 2007.  The work has previously been shown without incident in France, but for the past two weeks Catholic groups have campaigned against it, culminating in hundreds of people marching through Avignon on Saturday in protest.

Things You Should Know About Food Dyes

In the U.S., there are seven FDA-approved, mostly petroleum-derived food dyes currently in use: Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, Red 3, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.

The three most widely-used colors – Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 – contain known carcinogens, and the FDA has admitted that Red 3 is a carcinogen as well. 

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, studies have found that Blue 2, which is made of coal tar, causes brain cancer in male rats, while Red 3 gave lab rats thyroid tumors.

Yellow 5 can not only cause allergy-like hypersensitivity reactions, but can also be contaminated with cancer-causing substances. Yellow 6 has been implicated in tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney.

Scientists Want Climate Change Early-Warning System

A better monitoring network for greenhouses gases is needed to warn of significant changes and to keep countries that have agreed to cut their emissions honest, scientists said in papers published Monday.

"What we're hoping to do is see if the warming is feeding the warming, particularly in the Arctic," said Euan Nisbet, a specialist in methane emissions at the University of London.

"Our monitoring network is very, very limited. We feel more observation is needed." Such measurement could warn of possible climate tipping points, scientists said in papers published by Britain's science academy, the Royal Society.

Are We In the Process of Creating a New and Enduring American Underclass?

Corporate America appears to be prospering with far fewer workers than it employed before the crash. Wages are down, the stock market is up and firms are expanding their operations overseas.

Meanwhile, Congress is suffering from the delusion that our greatest problem is the deficit, rather than the extreme economic insecurity so many Americans are suffering from today.

And that focus will only exacerbate the crisis on “Main Street.”  The question is whether these trends will become “the new normal,” consigning millions to an emerging American underclass.

Is our notably cruel brand of capitalism ultimately leading to something that looks more like feudalism – with low-paid serfs feeling fortunate just to have an opportunity to toil for their lords' enrichment?

Donald Trump's Mexican Birth Certificate

I didn't think it was a particularly important little story, although I now realize the fact that the Donald's mother was both unmarried and a legal citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the time Donald was born in Mexico might put a little dent into his claim to be a "natural born" American citizen.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dana Summers, Copyright 2011 Tribune Media Services

Oops: New Stamp Features Wrong Statue of Liberty

The Postal Service prints 3 billion patriotic stamps honoring the iconic statue. Only problem: The photo it used is of a Lady Liberty replica in Las Vegas.

Donald Trump Blames 'the Blacks' For Obama’s Presidency

s it just me, or is Donald Trump starting to make anyone else miss the heady sophisticated days of Sarah Palin? During a radio interview today, Trump gave his assessment of why Obama was able to beat Clinton in 2008.

Trump blamed, “The Blacks,” and then claimed that people voted for Obama based on race, not merit.

Sarah Palin Gets Frosty Reception at Wisconsin Capitol

Times sure have changed for Palin, though, many people still don't know what to make of her. Say this for her: her power to draw a crowd has grown exponentially.

But this time in Madison, on a blustery snowy spring Saturday, the people mostly came out to shout her down, not give her money.  Tea party protest supporters and opponents alike were curious about the Alaskan, who spoke at the King Street corner of the Capitol.

One counter-protester, Leslie Taylor of Madison admitted, "I'm dying of curiosity to see what kind of people support Sarah Palin. Although, I'm seeing more protesters than supporters."  Taylor was carrying a sign, which she says she took from a bumper sticker, "Palin 2012: the Mayans warned us," referring to an interpretation of Mayan prophecy that has the apocalypse coming next year.

Super Rich See Federal Taxes Drop Dramatically

As millions of procrastinators scramble to meet Monday's tax filing deadline, ponder this: The super rich pay a lot less taxes than they did a couple of decades ago, and nearly half of U.S. households pay no income taxes at all. 

The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million.

Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.  Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.

Gridlock Could Eventually Shrink Deficit

A trick question: If Congress takes no action in coming years, what will happen to the budget deficit?  It will shrink — and shrink a lot. This simple fact may offer the best hope for deficit reduction. 

As federal law currently stands, some significant tax increases are set to take effect in coming years. The most important is the scheduled expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of 2012.

Republican Allegedly Sent Offensive Obama Email

A Southern California Republican Party official is under fire after allegedly sending an email that included an altered photo depicting President Barack Obama as an ape. 

An e-mail allegedly sent by party central committee member Marilyn Davenport depicts a family portrait-style image of apes with Obama's face artificially superimposed on one of them.

Text beneath the photo reads, "Now you know why no birth certificate." 

Davenport could not immediately be reached for comment.  The alternative newspaper OC Weekly first reported the story, and was told by Davenport that the e-mail was "just an Internet joke." She also asked the Weekly, "You're not going to make a big deal about this are you?" 

Republican Party of Orange County Chairman Scott Baugh told The Associated Press on Saturday that he wants an ethics investigation into the incident.  "It's just highly inappropriate, it's a despicable message, it drips with racism and I think she should step down from the committee," said Baugh.

Medical Marvel: A U.S. Doctor Discovers Canadian Health Care

Eight doctors from the U.S.-based Physicians for a National Health Program visited Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital for an inside look at Canada’s single-payer health care system.

Hosting the trip was family physician Danielle Martin, chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare.  New York dermatologist Elizabeth Rosenthal, board member of the New York metro chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, spoke to The Globe and Mail about what she learned during her visit. 

Your association of 18,000 physicians has long advocated for a single-payer health care system in the United States. Canadians cherish medicare but are mindful of its limits. What are your thoughts? 

You think there are all these things wrong, and we’re all sitting here drooling. This is our ultimate universe.

Any time doctors mention anything, they say it’s all covered and patients don’t have to worry about paying for it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Drew Sheneman, Copyright 2011 Tribune Media Services

Is Sarah Palin Finally Over?

Is Sarah Palin Finally Over? 

The Republicans sure hope she is. To that end, we have a new media meme developing that Palin is over. The media is no longer reporting on her Tweets or angry Facebook screeds. She’s polling like Nixon. Trump is besting her with the birthers. But Palin has a fan base like none other, and they are clinging to life support that appears pathetic at first glance, but let’s not forget that we are discussing the Republican Party here. 

When’s the last time a political party was letting two quasi reality TV show “stars” duel it out for leader of the free world? This is a new low, surely, even for the party who gave us the rancher afraid of horses and the I am not a crook flop sweat of another leader Palin’s career is often now compared to.  It would be foolish to count Palin out as a nominee for her party. That said, Americans are over her and that won’t change.

All that’s left in her story is the demise, or the third act, which the media will cover in rabid greed, feeding the fodder of failure gristle to the over-worked to smirk at. There will be moments of breath-holding as Americans think she will get it together, only to be fascinated by her eventual succumbing to her own demons of narcissism and denial.

Restricted Reading: South Carolina Jail Bans All Books Except for the Bible

If you're a criminal who likes to read — and/or religious, but not Christian — then the last place you want to be jailed in is Moncks Corner, South Carolina. 

According to legal complaints, the only book, good or otherwise, that inmates at the Berkeley County Detention Center can readily get their hands on is the Bible. Granted, it's a bestseller, and there's a lot in those pages to keep one occupied and even entertained — mind-bending seven-day creation of the universe, violence, sex, walking on water, resurrection, etc. — but sometimes you just want to read an Agatha Christie mystery. Or, if you're Jewish, the Torah, in a copy without the extra testament.

Of particular interest to prisoners just might be reading material on prisoners' rights.

Depressed New Zealander Cooks and Eats Own Finger

A depressed New Zealander cut off a finger, cooked it with vegetables and then ate it in a rare case of self-cannibalism, according to a report in the Australasian Psychiatry publication. 

The 28-year-old man had not taken drugs or alcohol at the time, the report authors, forensic psychiatrist Erik Monasterio and clinical psychologist Craig Prince, said. 

It was one of only eight documented cases of self-cannibalism recorded in the world, Monasterio and Prince said in their report.

Chinese Imperialism Persists: After Beating Dying Monk, Security Blockades Monastary, Abuses Locals

You won't see this on the evening news. Chinese security forces have repeatedly clashed with locals around the Kirti Monastary in Sichuan, a mountainous province which borders Tibet and is home to many buddhists and ethnic Tibetans.

Armed police have also unleashed attack canines on residents trying to access the monastary, and, for a time, blocked food and water from reaching the 2,000 monks who live at Kirti. Chinese officials announced today that those monks between the ages of 18-40 would be taken away for 're-education'.  

Locals have responded by surrounding security forces blockading the monastary and preventing Chinese trucks from reaching Kirti with supplies and troops. Today, the Dalai Lama issued a statement urging locals "not to do anything that might be used as a pretext by the local authorities to massively crackdown on them."

The exiled Tibetan leader has also urged the international community to persuade Beijing to show restraint in dealing with the situation in Kirti. Such calls, however, will fall predictably on deaf ears in the West as America and Europe, continuing to rely on trade with China to buoy their economies, get their financial houses in order and tinker with the ongoing civil war in Libya.  

The conflagration began on March 16th when a monk, Phuntsog, committed suicide by immolation in an effort to commemorate March 16th, the third anniversary of anti-government uprisings in the area. After dousing the flames, the International Campaign for Tibet reported that Chinese police beat Phuntsog, spurring monks and residents to engage in protests that were quickly dispersed by PRC police.

Prostitution, Pot Legalization Could Make Detroit Attractive

Could Detroit be the new Amsterdam -- a city where prostitution and marijuana are both legalized to help attract young people and turn the troubled city’s prospects around? 

Why not, barrister and occasional mayoral candidate Geoffrey Fieger said during a taping of “Michigan Matters” on what he would do if he walked in Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s shoes and tried to address the city’s woes.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pat Bagley, Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

GOP House Chairman Quietly Invites Hate Group Leader to Testify against Gay Marriage

Tea party Republicans won the House last year by promising to focus on the economy and “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

But in the four months or so that they have controlled the House, the GOP has focused instead on curtailing women’s rights; defunding programs that help seniors, children and the poor; and going after public broadcasting. 

Now the tea party has added the fight against gay civil rights to its agenda.  Earlier this week, the Homophobe Caucus in the House quietly scheduled a hearing on same-sex marriage, which it gave the Newspeak title, “Defending Marriage.”

The star witness at the hearing will be Maggie Gallagher, leader of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Late last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center officially added NOM to its list of domestic hate groups, a longstanding list that also includes the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nation.