Tuesday, May 31, 2011

John Cole, Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

Man Who Gave Trooper the Finger has Charge Dropped

A harassment charge has been dropped in the case of a 35-year-old Colorado man who faced prosecution for displaying his middle finger to a Colorado State Patrol trooper.

The State Patrol said in a statement late Friday that it asked that the case be dropped.

The American Civil Liberties Union had argued that while the gesture may be have been rude, it amounted to protected free speech.

According to the ACLU, Shane Boor was driving to work in April when he saw a trooper pull over a car. As Boor passed by, he extended his middle finger in the trooper's direction.


Flash Mob at Jefferson Memorial Arrested for Silent Dancing

An Insider Exposes How Palin Is Focused on Riches, Not Governing

Despite being filled with regret for his own actions while serving for nearly four years under candidate and then half-governor Sarah Palin, Frank Bailey came to fear that his former boss remained a voice in American politics.

In Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin, former insider and my coauthor Frank Bailey said of his ideals when we first met, “I am still a Fox News Conservative.”

Frank went on to explain that Sarah Palin, despite her carefully managed image and "word salad" lip service to conservative ideals, cared little for the smaller government and social values that attracted him to her candidacy in 2005.

She was (and he admits guilt in getting sucked in, and participating wholeheartedly) consumed not with governance, but with image, vindictiveness, and ultimately reaping worldly rewards.

A frequently used Palin password from before her run for governor, “Jabez”, provided a subtle clue as to her ultimate goal.

From Chronicles 4:10: Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, 'Oh that Thou would bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast [territory], and that Thine hand might be with me, and that Thou would keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!' And God granted him that which he requested."


Weiner: GOP's 'Young Guns' Book is Roadmap to Democratic Victory

House Republicans have laid out the pathway to their own decline, some liberal Democrats said this week.

"Young Guns," a book authored last year by GOP leaders Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.), was packaged as a blueprint for a new brand of conservatism under a Republican-controlled House.

But Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said the book also provides a roadmap for the Democrats to retake the House in next year's elections.


Noting the unpopularity of the Republicans' recent plan to overhaul Medicare – a proposal to which "Young Guns" alludes – Weiner quipped Thursday that, for Democrats to be successful at the polls in 2012, they need only "go to the next chapter" in the book.

"We should just give everyone a copy of it, because they also propose privatizing portions of Social Security," he said. "I hope to get a spike in Amazon of people buying that book."


Explosives Detonate at Ikea Stores Across Europe

The explosions in stores in the Belgian city of Ghent, Lille in northern France and Eindhoven in The Netherlands caused no damage or injuries.

"The information we have is that the explosions happened the same way in all locations, with booby-trapped alarm clocks that had been hidden exploding," An Schoonjans, spokeswoman for Ghent prosecutors, told AFP.

In Ghent, an employee and a security agent complained of ear aches after two small explosions, which detonated almost simultaneously before the store closed Monday evening.

Two booby-trapped alarm clocks were detonated by remote control, Schoonjans said.


Al-Jazeera Footage Captures 'Western Troops on the Ground' in Libya


Armed westerners have been filmed on the front line with rebels near Misrata in the first apparent confirmation that foreign special forces are playing an active role in the Libyan conflict.     

A group of six westerners are clearly visible in a report by al-Jazeera from Dafniya, described as the westernmost point of the rebel lines west of the town of Misrata. Five of them were armed and wearing sand-coloured clothes, peaked caps, and cotton Arab scarves.     

The sixth, apparently the most senior of the group, was carrying no visible weapon and wore a pink, short-sleeve shirt. He may be an intelligence officer. The group is seen talking to rebels and then quickly leaving on being spotted by the television crew.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Life in Space? Exoplanet Habitable Zone Could Be Wider

Planet hunting is by far the hottest area of astronomy these days, and just about everyone who's in on the search is looking for the same thing: a distant world where life could exist, at least in theory. That means a world more or less the size of Earth, orbiting its parent star in the habitable zone — the location, just the right distance away from its sun's heat, where water can exist in liquid form. Size or distance alone aren't good enough: an Earth-size planet that's too hot or too cold probably couldn't support life, and a giant gasbag like Jupiter couldn't either, even if its temperature were ideal.

It's a pretty strict set of requirements — but maybe not as strict as scientists have assumed. Two new studies, one purely theoretical and the other focused on a known exoplanet, suggest that planets that would on first blush seem too cold to harbor life may be balmier than expected. That means the habitable zone could be a lot wider, and the prospects for alien life more favorable, than anyone thought.


Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Filed in Colorado

A coalition of Colorado and national drug reform groups Friday filed eight initiatives designed to amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana. It was the opening move in an effort to put the question to Colorado voters on the November 2012 ballot.


Wikipedia’s Bold Bid for World Heritage Status

Even by the standards of the dot-com universe, Wikipedia has been an especially bold enterprise.

It was bold to hope that many thousands of people would give of their time to build encyclopedia entries in return for not so much as a byline.

It was bold to presume that this anonymous community would police itself well enough to create a resource of surprising detail and accuracy.

Even its fundraising efforts are nerveless and edgy; last year, Wikipedia tested a banner ad, displayed prominently at the top of every page, that read: “Admit it – without Wikipedia, you never could have finished that report. Click here to keep Wikipedia free for future students.” 

This roll-call of audacity notwithstanding, Wikipedia’s latest move may be its boldest yet.

A few days ago, a German chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation announced plans to apply for a UNESCO World Heritage label, arguing that the site “is a masterpiece of human creative genius and is also of universal human value”.


The Reality of Global Climate Change is Upon Us

In a world of climate change, freak storms are the new normal. Why we’re unprepared for the harrowing future.

Even those who deny the existence of global climate change are having trouble dismissing the evidence of the last year.

In the U.S. alone, nearly 1,000 tornadoes have ripped across the heartland, killing more than 500 people and inflicting $9 billion in damage.

The Midwest suffered the wettest April in 116 years, forcing the Mississippi to flood thousands of square miles, even as drought-plagued Texas suffered the driest month in a century. Worldwide, the litany of weather’s extremes has reached biblical proportions.

The 2010 heat wave in Russia killed an estimated 15,000 people.

Floods in Australia and Pakistan killed 2,000 and left large swaths of each country under water. A months-long drought in China has devastated millions of acres of farmland.

And the temperature keeps rising: 2010 was the hottest year on earth since weather records began.

From these and other extreme-weather events, one lesson is sinking in with terrifying certainty. The stable climate of the last 12,000 years is gone. Which means you haven’t seen anything yet. And we are not prepared.


Why the Right-Wing's Approach to Reading the Constitution Is Destroying This Country

That idea that judges should interpret the Constitution by discovering the original intent or meaning of the text ignores the history of this country's founding.

America's deeply divided over how to interpret the Constitution. Originalism, the view that judges should interpret the Constitution by discovering the original intent or the original meaning of the text, has a strong hold on the public.

Yet the opposing view, that judges ought to interpret the Constitution as a living document and read it in light of contemporary values or an evolving tradition, is also well entrenched in American culture.

Not surprisingly, support for originalism is strongest among Tea Party activists, conservatives, and Republicans.

Although the vast majority of legal academics are not originalists, the theory of originalism has never been stronger among law professors.

Indeed, originalism now has adherents not only among conservative but also liberal legal scholars.

There is really only one group in American society that remains largely immune to the lure of originalism: historians.


Are You a Genuine Skeptic or a Climate Denier? - The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

In the charged discussions about climate, the words skeptic and denier are often thrown around. But what do these words mean?

Consider the following definitions. Genuine skeptics consider all the evidence in their search for the truth. Deniers, on the other hand, refuse to accept any evidence that conflicts with their pre-determined views.

So here's one way to tell if you're a genuine skeptic or a climate denier.

When trying to understand what's happening to our climate, do you consider the full body of evidence? Or do you find the denial instinct kicking in when confronted with inconvenient evidence?


Pakistan 'Plans' North Waziristan Offensive

Pakistan will soon launch an air and ground military offensive in the tribal region of North Waziristan, the main sanctuary for armed groups on the border with Afghanistan, media reports say.

The United States has long demanded that Pakistan launch an offensive in the region to hunt down the Haqqani network, one of the deadliest Afghan armed factions fighting American troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been reluctant, but has come under intense US pressure to act after it was discovered that Osama bin Laden had been living in the country. 

The News, a leading Pakistani daily, quoted unnamed "highly placed sources" as saying Pakistani airforce planes would soften up targets under the "targeted military offensive" before ground operations were launched.

The newspaper said an understanding had been reached over the offensive during last week's visit by Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state.

But a Pakistani military spokesman denied the reports as based on "rumours".


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ron Paul House Floor Speech: Republic Almost Completely Dead

Over 30 Gay Parade Supporters, Opponents Arrested in Central Moscow

Over 30 gay parade supporters and opponents were arrested on Saturday, the city's police representative said. 

Police in Moscow said on Friday they would enforce the city's ban on a protest by gay rights campaigners in the Russian capital. Nikolai Alexeyev, Russia's leading gay rights activist and head of the Moscow Gay Pride organization, has said activists would try to hold the city's first gay rights rally on May 28, despite a ban on the event. 

"18 activists of the so-called gay movement and 16 opponents of holding a minority's parade were arrested," the spokesman said. 

The Moscow police said on Friday they would cut short any "unlawful actions." 

The request to hold the rally was rejected earlier this month by the city government, which restated its position on Wednesday. The city received complaints from religious groups, ultra-nationalists and the Moscow City Parent Committee over the application and warned that such a protest could trigger violence. 

Former Moscow mayor, Yury Luzkhov, who was in power for 18 years before being dismissed by President Dmitry Medvedev in September last year, famously described gay pride parade as "satanic."


Dutch Government to Ban Tourists from Cannabis Shops

The Dutch government on Friday said it would start banning tourists from buying cannabis from “coffee shops” and impose restrictions on Dutch customers by the end of the year.

The Netherlands is well known for having one of Europe’s most liberal soft drug policies that has made its cannabis shops a popular tourist attraction, particularly in Amsterdam.


10th Grader Amy Myers Turns Up The Heat On Michele Bachmann

Rep. Michele Bachmann should be afraid to debate Amy Myers. She would lose. By Amy’s own litmus test for political officeholders that, “If you are going to run for office, you’d better know what the basic foundation of this history is,” Bachmann wouldn’t qualify. The problem for Michele Bachmann is that she doesn’t understand the constitution, history, or basic civics.

I am sure that if she really wanted to debate Amy, she could study up a little bit, but when have we ever known a Republican to study anything? The anti-intellectual Republican Party holds education in disdain. In fact, being too educated is a black mark against any would be Republican. The GOP likes their people scared, not smart.

In all seriousness if Bachmann was even a little bit smart instead of ignoring the young lady, she would send her a note encouraging her to following her political ambitions. She could put out a nice statement about how America needs more bright young minds like, Amy. Maybe she could even do a little quiz with her, or do a little something that will take the edge off of this story?

Since we are dealing with a paranoid right wing freak here, none of that will happen. Instead, Bachmann probably sees this as some sort of left wing Obama plot to make her look bad. She probably scoffs and wonders if Amy’s parents aren’t residing in a FEMA camp as we speak, and shudders in dismay as the Manchurian 10th grader puts her Obama indoctrination on full display.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mitt Romney Asks Can I Win Iowa and God Answers No

In a karmic omen of doom Mitt Romney asked an Iowa crowd if he could win the state when the room had to be evacuated due to a fire alarm.

Romney had just asked the crowd, “Can I win Iowa?” Then a fire alarm went off which prompted Mitt Romney to put his leadership on display by saying, “I believe in following safety first, so I would. … This is going to keep on going. … You know, discretion is the better part of valor, so I think we ought to be very careful and very carefully go outside.”


Disbelieving Free Will Makes Brain Less Free

Abstract belief systems might have a much more fundamental effect than previously thought

If people are told that free will doesn’t exist, their brains might follow suit. 

A test of people who read passages discrediting the notion of free will found an immediate decrease in brain activity related to voluntary action. The findings are just one data point in ongoing scientific investigation of a millennia-old philosophical conundrum, but they raise an intriguing possibility. 

“Our results indicate that beliefs about free will can change brain processes related to a very basic motor level,” wrote researchers led by psychologist Davide Rigoni of Italy’s University of Padova in a study published in May’s Psychological Science. 

Rigoni’s team asked 30 people to read passages from Francis Crick’s 1994 book The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul. Half read a passage that didn’t mention free will, while the others read a passage describing it as illusory. All were hooked to electroencephalograph machines that monitored electric activity known as “readiness potential,” which is linked to the neurological computations that occur in the milliseconds before voluntary movement. 

The test subjects were then asked to press a mouse button when a cursor flashed on a computer screen for several seconds. Those who read the passage dismissing free will displayed significantly lower readiness potentials. Their actions seemed to involved less voluntary control than the control group’s. 

Tested on when they decided to press the button, the non-free-will group reported doing so a fraction of a second before their counterparts. To lose confidence in free will seemingly introduced a lag between conscious choice and action. 

Earlier psychological studies of free will have found that discrediting free will seems to trigger an increase in cheating aggressiveness, encourage people to be less helpful and generally sap motivation. 

The latest findings extend the effects of disbelieving to a more basic physical level. Whether there’s a relationship between free will, motor activity and more complex behaviors is yet to be determined, but “abstract belief systems might have a much more fundamental effect than previously thought,” wrote the researchers.


Alabama Lawmaker Abandons GOP Over New Law Aimed At Teachers

Chalk up another Democratic win this week: Alabama State Rep. Daniel Boman, who entered the legislature as a Republican in November, is switching parties to become a Democrat after he says the GOP went too far in attacking teachers in the state. 

It's just the latest example of mainline Republicans turning on their party following the November sweep which put them in control of the House. On Tuesday, the solidly-Republican 26th Congressional District in New York rejected the GOP in part over the party's decision to end Medicare in the House budget.

A few days before that, the Democrats stunned the Republican city of Jacksonville by electing the first Democratic mayor in 20 years. In New Hampshire, Democrats picked up a surprising win in a legislative special election. 

Now there's Boman, who's walking away from the GOP after it took on the state's public school teachers.


Karl Rove: Sarah Palin Thinks The Rules Don't Apply To Her

Japan Donates $120,000 in Relief Supplies to Alabama

The Japanese Government is helping Alabama tornado victims. 

They are donating emergency supplies including 8,000 blankets and 150 tarps worth more than $120,000. 

On Thursday, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, JICA, had the emergency supplies transported from their warehouse in MIAMI to a FEMA incident base in Montgomery. 

Japan Consul General, Takuji Hanatani, says this gift is in appreciation of what the aid United States offered during their earthquake and tsunami.


Kucinich Stands in Opposition to Renewal of the Patriot Act

Friday, May 27, 2011

Single-Payer Healthcare for Vermont: A Small State Takes a Giant Leap for the Nation

In one state now, it is official: health care is "a right and not a privilege."  Vermont has broken through the barrier set up by those opposed to cost-efficient, single-payer systems and, now, has a law that commits the state to providing health care to all its residents. 

According to ThinkProgress, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the legislation today.  Of course, it won't happen immediately - and the state still must receive a waiver from the national health legislation passed last year - but unless the Republicans assume control of both houses of Congress and the White House in the next couple of years, Vermont will eventually provide a model of how "Medicare for all" works. 

Once that happens, there will be no turning back. The Republicans will be unable to argue against a system that works and cuts the profits out that the privatized health insurance companies add to the cost of health care.  And the safety and security all Vermont residents will receive in knowing that they will no longer be at risk of losing their employee or private health insurance - or not be able to afford it - will become an attractive option to most Americans.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bob Gorrell, Copyright 2011 Creators Syndicate

Man Who Set Fire Cat is Sentenced to 6 years in Prison

A cat killer convicted using DNA evidence was slapped with a six-year sentence Wednesday  - and will likely  soon be deported. 

The Brooklyn judge lashed into Trinidadian immigrant Angelo Monderoy, who said he torched his super's beloved tabby, Tommy Two Times, out of boredom. 

"To torture and kill an animal because you were bored?" Justice Michael Gary asked in bitter bewilderment.  "There's no way the world should not know what Mr. Monderoy did here." 

A jury found that Monderoy and his friend grabbed Tommy Two Times, took him to an abandoned apartment in their Crown heights tenement, doused him with lighter fluid and lit him afire in the 2008 attack. 

"This was not a whim, not a fleeting decision in a teenager's mind," said prosecutor Josh Charlton.  

The guilty verdict in March marked the first time DNA evidence led to a conviction in an animal abuse case in the history of the state and possibly the nation - Tommy was found badly burned outside the tenement and investigators were able to trace the crime back to Monderoy's lair. 

That evidence also helped bring more serious burglary charges, for which Monderoy, 20,  got two to six years upstate.  He also received the max of two years for aggravated animal abuse and up to four years for arson, all running concurrently.  


Dog Gets First Chance to Walk On All Fours With Artificial Paw

former shelter dog that’s missing a foot is now learning to walk on all fours again. 

“Brownie” tried on his new custom-made prosthetic paw on Tuesday. He lives with a family of four in Westminster and now he’s on new footing that may take some getting used to. 

Everybody dotes on the friendly 3-year-old dog. They’re excited about his future because he’s had a difficult past. Brownie came to the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in April from an overcrowded shelter in Kansas.

He’s active and playful even though he’s missing his left back foot.  “The sending shelter didn’t know if he maybe lost it due to frostbite or maybe he was born that way; just not sure what happened to him,” Kim Sporrer with the Humane Society said. 

Now, for the first time, the German shorthair pointer got the chance to feel what it’s like to walk on all fours. Brownie was fitted for an artificial paw on May 10 — just two days after he was adopted by Giovanni Stabile and his family.

Two weeks later, back at the prosthetic clinic Orthopets, Brownie stood level for the first time.


Ed Schultz Calls Laura Ingraham a "Right-Wing Slut"

Second Largest Gas Field Found in Turkmenistan

A gas field in Turkmenistan has been crowned the second largest deposit ever discovered, potentially transforming the desert nation into a Caspian Qatar.

A new report from Gaffney Cline, the British oil field auditing company, to be released officially next month, has confirmed claims from the former Soviet Republic that many had dismissed as overly optimistic.

"It appears that the South Yolotan field is now easily the world's second largest gas field in terms of gas in place – second only to the North Field and South Pars," Peter Holding, Gaffney Cline's director for Central Asia, said at a conference in the Caspian resort of Awaza.

The report is expected to say that the field could hold 20 trillion cubic metres, enough to supply the UK for more than 350 years, and Europe for more than 50. The compares with the top-level estimate of 14 trillion cubic metres it gave in its 2008 audit, which ranked the field only sixth worldwide.

The development of the giant North Field has made Qatar the world's richest country in terms of per capita income. The field, which is shared with Iran, holds more than 50 trillion cubic metres.


Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Collective Bargaining Law

A Dane County judge has struck down Gov. Scott Walker's legislation repealing most collective bargaining for public employees.

In a 33-page decision issued Thursday, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi said she would freeze the legislation because GOP lawmakers on a committee broke the state's open meetings law in passing it March 9. The legislation limits collective bargaining to wages for all public employees in Wisconsin except for police and firefighters.

"It's what we were looking for," said Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat.

Ozanne sued to block the law after Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) filed a complaint saying that GOP legislative leaders had not given proper notice to the public in convening a conference committee of lawmakers from both houses to approve Walker's budget-repair bill.

Steve Means, the number three official at the state Department of Justice, said the agency and GOP Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen have been surprised at Sumi's handling of the case and asked whether she would recuse herself from it.

"Obviously we're disappointed in the ruling. We do think it reflects a number of legal errors, but it's for the appellate courts at this point," Means said.

Means said Sumi had made her decision without holding a trial or making clear beforehand that no trial would be held.

In that decision, Sumi appeared to be bracing for an outcry from Republicans and supporters of the law, noting that judges are supposed to apply the law even if their decisions will be "controversial or unpopular."


How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory

The onetime Nixon operative has created the most profitable propaganda machine in history. Inside America's Unfair and Imbalanced Network

In recent years, Ailes has increasingly become a headache for News Corp. In 2004, to protect his pal Rudy Giuliani, Ailes apparently interceded in the case of Bernie Kerik, the former New York police commissioner who had been nominated on Giuliani’s recommendation to head the Department of Homeland Security. Kerik proved to be a train wreck: In the most offensive of his indiscretions, he had commandeered an apartment overlooking Ground Zero – intended for rescue and recovery workers – as a love shack for trysts with his book editor, News Corp.’s own Judith Regan. Acting more like a political consultant than a news executive, Ailes appears to have resorted to Watergate-style obstruction of justice. According to court documents, the Fox News chairman “told Regan that he believed she had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign.” The records reveal that Ailes “advised Regan to lie to, and to withhold information from, investigators concerning Kerik.” The allegation featured prominently in a wrongful-termination lawsuit brought by Regan, which reportedly cost News Corp. more than $10 million to settle.

Many within Murdoch’s family have come to viscerally hate Ailes. Murdoch’s third wife, Wendi, has worked to soften her husband’s politics, and his son James has persuaded him to embrace the reality of global warming – even as Ailes has led the drumbeat of climate deniers at Fox News. Matthew Freud, Murdoch’s son-in-law and a top PR executive in Britain, recently told reporters, “I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’ horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to.”

“Rupert is surrounded by people who regularly, if not moment to moment, tell him how horrifying and dastardly Roger is,” says Wolff, the Murdoch biographer. “Wendi cannot stand Roger. Rupert’s children cannot stand Roger. So around Murdoch, Roger has no supporters, except for Roger himself.”

Ailes begins each workday buffered by the elaborate private security detail that News Corp. pays to usher him from his $1.6 million home in New Jersey to his office in Manhattan. (His country home – in the aptly named village of Garrison – is phalanxed by empty homes that Ailes bought up to create a wider security perimeter.) Traveling with the Chairman is like a scene straight out of 24. A friend recalls hitching a ride with Ailes after a power lunch: “We come out of the building and there’s an SUV filled with big guys, who jump out of the car when they see him. A cordon is formed around us. We’re ushered into the SUV, and we drive the few blocks to Fox’s offices, where another set of guys come out of the building to receive ‘the package.’ The package is taken in, and I’m taken on to my destination.”Ailes is certain that he’s a top target of Al Qaeda terrorists. “You know, they’re coming to get me,” he tells friends. “I’m fully prepared. I’ve taken care of it.” (Ailes, who was once arrested for carrying an illegal handgun in Central Park, now carries a licensed weapon.) Inside his blast-resistant office at Fox News headquarters, Ailes keeps a monitor on his desk that allows him to view any activity outside his closed door. Once, after observing a dark-skinned man in what Ailes perceived to be Muslim garb, he put Fox News on lockdown. “What the hell!” Ailes shouted. “This guy could be bombing me!” The suspected terrorist turned out to be a janitor. “Roger tore up the whole floor,” recalls a source close to Ailes. “He has a personal paranoia about people who are Muslim – which is consistent with the ideology of his network.”


Three Chinese Government Buildings Bombed

The first blast went off in the car park of the Fuzhou public prosecutor’s office just after nine o’clock this morning, as workers were arriving for the day.

Two other bombs went off in the following 30 minutes, one at the Linchuan district government building and another at the local pharmaceutical drug administration bureau.

The three buildings were within walking distance of each other and two of the bombs were left inside cars parked outside.

According to Xinhua, the state news agency, three of the six injured are critical. The bombings were initially blamed on a local farmer who was said to be upset at the progress of a court case, but Xinhua later said the cause of the attacks was still under investigation.

However, the coordination of the blasts and the use of car bombs pointed to a more sophisticated attacker, or group of attackers. “One farmer? Only if he was a member of al Qaeda,” said one comment on the Chinese internet.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Milt Priggee Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone Larger Than Ever and Growing

If you enjoy breathing as much as I do, this story should be cause for concern.  

Toxins spilling into the Gulf of Mexico from the swollen Mississippi are choking off the water's oxygen at a record pace this spring, leaving a larger than ever oceanic "dead zone" of lifeless water.  

The toxins – primarily agricultural chemicals such as nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides, as well as automobile exhaust and sewage runoff – are killing tiny zoo- and phytoplankton (the little critters who supply about 70% of the earth's oxygen), and driving away larger sea life.


Leaked Tweets Expose Sarah Palin's Political Hate Machine

Did you ever wonder how the Palin fans get their marching orders? It’s always been clear they came straight from Sarah Palin, as they followed her MO to the letter. But now, courtesy of leaked tweets Palin’s first lieutenant Rebecca Mansour sent to a Palinbot that were then sent to Jonathan Strong of the Daily Caller, we get the inside scoop.

The inside scoop here reads just like the Frank Bailey inside scoop: petty, vindictive, mean-spirited, and at times, tiptoeing to the edge of inciting violence against opponents and people they feel wronged by. While these tweets read exactly like Rebecca Mansour and Sarah Palin’s public tweets, they were direct messages sent by RAM, according to the Daily Caller. This is the mistake of a political novice and is sadly revealing in both its ignorance and its meanness.

Does Sarah Palin really think she can run for President and this stuff won’t come out? They will be searching through her garbage looking for discarded bandages. And by “they”, I don’t mean the mean old Democratic operatives whom she is always blaming for the things the Republicans do to her. We all know the GOP doesn’t play nice when it comes to Presidential politics. This is just the beginning, and this is the path Palin is considering. Cue the endless whines and finger-pointing.


Female Democratic Senators Attack GOP Budget's Harsh Toll On Women

Female Democratic senators are returning to a tactic that served them well when Republicans threatened a government shutdown over federal funding of abortion. They're making the case that the House GOP budget, and the male Republican legislators who are advocating its policies in debt limit talks with Democrats, are using the deficit as an excuse to pursue an anti-woman agenda.

"[T]hey have put one thing above anything else: cutting health care for women," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). "Last month they almost shut down the entire federal government in an attempt to cut off funding for health care programs for women and girls

Joining Murray were five of her female colleagues, and two male Democratic senators, Dick Blumenthal (D-CT), and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD). Together, they ran through a long list of ways the GOP budget undermines women.

"If we end the health care bill, women will pay 30 percent more for insurance than men do," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the longest-serving female senator, noting that the GOP budget repeals the health care law, which ends gender discrimination by insurance companies.


As Afghanistan Rises in Revolt, America Sinks Further into Grave of Empires

Thousands of Afghans have taken to the streets for the second day in northwestern Afghanistan to protest the killing of four people in a night raid by NATO forces this month. While many residents of the city of Taloqan (in addition to the local police force) claim that those killed were innocent, NATO has maintained that they were armed rebels.

So far, protesters have stormed a military base and burned a police station. 

Echoed by the media, Western forces have claimed that the protests have been infiltrated and hijacked by members of the Taliban. Whether this is true is dubious, and no proof has been provided. The smear of Taliban infiltration is used to de-legitimize the protest itself.

The reality is that Afghan anger at the occupation of their country runs deep enough that thousands were willing to turn out two days in a row to protest the killings. 

Protests in Afghanistan are frequent - just a few days before there was a protest in Nargahar province after a fifteen year old boy was shot to death in a housing raid.

Last month saw tens of thousands of people demonstrate against the burning of the Qur’an by Florida pastor Terry Jones over five days.

During these and many other protests there were vocal anti-occupation slogans and attacks on UN forces, soldiers and police.


Harry Reid Pushes 'Patriot' Act Past Rand Paul

With very little time left on the clock to save the Patriot Act from expiring on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had to work some procedural gymnastics to get past Sen. Rand Paul's many objections (and amendments), as well as a number of members in his own party.

Sen. Reid basically killed his current bill and and opted to take up a House small business bill (it's in a form that's considered filibuster-proof as far as starting debate goes). Neither Rand Paul nor anyone else can object to this.

Reid then amended the House bill with the entire text of the Patriot Act extension. In doing so, Sen. Reid has essentially extended the Patriot Act although there are some steps that must still take place; it will be likely Thursday before a cloture vote can occur.

It's unclear whether Reid can get to final passage in time.


Birmingham Group Discovers Lost Egyptian Pyramids

A new satellite survey of Egypt reportedly found 17 lost pyramids along with more than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements. 

The survey used infra-red images to detect underground buildings, the BBC reports.  Satellites above the earth were equipped with cameras that could pin-point objects on the earth's surface.

The infra-red imaging then highlighted different materials under the surface, it states.  The work was done by a NASA-sponsored laboratory in Birmingham, Alabama. 

"To excavate a pyramid is the dream of every archeologist," Sarah Parcak who led the project told BBC.  Meanwhile, Egypt opened the tombs of seven men, including some who served King Tutankhamen, to tourists earlier this week after restoration, the Associated Press reports. 

Egypt hopes the tombs in the New Kingdom Cemetery in South Saqqara will draw more tourists to the area.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Iran Considers Human Rights Sanctions For U.S. Officials

Iran is considering imposing sanctions on U.S. officials for "human rights violations," attempting to turn the tables after years of sanctions imposed by the West.

As European Union foreign ministers added 100 Iranian companies and individuals to a sanctions blacklist on Monday, Iran's parliament was set to debate censuring 26 U.S. officials, Arman daily reported.

"Under this plan, 26 American officials who have a history of human rights violations in the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and who support terrorism.. will be sanctioned," lawmaker Kazem Jalali was quoted as saying.

While the new EU sanctions agreed on Monday are aimed at pressuring Iran to curb its nuclear activities, the measures being discussed in Tehran are a response to a U.S. move last year to punish Iranians who Washington said were involved in human rights abuses during mass protests in 2009.

Jalali, spokesman of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, did not name the officials but said if lawmakers approve the draft, "there will be punitive measures considered for them."

The United States has imposed many rafts of sanctions on Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution and the occupation of the U.S. embassy. In recent years it has secured United Nations Security Council backing for sanctions aimed at the nuclear program Washington says is aimed at making a bomb but which Iran insists is purely peaceful.


Two More Reactors at Japan Plant Suffer Meltdown, Operator Says

The operator of a damaged nuclear power station in north-eastern Japan said on Tuesday a partial fuel meltdown was believed to have taken place at two more reactors at the plant.

The latest update suggested that three of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were believed to have suffered fuel meltdowns after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant.

The plant has leaked radioactive substances into the environment ever since.


Rush Limbaugh's Ratings have Fallen 30% in the Last Six Months

The just-released Arbitron report reveals that a lot less people are listening to right-wing talk radio. 

With a lull in ratings since November, Rush Limbaugh had a 3.0 share of listeners for his radio time slot, which is a 33% slide from October and from last April, reports Crain's Business. 

Meanwhile, The Sean Hannity Show was reported to be down 28% from its peak numbers in the fall. 


Gore Blasts Murdoch

Former Vice President Al Gore has blasted Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. for removing Current TV from Sky Italia. Gore charges that this is an abuse of power triggered by Current TV hiring Keith Olbermann for his long-awaited new show that will begin next month.

Gore's charge rings true. I do not have the smoking gun, but it is outrageous that Murdoch or News Corp. would remove Current TV for any reason. The Italian government should look into this matter.

I have written about Gore, Olbermann and Current TV for The Hill, Daily Beast, Huffington Post and the Hollywood Progressive because I believe it could (maybe) bring a major improvement in cable news. I hope Gore and Olbermann lift the quality of cable news by challenging MSNBC to do even better and by challenging Fox News.

My hope is that Current TV, Gore, Olbermann and MSNBC all provide viewers, especially more progressive viewers, with a higher quality of television. If all they offer is more trite talk of "why we hate the right,” or the Arnold love-child, or Donald Trump talking about the birth of the president to promote his show by using the presidency as his prop, they will all lose. They will all deserve to lose. And I will write that if need be.

Personally I am fed up with, and often stop watching, the endless parade of superficial nonsense and trite punditry and salacious garbage that masquerades as news.

The issue with Murdoch is more troubling because it does involve, as Gore charges, an abuse of power. To remove Current TV from Sky Italia is cheating Murdoch's customers of a valuable option, and cheating the democratic discourse of a valuable voice.

This also furthers a disturbing trend among some on the right. If they do not like a voice or an opinion, they try to silence it. If they do not like facts or science, they try to deny them.


Bush Called for Pre-1967 Israeli Borders

More Solid Proof that 'Obamacare' is Working

Recent data provided by the nation’s largest health insurance companies reveals that a provision of the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare – is bringing big numbers of the uninsured into the health care insurance system.  And they are precisely the uninsured that we want– the young people who tend not to get sick. 

The provision of the law that permits young adults under 26, long the largest uninsured demographic in the country, to remain on their parents’ health insurance program resulted in at least 600,000 newly insured Americans during the first quarter of 2011. 

Wellpoint, the nation’s largest publicly traded health insurer with some 34 million customers, reports adding 280,000 new members in the first three months of 2011.  Add in the results of some of the other large health insurers including Aetna, who added just short of 100,000 newly insured to their customer base, Kaiser Permanente’s additional 90,000, and Highmark’s 72,000 new customers, and we begin to sense our health insurance pools are filling up with some badly needed young blood. 

The Health & Human Services Department had estimated that the changes in the law would result in about 1.2 million new enrollees in 2011. However, according to Aaron Smith, the executive director of a Washington based non-profit that advocates for the young, it now looks as if that number will be exceeded. 

This is very good news – particularly for those in the individual and small group markets that tend not to ‘self-insure’ as the larger corporations tend to do.


Monday, May 23, 2011

2007: Global Warming Will Bring Violent Storms And Tornadoes, NASA Predicts

(Aug. 31, 2007) — NASA scientists have developed a new climate model that indicates that the most violent severe storms and tornadoes may become more common as Earth's climate warms.

Previous climate model studies have shown that heavy rainstorms will be more common in a warmer climate, but few global models have attempted to simulate the strength of updrafts in these storms. The model developed at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies by researchers Tony Del Genio, Mao-Sung Yao, and Jeff Jonas is the first to successfully simulate the observed difference in strength between land and ocean storms and is the first to estimate how the strength will change in a warming climate, including "severe thunderstorms" that also occur with significant wind shear and produce damaging winds at the ground.

This information can be derived from the temperatures and humidities predicted by a climate computer model, according to the new study published on August 17 in the American Geophysical Union's Geophysical Research Letters. It predicts that in a warmer climate, stronger and more severe storms can be expected, but with fewer storms overall.

Global computer models represent weather and climate over regions several hundred miles wide. The models do not directly simulate thunderstorms and lightning. Instead, they evaluate when conditions are conducive to the outbreak of storms of varying strengths. This model first was tested against current climate conditions. It was found to represent major known global storm features including the prevalence of lightning over tropical continents such as Africa and, to a lesser extent, the Amazon Basin, and the near absence of lightning in oceanic storms.

The model then was applied to a hypothetical future climate with double the current carbon dioxide level and a surface that is an average of 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the current climate. The study found that continents warm more than oceans and that the altitude at which lightning forms rises to a level where the storms are usually more vigorous.

These effects combine to cause more of the continental storms that form in the warmer climate to resemble the strongest storms we currently experience.

Lightning produced by strong storms often ignites wildfires in dry areas. Researchers have predicted that some regions would have less humid air in a warmer climate and be more prone to wildfires as a result. However, drier conditions produce fewer storms. "These findings may seem to imply that fewer storms in the future will be good news for disastrous western U.S. wildfires," said Tony Del Genio, lead author of the study and a scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York. "But drier conditions near the ground combined with higher lightning flash rates per storm may end up intensifying wildfire damage instead."

The central and eastern areas of the United States are especially prone to severe storms and thunderstorms that arise when strong updrafts combine with horizontal winds that become stronger at higher altitudes. This combination produces damaging horizontal and vertical winds and is a major source of weather-related casualties. In the warmer climate simulation there is a small class of the most extreme storms with both strong updrafts and strong horizontal winds at higher levels that occur more often, and thus the model suggests that the most violent severe storms and tornadoes may become more common with warming.


Supreme Court Rules California Must Cut Prison Population

A bitterly divided U.S. Supreme Court ordered California on Monday to reduce its prison population by some 33,000 prisoners within the next two years.

By a 5-to-4 vote, the high court ruled that severe overcrowding in state prisons has resulted in extreme suffering and even death, a deprivation of the inmates' rights that violates the Constitution and the 1995 federal Prison Litigation Reform Act, as well.

California's 33 prisons, designed to house 80,000 inmates, housed twice that many prisoners by 2009.

"The California state prison system is the worst overcrowded system I have seen in my experience," says Wayne Scott, who headed the Texas prison system under then-Gov. George W. Bush.

Scott was one of many expert witnesses called in to look at the California system after 20 years of litigation and failure by the state to achieve reforms that it had agreed upon. Scott and other prison experts told a special three-judge court that overcrowding was the primary cause of the state prison's problems. The court then ordered the state to reduce the prison population to 137 percent of capacity, more than the 130 percent recommended by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.


God's Wife Edited Out of the Bible — Almost

God's wife, Asherah, was a powerful fertility goddess, according to a theologian

God had a wife, Asherah, whom the Book of Kings suggests was worshiped alongside Yahweh in his temple in Israel, according to an Oxford scholar. 

In 1967, Raphael Patai was the first historian to mention that the ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah. The theory has gained new prominence due to the research of Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who began her work at Oxford and is now a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter. 

Information presented in Stavrakopoulou's books, lectures and journal papers has become the basis of a three-part documentary series, now airing in Europe, where she discusses the Yahweh-Asherah connection. 

"You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God. But on this fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, are agreed: There is only one of Him," writes Stavrakopoulou in a statement released to the British media. "He is a solitary figure, a single, universal creator, not one God among many ... or so we like to believe." 

"After years of research specializing in the history and religion of Israel, however, I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife," she added.

Stavrakopoulou bases her theory on ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in the ancient Canaanite coastal city called Ugarit, now modern-day Syria.

All of these artifacts reveal that Asherah was a powerful fertility goddess.  Asherah's connection to Yahweh, according to Stavrakopoulou, is spelled out in both the Bible and an 8th century B.C. inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud.


States Cutting Back On Drug Programs For HIV Patients

Cash-strapped states across the country are scaling back efforts to provide life-saving medicines to HIV patients. 

The result: more than 8,300 people – a record number -- are on waiting lists in 13 states to get antiretrovirals and other drugs used to treat HIV and AIDS or its side effects, mental health conditions or opportunistic infections. And that number probably sharply understates the need, say advocates, who note that many states have simply eliminated waiting lists or reduced eligibility.  

“States that have changed their eligibility programs or don’t have a waiting list, or some states have disenrolled their patients, that’s a kind of silent crisis, I think,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, an advocacy group on gay issues. His state holds the second highest number of patients on a waiting list—1,520.

In recent weeks: 

–Illinois tightened the eligibility for the state program that helps HIV patients pay for their medications. On July 1, the cutoff for the program will fall from an annual income of 500 percent of the federal poverty level, or $54,450, to $32,670. 

–Georgia cut $100,000 from its program, which serves 4,300 people. 

–Florida, which already has the nation's largest waiting list for HIV prescription drug assistance, held public hearings as officials consider cutting the eligibility threshold in half to $21,780 or less in annual income. 

–Utah and Alabama are reopening their waiting lists.


Former Palin Aide Pens Tell-All

A former member of Sarah Palin's inner circle has written a scathing tell-all, saying Palin was ready to quit as governor months before she actually resigned and was eager to leave office when more lucrative opportunities came around.

"In 2009 I had the sense if she made it to the White House and I had stayed silent, I could never forgive myself," Frank Bailey told The Associated Press.

Palin's attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

"Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of Our Tumultuous Years" is due out Tuesday and based on tens of thousands of emails that Bailey said he kept during his time with Palin. It began with working on her 2006 gubernatorial campaign and continued through her failed run for vice president in 2008 and her brief stint as governor.

The Alaska attorney general's office has said it's investigating Bailey's use of the emails. Executive ethics laws bar former public officials from using information acquired during their work for personal gain if the information hasn't been publicly disseminated.

The state has yet to release thousands of emails that Palin sent and received during her 2 1/2 years as governor. Bailey's attorney has said Bailey took "great care" to ensure his writings were consistent with legal requirements.

Billed as the first Palin book by a former aide, "Blind Allegiance" bolsters the perception of Palin as self-serving, while casting Bailey as her enforcer — willing to do the dirty work, no questions asked.

Bailey became a footnote in Alaska political history by getting embroiled in an investigation of Palin's firing of her police commissioner over allegations the commissioner wouldn't fire trooper Mike Wooten, who'd had a bitter divorce with Palin's sister. Bailey was caught on tape questioning a state trooper official about why Wooten was still employed.

Bailey, who was Palin's director of boards and commissions, was put on leave after news of the recording broke, though he claims his actions were with the prodding of Palin's husband, Todd.

In spite of this, and what he describes as campaigns by Sarah Palin over the years to tear down others who have crossed or confronted her, he stuck around.

To speak up when he saw things he didn't agree with "went against all that investment of time and energy that I put into her," said Bailey. He said he "shed his family," his wife and two kids, to singularly focus on Palin during her rise to the governor's office and beyond.

When Palin burst onto the statewide political scene, she was seen as a "breath of fresh air" amid the corruption that had seeped into Alaska politics. "We looked at her as ... that queen on a horse that could come in and save the state," he said. "As we started to see that that was not the case, I kept silent and I just kept on working."

Among the claims made in the book: that Palin's 2006 gubernatorial campaign coordinated with the Republican Governors Association, or RGA, in violation of campaign rules. The book describes cameras rolling as Palin strode through the door at an Anchorage hotel "over and over and over," for an RGA ad.

At that time, there was a one-year statute of limitations on complaints, and the Alaska Public Offices Commission did not receive any complaints related to Palin and the association during that period. However, the RGA was fined — unrelated to Palin — for late reporting, according to the commission's executive director, Paul Dauphinais.

Bailey said the final straw for him came in the summer of 2009, when Palin didn't attend a rally he believed she'd repeatedly agreed to attend, for supporters of a voter initiative to require minors get parental consent for an abortion. This came after a string of cancellations, including one before a Republican women's group at the Ronald Reagan Library in California. Her aides claimed no one had committed to this well-publicized event..

"Getting Sarah to meetings and events was like nailing Jell-O to a tree," Bailey wrote. On the campaign trail and as governor, Sarah went through at least ten schedulers, with few lasting more than months. Nobody wanted the job because Sarah might fail to honor, at the last minute, the smallest commitments, and making excuses for her became a painful burden."

By the time she cancelled on the parental notification event in Anchorage, Palin had resigned as Alaska's governor and embarked on a new path, one in which she'd become a best-selling author, highly sought-after speaker, political phenom and prospective presidential candidate.

Bailey claims her heart wasn't in governing after she returned to Alaska from her failed run for vice president. At home, she faced a barrage of ethics complaints — nearly all of which were ultimately dismissed — and Bailey said she told him as early as February 2009 that if she could find the right message to tell Alaskans, she'd "quit tomorrow."

She resigned in July 2009.


Missouri Tornado Kills at Least 89

South's 'super tornado' outbreak may be worst ever in US history

A massive tornado that tore a 6-mile (10-kilometer) path across southwestern Missouri killed at least 89 people as it slammed into the city of Joplin, ripping into a hospital, crushing cars like soda cans and leaving a forest of splintered tree trunks behind where entire neighborhoods once stood.

Authorities warned that the death toll could climb as search and rescuers continued their work.

Their task was made more miserable Monday morning as a thunderstorm with strong, gusty winds and heavy rain pelted part of the city with hail. 

City manager Mark Rohr announced the number of known dead at a pre-dawn news conference outside the wreckage of a hospital that took a direct hit from Sunday's storm.

Rohr said the twister cut a path nearly 6 miles (10 kilometers) long and more than a half-mile (a kilometer) wide through the center of town, adding that tornado sirens gave residents about a 20-minute warning before the tornado touched down on the city's west side. 

Much of the city's south side was leveled, with churches, schools, businesses and homes reduced to ruins.

Fire chief Mitch Randles estimated 25 percent to 30 percent of the city was damaged, and said his own home was among the buildings destroyed as the twister swept through this city of about 50,000 people some 160 miles (260 kilometers) south of Kansas City.


Saturn's Violent Storms Rage Across the Entire Planet

NASA's Cassini spacecraft and a European Southern Observatory ground-based telescope tracked the growth of a giant early-spring storm in Saturn's northern hemisphere that is so powerful it stretches around the entire planet

The rare storm has been wreaking havoc for months and shooting plumes of gas high into the planet's atmosphere.

The infrared image at top of page shows the entire south polar region with the hurricane-like vortex in the center.

Cassini's radio and plasma wave science instrument first detected the large disturbance, and amateur astronomers tracked its emergence in December 2010.

As it rapidly expanded, its core developed into a giant, powerful thunderstorm. The storm produced a 3,000-mile-wide (5,000-kilometer-wide) dark vortex, possibly similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot, within the turbulent atmosphere.

The dramatic effects of the deep plumes disturbed areas high up in Saturn's usually stable stratosphere, generating regions of warm air that shone like bright "beacons" in the infrared.

"Nothing on Earth comes close to this powerful storm," says Leigh Fletcher, the study's lead author and a Cassini team scientist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. "A storm like this is rare. This is only the sixth one to be recorded since 1876, and the last was way back in 1990."


Sunday, May 22, 2011

'Like' Button Follows Web Users

Internet users tap Facebook Inc.'s "Like" and Twitter Inc.'s "Tweet" buttons to share content with friends. But these tools also let their makers collect data about the websites people are visiting. 

These so-called social widgets, which appear atop stories on news sites or alongside products on retail sites, notify Facebook and Twitter that a person visited those sites even when users don't click on the buttons, according to a study done for The Wall Street Journal.  Retailers are trying to get customers to spend more than just time on Facebook - they want them to spend money, too. But with more and more data being gathered about users and their browsing patterns on sites like Facebook and Twitter, will consumers be leery of shopping on Facebook?

These widgets are prolific. They have been added to millions of web pages in the past year. Facebook's buttons appear on a third of the world's 1,000 most-visited websites, according to the study.

Buttons from Twitter and Google Inc. appear on 20% and 25% of those sites, respectively.  The widgets, which were created to make it easy to share content with friends and to help websites attract visitors, are a potentially powerful way to track Internet users. They could link users' browsing habits to their social-networking profile, which often contains their name. 

For example, Facebook or Twitter know when one of their members reads an article about filing for bankruptcy on MSNBC.com or goes to a blog about depression called Fighting the Darkness, even if the user doesn't click the "Like" or "Tweet" buttons on those sites.  For this to work, a person only needs to have logged into Facebook or Twitter once in the past month.

The sites will continue to collect browsing data, even if the person closes their browser or turns off their computers, until that person explicitly logs out of their Facebook or Twitter accounts, the study found. 

Facebook, Twitter, Google and other widget-makers say they don't use browsing data generated by the widgets to track users; Facebook says it only uses the data for advertising purposes when a user clicks on a widget to share content with friends. 


Congo Soldiers Explain Why The Rape

Yemeni President to Step Down

Yemen's president said Saturday he will sign a proposal by Gulf Arab mediators for him to step down after 32 years in power, but he condemned the deal as a coup and warned al Qaeda will take control of the country. 

Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has clung to power despite more than three months of daily protests and defections by military commanders and other allies, has pledged before to sign the deal only to back down at the last minute. 


Pakistan Wants China to Build Naval Base

Pakistan said on Saturday it wanted China to build it a naval base, in the latest sign of moves to strengthen ties with Beijing as relations with Washington falter. 

The announcement from Pakistan's defence minister came a day after Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani returned from a four-day visit to China, Islamabad's biggest arms supplier.  "We would be ... grateful to the Chinese government if a naval base is ... constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan," defence minister Ahmad Mukhtar said is a statement, referring to a deep-water port in Pakistan's southwest. 

The statement did not say whether Pakistan had asked China to build the base at the port in Baluchistan province.  Islamabad is trying to deepen ties with Beijing as relations with the United States have come under strain following the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan this month.


Sarah Palin Calls Obama 'The Temporary President'

Fantasy Island: Are Republicans Losing Their Grip on Reality?

At a press conference last week, someone asked Chris Christie for his views on evolution vs. creationism. "That's none of your business," the New Jersey governor barked in response. 

This minor incident, which barely rated as news for a few political blogs, offers a glimpse of Christie's personality, which seems increasingly grumpy and snappish. But it says even more about the current state of the national Republican Party, where magical thinking trumps rationality, and even to acknowledge basic realities about the world we live in runs the risk of damaging one's political future.

Christie is not part of the natural constituency for Darwin-denial. He's an intelligent man, a lawyer, a fiscal rather than a social conservative.

But Christie is also someone who might want to run for president someday, or be selected as someone's running mate. For those purposes, he must constantly ask himself the question: Am I about to say something to which a white, evangelical, socially conservative, gun-owning, Obama-despising, pro-Tea Party, GOP primary voter in rural South Carolina might object? By this standard, simple acceptance of the theory of evolution becomes a risky stance.

To lie or to duck? Christie chose the option of ducking while signaling his annoyance at being put in this ridiculous predicament.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Official Harold Camping site

President Obama's Weekly Address

It's The End Of The World

That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane - Lenny Bruce is not afraid. Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn, world serves its own needs, dummy serve your own needs. Feed it off an aux speak,, grunt, no, strength, The ladder starts to clatter with fear fight down height. Wire in a fire, representing seven games, a government for hire and a combat site. Left of west and coming in a hurry with the furies breathing down your neck. Team by team reporters baffled, trumped, tethered cropped. Look at that low playing! Fine, then. Uh oh, overflow, population, common food, but it'll do. Save yourself, serve yourself. World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed dummy with the rapture and the revered and the right - right. You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright light, feeling pretty psyched.

It's the end of the world as we know it. It's the end of the world as we know it. It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

Six o'clock - TV hour. Don't get caught in foreign towers. Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn. Locking in, uniforming, book burning, blood letting. Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate. Light a candle, light a votive. Step down, step down. Watch your heel crush, crushed. Uh-oh, this means no fear cavalier. Renegade steer clear! A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies. Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline.

It's the end of the world as we know it. It's the end of the world as we know it. (It's time I had some time alone) It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone) and I feel fine. (I feel fine)

It's the end of the world as we know it. (It's time I had some time alone) It's the end of the world as we know it. (It's time I had some time alone) It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone) and I feel fine.

The other night I dreamt of knives, continental drift divide. Mountains sit in a line Leonard Bernstein. Leonid Brezhnev. Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs. Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom! You symbiotic, patriotic, slam book neck, right? Right.

It's the end of the world as we know it. (It's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it. (It's time I had some time alone) It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone) and I feel fine.

It's the end of the world as we know it. It's the end of the world as we know it. It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone) and I feel fine.

It's the end of the world as we know it. (It's time I had some time alone) It's the end of the world as we know it. (It's time I had some time alone) It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone) and I feel fine.

It's the end of the world as we know it. (It's time I had some time alone) It's the end of the world as we know it. (It's time I had some time alone) It's the end of the world as we know it (It's time I had some time alone) and I feel fine...

Syria Protests Regain Momentum, Draw Fire

housands of Syrians took to the streets in virtually every region yesterday in what appeared to be a sign of new momentum and a potentially dangerous turn in the nine-week uprising.

Activists said security forces killed at least 26 people and wounded hundreds.

The resilience of the protests seemed to surprise even the activists themselves.

The message delivered at many of the demonstrations, from Damascus, the capital, to the distant east, to towns that had been the target of ferocious repression, was that the killing of hundreds and detention of thousands would not stifle opposition to four decades of authoritarian rule.


Gang Blinds Indian Woman, Accused of Witchcraft, with Scissors

Eleven people stormed into a house in a central Indian village and assaulted a woman whom they accused of witchcraft, blinding her and her husband by stabbing them in the eyes with scissors, police said on Saturday. 

The incident took place on Friday in the Raipur district of Chhattisgarh state. Police later arrested 10 suspects. 

A family in Khaira village had been having money troubles and health problems, which they blamed on a 45-year-old woman, according to S.S. Baghel, a local police officer.  "The accused blamed the alleged witchcraft power of the lady for their problems and raided her house on Friday morning," Baghel told Reuters by phone. "First they beat her up and then a few of them held her hands and legs and then inserted scissors into both her eyes." 

When her husband tried to intervene, the group turned on him and inserted scissors into his eyes as well, Baghel added. A doctor at a local hospital said the couple would likely never be able to see again. 

The brutalities related to witchcraft, mainly against women, are not new for the interior illiterate pockets of Chhattisgarh, where woman accused of witchcraft are often killed or paraded them naked. 

Chhattisgarh state passed the Witchcraft (Prevention) Act in 2005 to crack down on offenders. But the law has hardly made an impact in tribal areas, where atrocities against women accused of witchcraft still flourish and the majority of cases go unreported.


Breast Enlargement for Palin?

A source close to Sarah Palin slams reports that the former Vice Presidential candidate had a boob job.


Tenn. Senate OKs Ban On Teaching Of Homosexuality

A bill passed Friday by the Tennessee Senate would forbid public school teachers and students in grades kindergarten through eight from discussing the fact that some people are gay.

Opponents deride the measure as the "don't say gay bill." They say it's unfair to the children of gay parents and could lead to more bullying. Supporters say it is intended to give teachers clear guidance for dealing with younger children on a potentially explosive topic.

The bill isn't likely to be taken up by the House before lawmakers adjourn this spring, but the sponsor there has said he would push it forward in 2012 when the General Assembly comes back for the second year of the session.

Passage would make Tennessee the first state to enact such legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2003, Washington defeated a proposal similar to Tennessee's, as did California in 2005 and 2006. A Louisiana law forbids the use of sexually explicit materials depicting homosexuality in sex education classes.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Nick Anderson, Copyright 2011 Universal Press Syndicate

Taliban Attack U.S. Vehicles in Pakistan

A Taliban car bomb struck an armoured vehicle taking American officials to the U.S consulate in northwest Pakistan on Friday, officials said, in a strike the militants said was in revenge for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. 

Two Americans suffered minor injuries, but one Pakistani passer—by was killed and at least 10 others were wounded in the attack in the city of Peshawar, officials said.

The strike was the first on Westerners since the May 2 raid by American commandos on bin Laden’s hideout in an army town around three hours from Peshawar. 

The Pakistani Taliban, an al—Qaeda—allied group behind scores of attacks in recent years, claimed responsibility.  “We say to the Americans and NATO that we will carry out more deadly attacks and we can do it,” Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said in a phone call from an undisclosed location. “We had warned that we will avenge the martyrdom of Osama.”


Amondawa Tribe Lacks Abstract Idea of Time, Study Says

An Amazonian tribe has no abstract concept of time, say researchers. 

The Amondawa lacks the linguistic structures that relate time and space - as in our idea of, for example, "working through the night". 

The study, in Language and Cognition, shows that while the Amondawa recognise events occuring in time, it does not exist as a separate concept. 

The idea is a controversial one, and further study will bear out if it is also true among other Amazon languages. 

The Amondawa were first contacted by the outside world in 1986, and now researchers from the University of Portsmouth and the Federal University of Rondonia in Brazil have begun to analyse the idea of time as it appears in Amondawa language.


Obama says U.S. Will Oppose U.N. Acts Against Israel

President Barack Obama on Thursday rejected what he called an effort to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September. 

In a Middle East speech, Obama went further than he has in the past in laying out the parameters of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, but stopped short of laying out a formal U.S. peace plan. 

He said any agreement creating a state of Palestine must be based on a 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.

He said the U.S. commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable. 

"For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state," he said.


Mitt Romney: Obama 'Threw Israel Under The Bus'

Republicans looking to unseat President Barack Obama charged Thursday that he undermined the sensitive and delicate negotiations for Middle East peace with his outline for resumed talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said Obama, whom he served as U.S. ambassador to China until last month, undercut an opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to build trust. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Obama "threw Israel under the bus" and handed the Palestinians a victory even before negotiations between the parties could resume. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called it "the most dangerous speech ever made by an American president for the survival of Israel."

Foreign policy has hardly been the center of the debate among the still-forming GOP presidential field. Instead, the candidates and potential candidates have kept their focus – like the country's – on domestic issues that are weighing on voters and their pocketbooks. Obama's speech provided one of the first opportunities for Republicans to assert their foreign policy differences with Obama and his Democratic administration.


Patriot Act Extension Agreement Reached By Congressional Leaders

Top congressional leaders agreed Thursday to a four-year extension of the anti-terrorist Patriot Act, the controversial law passed after the Sept. 11 attacks that governs the search for terrorists on American soil.

The deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner calls for a vote before May 27, when parts of the current act expire. The idea is to pass the extension with as little debate as possible to avoid a protracted and familiar argument over the expanded power the law gives to the government.

Support for the extension was unclear. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wanted tighter restrictions on the government's power and may seek to amend it. In the House, members of the freshman class elected on promises of making government smaller were skeptical.


Obama Says Palestine Must be Based in 1967 Borders

President Barack Obama is endorsing the Palestinians' demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war, in a move that will likely infuriate Israel. Israel says the borders of a Palestinian state have to be determined through negotiations.

In a speech outlining U.S. policy in the Middle East and North Africa, Obama on Thursday sided with the Palestinians' opening position a day ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is vehemently opposed to referring to the 1967 borders.

Until Thursday, the U.S. position had been that the Palestinian goal of a state based on the 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, should be reconciled with Israel's desire for a secure Jewish state through negotiations.


George Takei vs. Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay" Bill

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Birmingham Ranks Among Worst Cities for Public Transportation

For most of us, the role of public transportation is getting us to work. Every day, Americans make nearly 30 million trips using public transit, and most of these trips are made between home and the office.

But what city's public transit does the best job?  Last week, the Brookings Institution published a massive effort to measure every possible trip made along 371 transit providers (Amtrak, buses, monorail, metro, etc) in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and the rest of the nation's 100 largest metros.

Brookings graded each city according to two criteria -- coverage (the share of Americans within 3/4 miles from a transit stop) and job access (the share of city jobs accessible within 90 minutes of transit) -- to determine the ten best performing cities for public transportation.


Climate Skeptic's Debunked Report Exposes How the Denial Industry Works

An infamous 2005 report commissioned by skeptic politicians in the House of Representatives now appears to have been fully and officially debunked.

The paper, which was authored by an ostensibly "independent" statistician, Edward Wegman, purported to reveal that the famous hockey stick graph was flawed, and that climate scientists were mired in lazy groupthink.

Needless to say, it soon became a classic in the climate skeptic cannon. However, much of the study was plagiarized, falsified, and was likely never subjected to peer review.

As a result, the journal that published it has retracted the study, and its findings have been rendered moot. Yet it remains useful in one regard: The whole debacle helps illuminate how the so-called 'denial industry' operates, and why hits like this will help dismantle it. 

That denial industry, to employ a term used by the professor Anthony Lieserowitz, the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, is the conglomeration of industry, media, and politicians who all have an interest in publicizing doubt about climate change. Companies like Exxon and Koch Industries fund think tanks and political advocacy groups that conveniently publish papers skeptical of climate change and protest climate policy.

These papers and deeds then get picked up by sympathetic pundits and media outlets, and the doubt is effectively promulgated. It's one of the main reasons many Americans remain skeptical about climate change.


Drew Sheneman, Copyright 2011 Tribune Media Services

Osama Bin Laden Recording: Al Qaeda Releases Posthumous Audio

Shortly before his death, Osama bin Laden recorded a message praising the Middle East protest movements and predicting that revolutions would spread across the region. 

"I think that the winds of change will blow over the entire Muslim world, with permission from Allah," bin Laden said in the 12-minute message released online Wednesday. 

The message was released as a video, but it contains only an audio track and a photo of the terrorist leader. 

Though both bin Laden and the West have generally supported protest movements in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, their goals are very different.

The West hopes the protests will lead to democratic reforms. Bin Laden and his followers saw many Middle East governments as corrupt and hoped their collapse would lead to government based on their interpretation of Islamic law.