Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pat Robertson: God Will Destroy America Because of Gay Marriage

China Opens World's Longest Sea Bridge

The 26.4 mile-long Qingdao Haiwan Bridge - the world's longest bridge over sea water - opens to traffic in China.

The marathon-length Qingdao Haiwan Bridge would easily span the English Channel and is almost three miles longer than the previous record-holder, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in the American state of Louisiana.

The vast structure links the centre of the booming port city of Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong Province with the suburb of Huangdao, spanning the wide blue waters of Jiaozhou Bay.

The bridge is expected to carry over 30,000 cars a day and will cut the commute between the city of Qingdao and the sprawling suburb of Huangdao by between 20 and 30 minutes.


Hacker Attack Cripples Al-Qaida on Web

Computer hackers shut down al-Qaida's ability to communicate its messages to the world through the Internet, interrupting the group's flow of videos and communiqués, according to a terrorism expert.

"Al-Qaida's online communications have been temporarily crippled, and it does not have a single trusted distribution channel available on the Internet," said Evan Kohlmann, of Flashpoint Global Partners, which monitors the group's communications.

The attack was carried out within the past few days by unknown hackers targeting al-Qaida's Internet communications systems. It was "well coordinated and involved the use of an unusual cocktail of relatively sophisticated techniques," Kohlmann said.

"My guess is that it will take them at least several days more to repair the damage and get their network up and functioning again," he said.

A year ago, al-Qaida's Internet communications suffered a similar hacker attack.

Appeals Court in Ohio Upholds Health Law

A federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the 2010 health-care law Wednesday, handing the Obama administration its biggest victory yet as challenges to the president's signature initiative advance toward the Supreme Court.

The decision, from the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, marked the first time a Republican-appointed judge has found the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act constitutional, after federal district courts hearing separate challenges divided along partisan lines.

The court ruled that the law's requirement that most Americans maintain health insurance fell within Congress's constitutional authority over interstate commerce.

New Kansas Abortion Law Succeeds in Shutting Down Its First Clinic

The murder of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita in 2009 changed the landscape for women in the state of Kansas and the medical personnel who provide services to them. The election of Sam Brownback as governor last November was greeted with cheers by the right wing, as it created the opportunity to take advantage of the new abortion rights landscape. Earlier this year, the legislature quickly turned those hopes into bills, and sent them on to Brownback’s desk, which he signed in mid-May.

They passed a new law to prohibit insurance companies from including coverage of abortions in their general policies (except those necessary to save the woman’s life), though supplemental policies can cover this. They also passed a law stiffening licensing requirements for facilities that provide abortions, including a ban on using telemedical systems in conjunction with prescribing RU-486, and directing the KS Department of Health and Environment to write new regulations regard exits, lighting, equipment, etc. — all in an effort to strangle anyone who wants to provide an abortion in the state of Kansas. The new regulations were approved on Thursday, June 17th, just a few weeks after the law was signed.

The kicker? They take effect July 1, with no exceptions.

Rhode Island Legislature Passes Civil Union Bill

Less than a week after New York became the nation's sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, Rhode Island state lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that permits civil unions between gay and lesbian couples.

The measure, which passed the state Senate by a count of 21-16, is widely seen as a compromise intended to provide same-sex couples with added rights and benefits, while also preventing an expanded legal definition of marriage.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, is expected to sign the bill into law, according to his spokesman, Michael Trainor.

If signed, the law would take effect on July 1, making Rhode Island the fifth state in the union to allow civil unions between same-sex couples.

Such unions are currently permitted in New Jersey and Illinois, and will be allowed in Delaware and Hawaii beginning January 1, 2012.

Lower Taxes On The Rich Don’t Lead To Job Growth

Congressional Republicans — during both last year’s debate over the pending expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the current negotiations regarding raising the nation’s debt ceiling — refused to consider tax increases on even the very richest Americans. In fact, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) blew up debt ceiling negotiations last week due to his insistence that those making more than $500,000 annually be shielded from any tax increase.

If you ranked each year since 1950 by overall job growth, the top five years would all boast marginal tax rates at 70 percent or higher. The top 10 years would share marginal tax rates at 50 percent or higher. The GOP justification for its position — even with income inequality at its worst level since the 1920s — is that raising taxes on the rich will destroy jobs. “What some are suggesting is that we take this money from people who would invest in our economy and create jobs and give it to the government. The fact is you can’t tax the very people that we expect to invest in the economy and create jobs,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).

However, history doesn’t back up the GOP’s claim. In fact, as Center for American Progress Director of Tax and Budget Policy Michael Linden found, “in the past 60 years,

job growth has actually been greater

in years when the top income tax rate was much higher than it is now

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

World of Warcraft Goes Free with Starter Edition

Blizzard Entertainment has announced that its enormously popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft will be free to play for characters up to level 20. 

WoW has always offered free trials of one of the world's biggest multi-player online games but previous offers have always been limited to a set number of days. 

The new policy means that first-time visitors to Azeroth will be able to build an unlimited number of characters and classes up to level 20 at their leisure, although there will be some limitations. 

Players will not be able to join guilds - an essential for players planning rise to the upper echelons - or accumulate more than ten gold coins which are used to buy supplies and items in the game's complex financial system. 

They can, however, access the entire game including all of the quests available to paying punters of the same level. 

Players can continuing playing for as long as they like once they have reached the Trial Edition's level 20 cap, but they will stop accruing experience points.

Storm Warnings: Extreme Weather Is a Product of Climate Change

In North Dakota the waters kept rising. Swollen by more than a month of record rains in Saskatchewan, the Souris River topped its all time record high, set back in 1881. The floodwaters poured into Minot, North Dakota's fourth-largest city, and spread across thousands of acres of farms and forests. More than 12,000 people were forced to evacuate. Many lost their homes to the floodwaters.

Yet the disaster unfolding in North Dakota might be bringing even bigger headlines if such extreme events hadn't suddenly seemed more common. In this year alone massive blizzards have struck the U.S. Northeast, tornadoes have ripped through the nation, mighty rivers like the Mississippi and Missouri have flowed over their banks, and floodwaters have covered huge swaths of Australia as well as displaced more than five million people in China  and devastated Colombia. And this year's natural disasters follow on the heels of a staggering litany of extreme weather in 2010, from record floods in Nashville, Tenn., and Pakistan, to Russia's crippling heat wave.

These patterns have caught the attention of scientists at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They've been following the recent deluges' stunning radar pictures and growing rainfall totals with concern and intense interest. Normally, floods of the magnitude now being seen in North Dakota and elsewhere around the world are expected to happen only once in 100 years. But one of the predictions of climate change models is that extreme weather—floods, heat waves, droughts, even blizzards—will become far more common. "Big rain events and higher overnight lows are two things we would expect with [a] warming world," says Deke Arndt, chief of the center's Climate Monitoring Branch. Arndt's group had already documented a stunning rise in overnight low temperatures across the U.S. So are the floods and spate of other recent extreme events also examples of predictions turned into cold, hard reality?

Increasingly, the answer is yes. Scientists used to say, cautiously, that extreme weather events were "consistent" with the predictions of climate change. No more. "Now we can make the statement that particular events would not have happened the same way without global warming," says Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo.

Is America's Plight so Terrible that it Would Lurch this Far?

Lovers of sledghammer irony, stand by for a doozy. Patience is required, while the odds are both fairly long and mortifyingly short, depending on the closeness of one's acquaintance with sanity. For all that, there is a quantifiable chance – about one in 20 on Betfair – that we will awake on 7 November 2012 to the news that Michele Bachmann is to be the 45th President of the United States.

If so – here's that irony – the person to thank for the election of a sensationally ignorant, anti-gay rights zealot will be not Rush Limbaugh or Rupert Murdoch. It will be that venerable grand dame of out-and-proud homosexuality, that paragon of cultured liberalism and intellectual hauteur, Gore Vidal. It was while reading a novel of his that the Minnesota congresswoman, then a liberal and erstwhile Jimmy Carter campaign volunteer, swapped sides.

"I was reading this snotty novel called Burr," she confided, "and read how he mocked our Founding Fathers. And as a reasonable, decent, fair-minded person" – no sarcasm detectable – "who happened to be a Democrat, I thought, 'You know what? This mocking of people that I revere, and the country that I love, and that I would lay my life down to defend ... At that point I put the book down. I looked out of the window, and I laughed. And I said, 'You know what? I think I must be a Republican. I don't think I'm a Democrat'."

This week, some 30 years after that epiphany, she formally declared her candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. Everyone expected a borderline barking mom of five, narcissist Tea Party MILF to have a crack. Just not, until recently, this one. There is still a small chance that Sarah Palin will also run. Watching Bachmann soak up all the publicity might stir her into action. You cannot discount the motivational power of Vidal's dictum that every time a friend succeeds, a little piece of me dies.

Yet Palin's unfavourable ratings with Republicans, let alone independents, are so horrendous that even in her protective bubble of zany self-absorption, she must see that any campaign would be a kamikaze one. Bachmann, on the other hand, has swiftly soared into a share of the polling lead with Mitt Romney. The sleeper in this campaign is a good ol' boy Texas Governor with a hotline to the Lord and a passion for executing prisoners – and it's been much too long since one of those occupied the Oval Office – by the name of Rick Perry. If he enters the fray, everything will change. For now, this race is shaping into the usual primary battle between the establishment front-runner (Romney) and, in Bachmann, the telegenic insurgent.

This in mind, three questions pose themselves. Could she seize the White House? Can she even win the GOP nomination? And just how thick or crazy, or both, is Michele Bachmann? In tribute to the late Eric Morley, we will take them in reverse order. While accurately gauging her idiocy-derangement ratio is hard in the absence of a psychiatric report, Bachmann's mouth is a reliable launch pad for astounding foolishness.

Steve Kelly, Copyright 2011 Creators Syndicate

Birmingham City Council Condemns Alabama's New Immigration Law

The Birmingham City Council has unanimously approved a resolution that condemns Alabama's new illegal immigration law and instead calls for a commission to study a more humane solution.

The resolution from Council President Roderick Royal called the law contrary to American principles.

Mayor William Bell also joined in support of the resolution.

Council members condemned what has been both celebrated and berated as the toughest immigration bill in the country.

"I am totally opposed to this bill that was passed by the Legislature and embarrassed at the same time," said Councilman Johnathan Austin. "It is hateful. It is mean-spirited and takes us back to an era that we worked hard to get over."

Austin and other speakers said immigration reform is needed, but he called the new law shameful and said it is the wrong approach.

Google Introduces Facebook Competitor, Emphasizing Privacy

Remember Google Buzz? What about Orkut, or Google Wave?

Google has tried several times, without much success, to take on


and master social networking. Now it is making its biggest effort yet.

On Tuesday, Google introduced a social networking service called the Google+ project — which happens to look a lot like Facebook. The service, which is initially available to a select group of Google users who will soon be able to invite others, will let people share and discuss status updates, photos and links, much as they do on Facebook.

But the Google+ project will be different in one significant way, which Google hopes will be enough to convince people to use yet another social network.

It is meant for sharing with groups — like colleagues, roommates or hiking friends — not with all of one’s friends or the entire Web. It also offers group text messaging and video chat.

“In real life, we have walls and windows and I can speak to you knowing who’s in the room, but in the online world, you get to a ‘Share’ box and you share with the whole world,” said Bradley Horowitz, a vice president for product management at Google, who is leading the company’s social efforts with Vic Gundotra, a senior vice president for engineering. “We have a different model.”

Fur Flies Over Dog Meat Festival

A South Korean dog meat festival has been cancelled following growls of protest from animal rights activists, one of the would-be organisers said Tuesday.

The Korea Dog Farmers' Association had scheduled for Friday a festival aimed at promoting traditional dog meat consumption, said Ann Yong-Geun, an adviser to the association.

“We couldn't possibly go on with the plan due to endless phone calls of complaint... now there are few willing to rent us a place for the event,” Ann, a professor of nutrition at Chung Cheong University, told AFP.

The association had said the festival, to be held in a traditional open-air market in the city of Seongnam just south of Seoul, would showcase various canine delicacies including barbecued dog, sausages and steamed paws.

The event at the market, well known for selling dogs for meat, would also have featured products such as cosmetics and spirits with canine ingredients.

Bird-Brained Idea: Vulture Detective Training Hits Headwinds

The mascot of the Walsrode bird park in the German state of Lower Saxony is an impressive animal, with black and white feathers punctuated by a powerful bright yellow beak. But lately the toucan has been forced to share the spotlight with a decidedly less glamorous cohort. With his dark plumage and tiny red bald head, Sherlock, a turkey vulture, is the new star of the zoo.



The unlikely celebrity gained his fame after police in Lower Saxony made him and two other turkey vultures the center of an experiment in search and rescue. With their penchant for locating carrion, police thought the scavengers could also aid in locating human bodies. Not only can turkey vultures detect a dead mouse from more than 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) away, but they have a major advantage over sniffer dogs -- they can fly, removing the challenge of difficult terrain.

"We're not able to keep up with them on the ground," says police commissioner Rainer Herrmann from the State Office of Criminal Investigation (LKA) in Hanover. Herrmann is actually responsible for forensics work, but his fellow officers have regarded him as a bird expert ever since he created a database for rare parrots. He plans to outfit Sherlock and the other vultures with tracking devices so they can be followed by police cruisers.

The scheme captivated both the media and police departments from around the country, with between 30 and 40 requests for the birds' services, Herrmann said. The market for such an idea certainly exists -- each month the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) receives several thousand missing persons reports.,1518,770994,00.html

Security Slips as US Prepares to Leave Iraq

Security in Iraq is better than it has been at almost any time since the US-led invasion in 2003, but violence has crept up in recent weeks and there are fears about what will happen after US troops leave the country later this year.

At least 65 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed last month, according to the website, which tracks Iraqi and American casualties. That is a 465 per cent increase from January, when 14 Iraqi soldiers and police were killed.

Civilian casualties on a month-to-month basis have remained largely constant, suggesting that armed groups are increasingly targeting the security forces.

June, meanwhile, has been the deadliest month for American troops in Iraq since May 2009. Eleven soldiers have been killed, most of them in rocket attacks on US bases, according to the US defence department. American troops have been largely confined to their bases since US President Barack Obama declared an end to "combat operations" last year.

To be sure, Iraq is a far safer place now than it was several years ago. In summer 2007, at the peak of the country's violence, nearly 200 members of the security forces and 100 American soldiers were being killed each month; the number of civilian casualties spiked into the thousands.

The current level of violence is, in a sense, Iraq's "new normal," though that phrase seems to trivialise the deaths of hundreds of people each month.

"We shouldn't be surprised that there are more attacks on US personnel and Iraqi forces," Michael Wahid Hanna, a fellow at the Century Foundation in New York, said.

"It's something that has been talked about for a long time, in terms of the optics of how you want the Americans to leave."

Still, there are a few ominous signs for Iraq's long-term security, particularly the tension between security forces and local governments and the ongoing political paralysis in Baghdad.

8 Militants, 10 Others Dead AfterAattack on Kabul Hotel

At least 10 people were killed in a brazen, carefully-orchestrated attack on a Kabul hotel that began Tuesday night, officials said. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the siege, and authorities say eight militants were also killed.

Two police officers are among the dead in the attack that raged into the early hours of Wednesday at the Hotel Inter-Continental, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry. Officials described the eight others as civilians.

"As a result of Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army and Coalition force's fast reaction and by air support of the NATO forces, eight suicide bombers were killed," the ministry said in a statement.

As many as three of the attackers did not blow themselves up, but were fatally shot, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.

It was not clear how many of the assailants detonated their explosives. Lt. Gen. Mohammad Ayoub Salangi, the city's chief of police, said at least one of the attackers did.

Casualty figures could rise, Mohammad Zahir, chief of criminal investigations for Kabul police, said Wednesday.

Russia Cuts Off Power to Belarus

Russia cut off electricity supplies to struggling Belarus over unpaid bills on Wednesday, raising the heat on its economically struggling neighbor.

Imports of Russian electricity account for only about 10 percent of Belarus' needs, but Wednesday's cutoff will ratchet up pressure on Belarus, which is already suffering its worst financial crisis since the 1991 Soviet collapse. It has recently devalued the national currency, causing panic buying of goods and huge lines at currency exchange offices. 

Lyudmila Zenkovich, a spokeswoman for the Belarusian Energy Ministry, said that it's not clear when Belarus will be able to pay off the debt as the country's currency reserves are running low

Climate Sceptic Willie Soon Received $1M from Oil Companies, Papers Show

One of the world's most prominent scientific figures to be sceptical about climate change has admitted to being paid more than $1m in the past decade by major US oil and coal companies.

Dr Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Solar, Stellar and Planetary Sciences Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, is known for his view that global warming and the melting of the arctic sea ice is caused by solar variation rather than human-caused CO2 emissions, and that polar bears are not primarily threatened by climate change.

But according to a Greenpeace US investigation, he has been heavily funded by coal and oil industry interests since 2001, receiving money from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Insitute and Koch Industries along with Southern, one of the world's largest coal-burning utility companies. Since 2002, it is alleged, every new grant he has received has been from either oil or coal interests.

In addition, freedom of information documents suggest that Soon corresponded in 2003 with other prominent climate sceptics to try to weaken a major assessment of global warming being conducted by the UN's leading climate science body, the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Soon, who had previously disclosed corporate funding he received in the 1990s, was today reportely unapologetic, telling Reuters that he agreed that he had received money from all of the groups and companies named in the report but denied that any group would have influenced his studies.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bill Schorr , Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

Tasteless? Food Festival in Yulin, China Celebrates Canine Culinary Culture - with 15,000 Dogs on the Menu

The delicacies on offer might not be to everyone's taste, but that didn't stop thousands of visitors attending a food festival in Yulin, eastern China.

For the town is recognised throughout the region for producing some of the most flavoursome dog meat in the world.

More than 15,000 dogs were slaughtered to feed connoisseurs of canine flesh at the week-long festival, which kicked off at the weekend.

Arctic Circle Trip Led to Ex Governor's Crash

Former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley Bob was seriously injured Sunday while riding a motorcycle in Alaska as part of a road trip across the country.

According to a press release from his former chief of staff, Riley, 66, of Ashland, punctured a lung and broke several bones while riding his motorcycle near Fairbanks. He is being treated in a Fairbanks hospital and doctors there expect him to make a full recovery, said the emailed release from former Riley aide Dave Stewart.

The accident occurred while Riley was driving a Harley-Davidson motorcycle on a dirt and gravel road, Stewart wrote. As it began to rain, Riley hit a slick spot and had to “lay the motorcycle down” to avoid losing control. He was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, Stewart wrote.

During a brief phone interview Monday, Stewart said Riley was helped by passing motorists.

"He said some nice folks stopped and helped and took him to the hospital," Stewart said.

Riley will return to Alabama as soon as his doctors clear him to travel.

"The doctors said he'll probably be up there a week," Stewart said.

Beth Ipsen, spokeswoman for the Alaska State Troopers, said the accident report states Riley was returning from the Arctic Circle when his crash occurred.

"Its very common for motorcycle enthusiasts to go there," Ipsen said. "And that road is the only way to get to it."

The Arctic Circle is the circle of latitude on the Earth's surface where the sun does not rise on the winter solstice or set on the summer solstice.

Former First Lady Patsy Riley is traveling to Alaska to be with the former governor.

Birmingham Among Most Sedentary U.S. Cities

Although it's known for its beautiful horse farms and as the "Thoroughbred Capital of the World," Lexington, Kentucky has gained a new distinction -- as the most sedentary city in the United States.

Along with Indianapolis in Indiana and Jackson, Mississippi it ranked among the most exercise-phobic cities in the nation, according to a new ranking by Men's Health magazine.

Seattle, San Francisco and Oakland, California were the most physically active.

"What hurt Lexington most was the actual amount of activity, or exercise, people reported engaging in -- any physical activity at all, which was relatively low. And they did have higher rates of deaths from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) as well," said Matt Marion, deputy editor of Men's Health.

To compile the rankings of the 100 most sedentary cities featured in the latest issue that will hit the newsstands on Tuesday, the magazine looked at how often residents exercise, the number of households that watched 15 hours of cable television a week and bought more than 11 video games a year, and the rate of DVT, a blood clot in a vein, usually in the leg, which is associated with inactivity.

"When we crunched the numbers Lexington finished at the bottom," Marion explained.

Southern cities dominated the least active metropolises. Tulsa and Oklahoma City, also scored a low grade, as did Birmingham, Alabama, Laredo in Texas, Nashville, Little Rock and Charleston, West Virginia.

Marion suspects the southern lifestyle and balmy weather could be contributing factors.

Iran Plans to Send Monkey into Space

Iran has unveiled the next stage of its space programme, saying it is going to send a monkey into space next month.

Five monkeys were undergoing tests before one was to be selected for the flight on board a Kavoshgar-5 rocket, the head of Iran's space agency was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency on Monday.

The announcement comes after Iranian state television showed footage of a missile training exercise conducted by the country's Revolutionary Guards.

A spokesman said the war games tested long, medium and short-range missile capability on ground and sea targets.

Iran says it has a wide range of missiles, some capable of striking Israel and US bases in the region.

UN Ratifies Venezuela for Sixth Consecutive Year as a Territory Free of Illicit Drug Cultivation

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ratified, for the sixth consecutive year, the non-existence of illicit drug cultivations in Venezuela.

“We have been evaluated and we have achieved this very important landmark in the struggle against drug trafficking. Venezuela is a territory free from illicit drug cultivation,” said the justice minister Tareck El Aissami.

“Venezuela is not even labelled as a transiting country, thanks to the policies implemented by the Government. We hold a frontal, determined and tireless battle [against drug trafficking], with the support of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces and the entire country,” he pointed out.

Moreover, the report published on Friday June 24 shows that Venezuela ranks fifth in terms of quantity of drugs seized, carrying out “4% of drug seizures in the world, most of all regarding cocaine.”

“Venezuela is not a producing country and we are not even considered a consuming country,” the minister highlighted.

General Strike Under Way in Greece

National shutdown comes as parliament debates austerity reforms to help crisis-hit country secure bailout loans.

A 48-hour general strike is under way in Greece as the country's parliament debates a new round of austerity reforms that will help the government secure loans it says are necessary to stave off the threat of bankruptcy.

The strike, which began on Tuesday, is set to disrupt or halt most public services as Greek parliamentarians debate an austerity package which they must pass for the country to access the latest installment in a series of international bailout payments.

The strike has been called by unions who say the proposed €28bn ($40bn) cuts would slap taxes on minimum wage earners and other struggling Greeks, already hurting from previous rounds of cuts.

"These measures are a massacre for workers' rights. It will truly be hell for the working man," said Thanassis Pafilis, a lawmaker with the Greek Communist Party that will lead one of Tuesday's main rallies.

"The strike must bring everything to a standstill."

Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips, reporting from the capital, Athens, said there had been disruption at the nearby port of Piraeus, a key route for tourists and Greeks travelling to the country's many islands.

"Tourism has been hit very badly... This, in fact, is the first 48-hour general strike that Greece has experienced since the end of military rule in the mid-1970s," he said.

The Great Myths of Globalization

The debate between shrill free traders and strident protectionists has become utterly irrelevant

Even though politicians and pundits have been talking about globalization for decades, the discussion remains at a primitive and uninformed level. We cannot have the debates about globalization we need until we free ourselves from the myths that have grown up around globalization.

Today, shrill free traders continue to debate strident protectionists, as though we still lived in a world where purely national corporations shipped finished products to other countries in return for different kinds of products. The picture of globalization as the inevitable emergence of a single global market in which countries specialize along the lines of absolute advantage (Adam Smith) or comparative advantage (David Ricardo) has long been at odds with reality. The majority of the world’s trade is intra-industry trade in similar goods among the advanced industrial regions, not inter-industry trade in complementary goods among countries with different land or labor endowments. The U.S. and Europe sell each other cars and computers, while Japan deviates from the pattern by using nontariff barriers and currency manipulation to keep out imports. In addition, the world economy is highly regionalized. Trade within each of the three parts of what some called "the triad" of North America, Europe and East Asia is more important than trade among the members of the Triad.

Even more at odds with the conventional wisdom about trade is the fact that between a third and a half of all so-called international trade is "intra-firm" trade, in which components are shipped to and from a multinational corporation’s subsidiaries or partners in different countries. This is not trade, in the traditional sense. It is transnational production.

Transnational production is the successor to national production, which in turn was the successor to local and regional production. Before the industrial revolution, most goods like tools and clothing were made from local materials in or near the place where they were consumed. Steam-powered factory production, combined with distribution by steam locomotives and steamships, created national and imperial markets in the nineteenth century that could support giant corporations that relied on the telegraph for coordination. Successive innovations in energy and communications -- the electric power plant, the telephone, the truck and automobile, jets, container ships, the internet and satellites -- have made possible global production networks which are replacing earlier purely national production networks.

Planned Parenthood Wins First Victory Against Defunding Laws

Four states have passed legislation defunding Planned Parenthood so far this year, but the family planning provider is not going down without a fight. A federal judge in Indiana sided with Planned Parenthood against the defunding law on Friday, blocking its implementation, and now the legal battle is moving to Kansas.

After a month of court hearings, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt decided to grant a preliminary injunction against a new law that blocks Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) from participating in the Medicaid program. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services already denounced the defunding law in a letter issued earlier this month because the proposed change violates federal Medicaid rules by denying Medicaid patients the freedom to choose a qualified provider.

Pratt said the Health Department's disapproval of the new law, which could jeopardize all $4 million of Indiana's federal planning money, weighed heavily on her decision.

"Denying the injunction could pit the federal government against the State of Indiana in a high-stakes political impasse," she told the court. "And if dogma trumps pragmatism and neither side budges, Indiana’s most vulnerable citizens could end up paying the price as the collateral damage of a partisan battle. With this backdrop in mind, along with the reasons discussed above, the Court believes the most prudent course of action is to enjoin the defunding provision while the judicial process runs its course.”

As a result of the injunction, PPIN will immediately resume serving its Medicaid patients, many of whom had been using it as their primary health provider.

Judge Blocks Key Parts of Georgia Immigration Law

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction Monday temporarily blocking key provisions of a new Georgia law that aims to crack down on illegal immigration, while allowing other parts of the law to move forward.

Most of the law, known as HB 87, was scheduled to go into effect Friday.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash Jr.'s ruling blocks enforcement of two of the most controversial sections of the law.

"State and local law enforcement officers and officials have no authorization to arrest, detain or prosecute anyone based upon sections 7 and 8 of HB 87 while this injunction remains in effect," Thrash ruled.

Those sections would allow police to inquire about immigration status when questioning suspects in certain criminal investigations. They also would punish people who, during the commission of a crime, knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants. Something like speeding or driving without proper equipment could constitute a crime.

"The apparent legislative intent is to create such a climate of hostility, fear, mistrust and insecurity that all illegal aliens will leave Georgia," Thrash wrote.

In his 45-page ruling, the judge cited a previous court decision that said preliminary injunctions were in the public interest "when civil rights are at stake." He also wrote that state officials were attempting to overstep federal authority on immigration enforcement.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Google's Driverless Cars Are Now Legal In Nevada

With the passage of Assembly Bill Number 511, Nevada welcomed Google's driverless cars to its roads.

No word on when we can start to see Google's automated Priuses and Audi TTs cruising around without human input, but it should be soon.

First Evidence that Birds Tweet Using Grammar

They may not have verbs, nouns or past participles, but birds challenge the notion that humans alone have evolved grammatical rules. 

Bengal finches have their own versions of such rules – known as syntax – says Kentaro Abe of Kyoto University, Japan.

"Songbirds have a spontaneous ability to process syntactic structures in their songs," he says. 

To show a sense of syntax in the animals, Abe's team played jumbled "ungrammatical" remixes of finch songs to the birds and measured the response calls.

Conservationists Discover More than 1,000 Species in New Guinea

Treasure trove of unknown varieties of animal, bird, fish, insect and plant have been identified in the forests and wetlands of the Pacific island over a period of just 10 years

A new type of tree kangaroo, a 2.5-metre-long river shark, a frog with vampire-like fangs and a turquoise lizard are among hundreds of new creatures found and being documented in a report by conservationists working in the Pacific island of New Guinea.

Some 1,060 previously unknown species of mammals, fish and birds have been spotted in the volcanic island over a 10-year period.

The Final Frontier report, which was put together by WWF as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, marks a brief respite from the escalating rate of animal and plant extinctions which is taking its toll across the planet and has left a quarter of all known mammals on the endangered list.

The species have all been discovered, at a rate of two each week, in the period from 1998 to 2008 by the various teams and researchers who have visited the region and its extensive forests, waters and wetlands.

One team discovered a new bird, the wattled smoky honeyeater, within seconds of leaving their expedition helicopter.

Israel Threatens to Punish Journalists for Covering Gaza Flotilla

Hundreds of activists are preparing to set sail for Gaza from Greece this week in an effort to break the Israeli embargo on the Palestinian territory despite Israel's warnings that it will not allow the fleet to reach Gaza and will punish journalists who cover the news from the flotilla.

The event comes a little more than a year after nine Turkish activists were killed when Israeli commandos intercepted a flotilla also attempting to reach Gaza. The international uproar that ensued led Israel to ease the blockade on Gaza, and greatly damaged its relationship with its key strategic ally, Turkey.

Israel is eager to avoid another violent confrontation that would increase international pressure, but it is not expected to back down from its commitment to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza. The country began limiting the flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza in 2006 when Hamas militants captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still in captivity. The embargo was tightened when Hamas took over the territory in 2007.

Michele Bachmann Lies About Profiting From Govt Subsidized Dairy Farm

Bachmann has to somehow explain how she can be against government spending, while using her power as member of Congress to get $260,000 in federal dairy and corn subsidies for her family farm. Apparently assistance and government subsidies are okay for Bachmann to get, but not those Americans who are elderly, poor, disabled, or unemployed.

She has also advocated for socialism as it related to the government purchasing additional farm commodities in order to prop up prices. She is going to have a hard time arguing against government spending in a general election when she personally advocated for more government spending, and benefiting from federal subsidies for the family dairy farm.

New Type of Chinese Navy Drone Spotted

The Chinese Navy's annual sortie through the disputed waters between the Japanese islands Okinawa and Miyakojima held a surprise for foreign observers. Japanese forces tailing the 11-strong Chinese fleet spotted a previously unknown Chinese weapon system: a small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, apparently launched from the deck of a Chinese warship. 

The Japan Security Watch blog first highlighted the drone report originally published by the Japanese Defence Ministry. Although China is known to be developing several small and large UAVs for military use, none has been seen in an operational environment.  

The so-called ‘Miyako Run,’ first conducted last April, serves several purposes for the People's Liberation Army Navy. It's a statement by Beijing that it hasn’t given up its claim to several small islands in the East China Sea that Japan also claims. It's also an opportunity for the PLAN to test its navigation, logistics and combat skills – and now, new technology.

Hugo Chavez in 'Critical' Condition in Cuban Hospital

Speculation about Mr Chavez's condition has been mounting ever since he underwent an operation on June 10, for what his government has said was a pelvic abscess.

He remained uncharacteristically silent after the operation, even as Venezuela was hit by prison riots that killed at least 25 people and an electricity crisis, before messages began to appear again on his Twitter account on Friday.

A US-intelligence source told the Miami-based newspaper El Nuevo Herald that Mr Chavez "is in critical condition; not on the brink of death, but critical indeed, and complicated."

The newspaper said its sources could not confirm rumours that Mr Chavez may be receiving treatment for prostate cancer in Havana.

ICC Issues Gadhafi Arrest Warrant

The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants Monday for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, his son and his intelligence chief for crimes against humanity in the early days of their struggle to cling to power.

Judges announced that Mr. Gadhafi is wanted for orchestrating the killing, injuring, arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of civilians during the first 12 days of an uprising to topple him from power after more than four decades, and for trying to cover up the alleged crimes.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Randall Enos, Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

Thousands Turn Out for Immigration Law Rally Protest

Several thousand people turned out in Birmingham's Linn Park tonight for a candlelight prayer vigil and march in protest of Alabama's new immigration law.  The event was sponsored by the Greater Birmingham Ministries and by those of different faiths and nationalities.

Brady Bunch Mom got Crabs in Affair with NY Mayor

This would have made an interesting episode of "The Brady Bunch."

Florence Henderson, the actress who played perky mom Carol Brady in the beloved family sitcom, says she once got crabs after a one-night-stand with career politician John Lindsay, who was the mayor of New York City at the time.

Henderson, now 77, recounts in her upcoming memoir that she was cheating on her husband during the 1960s, and gave in to her better judgment when her married and unattractive friend put the moves on her over drinks at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

"I was lonely. I knew it wasn't the right thing to do. So, what did I do? I did it," she writes in "Life is Not a Stage," set for publication in September.

Henderson went home later that night, and awoke to a grisly surprise the next day as she saw "little black things" crawling over her bed and body.

An urgent call to a doctor took care of the problem, known medically as pubic lice, and Lindsay sent her flowers and a note of apology.

"Guess I learned the hard way that crabs do not discriminate but cross over all socioeconomic strata," Henderson writes. "He must have had quite the active life. What a way to put the kibosh on a relationship."

Lindsay, who died in 2000, was mayor of New York from 1966 to 1973. Before that, he was a U.S. congressman. He launched a brief bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. His wife of 51 years died in 2004.

Sahara Desert Greening Due to Climate Change?

Desertification, drought, and despair—that's what global warming has in store for much of Africa. Or so we hear.

Emerging evidence is painting a very different scenario, one in which rising temperatures could benefit millions of Africans in the driest parts of the continent.

Scientists are now seeing signals that the Sahara desert and surrounding regions are greening due to increasing rainfall.

If sustained, these rains could revitalize drought-ravaged regions, reclaiming them for farming communities.

This desert-shrinking trend is supported by climate models, which predict a return to conditions that turned the Sahara into a lush savanna some 12,000 years ago.

Republican Presidential Candidates Pledge To Revoke EPA's Authority

Republican presidential candidates are taking aim at the Environmental Protection Agency on the campaign trail, pledging to strip it of the tools to address emissions, and other regulatory functions.

Those pledges come as the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 Monday in American Electric Power v. Connecticut to deny states and environmentalists the right to sue power plants in federal courts over greenhouse gas emissions. While arguably a loss for environmental advocates, the ruling was widely seen as reaffirming the federal environmental agency's authority to regulate emissions.

Days before the high court underscored that regulating greenhouse gases is the EPA's job alone, presidential hopeful Herman Cain vowed to, within the first 30 days of his administration, create a panel of oil and gas officials to instruct the agency in overhauling its permitting program, adding that eliminating the program entirely also “would be an option.”

Third World Mississippi Shows Failure of Conservative Policies

Republicans around the country proclaim that conservative remedies, such as repealing "Obamacare," or enacting Paul Ryan's Medicare-warping, tax-slashing budget plan, will solve the nation's health care and economic disparities. However, evidence from Mississippi suggests otherwise.

Mississippi is, by many metrics, an extremely conservative state. In fact, according to Gallup, it is the most conservative state in the union. The governor's and lieutenant governor's offices, as well as both chambers of the state legislature, are controlled by the GOP. Mississippi, according to a report in the Jackson Progressive, has a very regressive income tax, and has one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation.

The state ranks dead last economically, with the lowest per capita income in the country - $30,399 according to the Census Bureau figures for 2008. Compare that to the national per capita income of $40,208. Additionally, as of 2010, 21.9 percent of Mississippi residents lived below the poverty level, and 10.9 percent were unemployed - much worse than the national rates of about 14 percent and 9 percent respectively.

As the poorest region of the poorest state, the Mississippi Delta illustrates the huge income disparity in the world's richest nation. The Delta is a rural region composed of 17 agricultural counties in the alluvial flood plain of the Mississippi River. The region is historically considered to be one of the most economically and educationally deprived areas of the nation.

What “Cutting the Debt” is Really About

To reduce the national debt, Republicans say that "Everything is On the Table."  Everything.  Absolutely everything.  The most sacred, cherished programs to Americans - Social Security, Medicare - they are on the table.  Not only on the table, but they're the centerpiece surrounded by doilies and a candelabra.  Cutting government pensions for teachers, nurses, janitors, bus drivers, park rangers, that's on the table. too.  Remember, Everything is On the Table.  Funding for NPR, Public Broadcasting, Planned Parenthood, social issues that touch all Americans, cutting them is on the table.  Because Everything - Everything is On the Table.

"Everything is on the table," Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told ABC's This Week last November.

To cut the national debt, Republicans insist that Everything…truly Everything…is On the Table.

"We have to live within our means," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said on Fox News last December.   "It means all of us will sacrifice."

Sacrifice.  All of us.  Every American. We ALL have to sacrifice.  And that's why Everything is On the Table.


Absolutely everything.

Except raising taxes for the wealthy.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bob Englehart, Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

Lewd Conduct Charges Filed Against Birmingham Christian Station GM

The GM of  Briarwood Presbyterian Church's radio station in Birmingham, Alabama is in trouble with the law in Florida.

WLJR-FM (88.5) GM James Ashley Hulgan was arrested by police in Walton County, Florida on charges of lewd and lascivious behavior, and exposing himself.

It is alleged that the 40-year old Hulgan exposed himself to a 15-year old girl and 23-year old woman.

A sheriff's report says "The defendant stated that while he was in his vehicle he took his clothes off because he loved being naked.

He stated he pulled up to a couple of girls and asked them where the nude beach was," all while he was allegedly naked from the waist down.

Hulgan was also the president of a video production company that videotaped high school sports, cheerleading, and other competitive sports.

Quantum Magic Trick Shows Reality is What You Make It

Conjurers frequently appear to make balls jump between upturned cups. In quantum systems, where the properties of an object, including its location, can vary depending on how you observe them, such feats should be possible without sleight of hand. Now this startling characteristic has been demonstrated experimentally, using a single photon that exists in three locations at once.

Despite quantum theory's knack for explaining experimental results, some physicists have found its weirdness too much to swallow. Albert Einstein mocked entanglement, a notion at the heart of quantum theory in which the properties of one particle can immediately affect those of another regardless of the distance between them. He argued that some invisible classical physics, known as "hidden-variable theories", must be creating the illusion of what he called "spooky action at a distance".

A series of painstakingly designed experiments has since shown that Einstein was wrong: entanglement is real and no hidden-variable theories can explain its weird effects.

But entanglement is not the only phenomenon separating the quantum from the classical. "There is another shocking fact about quantum reality which is often overlooked," says Aephraim Steinberg of the University of Toronto in Canada.

'Gaydar': Women Really Can Tell Sexuality Just by Looking at a Man

If a woman tells you she can spot a gay man just by looking at him, don’t dismiss her claim out of hand. 

Scientists say women really do have ‘gaydar’, which helps them spot whether a man is straight or gay just by looking at his face.  And the instinct is at its strongest when she is at her most fertile and in the mood for romance. 

Their findings suggest that a woman’s ability to determine whether a potential male partner is straight or gay is linked to the impulse to have children. 

During the three experiments, some 40 heterosexual women were shown a set of photographs of 80 men’s faces, all with the same expression.

Another Asteroid to Give Earth a Cose Shave June 27, 2011

A newly discovered house-sized asteroid will miss the Earth by less than 17,700 km (11,000 miles) on Monday June 27, 2011. That’s about 23 times closer than the Moon. The size and location of the asteroid, named 2011 MD, should allow observers in certain locations to take a look at the space rock, even with small telescopes. It’s closest approach will be at 13:26 UTC on June 27.

Moon Dust Found At St. Louis Auction House

It came from outer space, but ended up for sale at a St. Louis auction house. Then the feds stepped in.

“There have been rumors about this material being on the black market for years,” said U.S Attorney Richard Callahan. “But no one knew for sure.”

The U.S Attorney’s Office in St. Louis says it has returned what it believes is moon dust from the Apollo 11 Missions to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

New Hampshire Lawmakers Override Veto of Abortion Consent Bill

Croatia has been approved to become the newest member of the European Union, offering hope to other nations from the former Yugoslavia seeking to join the economic and political bloc.

EU leaders gave the go-ahead for Croatia at a meeting in Brussels on Friday, following six years of preparations marred by slow democratic reforms in Zagreb and the EU's reluctance to expand.

Croatia, which is expected to join the EU in 2013, will be the first new admission since Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the decision historic.

"I hope everything will be ready to welcome Croatia as the 28th member of the EU the first of July 2013," Barroso said at the end of the two-day summit of EU heads of government.

Croatia Gets GreenLlight to Join EU

Croatia has been approved to become the newest member of the European Union, offering hope to other nations from the former Yugoslavia seeking to join the economic and political bloc.

EU leaders gave the go-ahead for Croatia at a meeting in Brussels on Friday, following six years of preparations marred by slow democratic reforms in Zagreb and the EU's reluctance to expand.

Croatia, which is expected to join the EU in 2013, will be the first new admission since Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the decision historic.

"I hope everything will be ready to welcome Croatia as the 28th member of the EU the first of July 2013," Barroso said at the end of the two-day summit of EU heads of government.

SAAB Faces Bankruptcy

SAAB is on the brink of bankruptcy after the car maker admitted it cannot pay the wages and salaries of its 3700 employees.

Losses, sustainable under the previous owner, General Motors, are on the verge of overwhelming Saab's Dutch parent, Swedish Automobile, which was forced to stop salary payments for 1500 factory workers on Thursday. The IF Metall union set the clock ticking on the company, warning it would enforce bankruptcy proceedings to reclaim the unpaid wages within a fortnight.

New York Allows Same-Sex Marriage, Becoming Largest State to Pass Law

Lawmakers voted late Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed and giving the national gay-rights movement new momentum from the state where it was born.

The marriage bill, whose fate was uncertain until moments before the vote, was approved 33 to 29 in a packed but hushed Senate chamber. Four members of the Republican majority joined all but one Democrat in the Senate in supporting the measure after an intense and emotional campaign aimed at the handful of lawmakers wrestling with a decision that divided their friends, their constituents and sometimes their own homes.

With his position still undeclared, Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo who had sought office promising to oppose same-sex marriage, told his colleagues he had agonized for months before concluding he had been wrong.

“I apologize for those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, adding, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”

Senate approval was the final hurdle for the same-sex marriage legislation, which was approved last week by the Assembly. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the measure at 11:55 p.m., and the law will go into effect in 30 days, meaning that same-sex couples could begin marrying in New York by late July.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Will You Help Senator Sanders Expose the Koch Echo Chamber?

McCain Doctrine is Fawed

Elevating the fallacy of the false alternative to a foreign policy, John McCain and a few others believe Republicans who oppose U.S. intervention in Libya’s civil war — and who think a decade of warfare in Afghanistan is enough — are isolationists. This is less a thought than a flight from thinking, which involves making sensible distinctions.

Last Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” McCain warned that the GOP has always had “an isolation strain.” He calls it “the Pat Buchanan wing,” which he contrasts with “the Republican Party that has been willing to stand up for freedom for people all over the world.” A lot turns on the meaning of “stand up for.”

Between wishing success to people fighting for freedom, and sending in the Marines (or the drones), there is as much middle ground for temperate people as there is between Buchanan, a sort of come-home-America conservative, and McCain, a promiscuous interventionist. When asked his response to those, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who say there was no vital U.S. interest at stake when the Libya intervention began, McCain said: “Our interests are our values” and “our values are that we don’t want people needlessly slaughtered by the thousands,” as Moammar Gadhafi seemed to threaten to do, “if we can prevent such activity.” Under the McCain Doctrine, America’s military would have just begun to fight, and would never stop.

Greece Granted €120bn EU Bailout

EU leaders accepted David Cameron's argument that the cost should be borne by those using the single currency

European leaders agreed to launch a fresh bailout of Greece subject to parliamentary passage of an austerity package next week. Britain is to be spared from taking part in the rescue after leaders accepted David Cameron's argument that the bailout, expected to total up to €120bn (£107bn) should be borne by the other 16 countries using the single currency.

The Brussels summit of the EU's heads of government was scheduled to focus on the European economy, immigration policy and upheavals in the Middle East, but was overshadowed by the sovereign debt crisis in Greece, which is perceived to be on the brink of a meltdown that might trigger a fresh international banking crisis.

A statement said that the draconian package of €28bn in spending cuts and tax rises plus a €50bn privatisation programme "must be finalised as a matter of urgency in the coming days" by Greece to qualify for the new bailout.

The rescue would be provided by Greece's "euro partners and the International Monetary Fund", meaning that Britain would be exempted from the European part of the package.

In Prague , Cameron reiterated his refusal to take part in the latest Greek bailout except through Britain's contributions to the IMF.

Half Of World’s Refugees are Running from U.S. Wars

America’s wars are forcing Afghans and Iraqis to flee their homes in greater numbers. According to a recent U.N. High Commission for Refugees study, nearly one half of the world’s refugees are from Afghanistan and Iraq, 3.05 million and 1.68 million, respectively.

But neither the United States nor much of the developed world bears the burden of the 10.55 million refugees under the UNHCR’s purview globally. Instead, Pakistan, Iran, and Syria serve as the top host countries.

Amsterdam Fights for Your Right to Smoke Pot

The proposed ban on allowing foreigners to purchase cannabis will increase crime, Amsterdam officials say.

The city of Amsterdam is preparing to fight for tourists' right to party.

The capital's town council, backed by the tourist board and local campaigners, is opposing a new law proposed by the Dutch government that would ban foreigners from frequenting the city's cannabis-serving coffee shops by 2012.

Jews, Muslims File Suit Against Proposed Circumcision Ban

A proposal in San Francisco to ban the circumcision of males under 18 is facing a legal challenge after opponents filed suit to block the measure from the ballot in November.

The Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco and number of Jewish and Muslim individuals filed suit Wednesday, saying San Francisco would have no power to enforce the ban.

"Existing California law is clear," Nancy Appel, ADL's associate director in San Francisco, said in a statement. "Only the state can make rules about medical procedures and this initiative violates that law. Not only does this initiative waste time, energy and expense, but it also offends the notions of parental rights and freedom of religion. It is unconstitutional and, as we allege in this lawsuit, contrary to California law."

The ADL's release urges a judge to strike down the proposal before November, in order to "spare the city and its residents from wasting resources debating and voting on an ordinance that cannot become law."

The "Male Genital Mutilation Bill" garnered the more than 7,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot in November.

10 Things the GOP Doesn't Want You to Know About the Debt

1.  Republican Leaders Agree U.S. Default Would Be a "Financial Disaster"

2.  Ronald Reagan Tripled the National Debt

3.  George W. Bush Doubled the National Debt

4.  Republicans Voted Seven Times to Raise Debt Ceiling for President Bush

5.  Federal Taxes Are Now at a 60 Year Low

6.  Bush Tax Cuts Didn't Pay for Themselves or Spur "Job Creators"

7.  Ryan Budget Delivers Another Tax Cut Windfall for Wealthy

8.  Ryan Budget Will Require Raising Debt Ceiling - Repeatedly

9.  Tax Cuts Drive the Next Decade of Debt

10. $3 Trillion Tab for Unfunded Wars Remains Unpaid

Eric Cantor, House G.O.P. Leader, Leaves Budget Talks

Congressional Republicans on Thursday abandoned budget talks aimed at clearing the way for a federal debt limit increase, leaving the outcome in doubt as they vowed not to give in to a Democratic push for new tax revenues as part of any compromise.

The breakdown was set off by the surprise decision of Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader and one of two Republicans participating in sessions led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., to quit the negotiations.

This week’s talks were considered to be crucial as the Aug. 2 deadline for an increase in federal borrowing authority nears.

Mr. Cantor had previously expressed optimism that the sessions could produce a deal. But he announced he would not be attending Thursday’s scheduled meeting because Democrats continued to press for part of the more than $2 trillion savings target to come from moves like phasing out tax breaks.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Nick Anderson, Copyright 2011 Universal Press Syndicate

Alabama's Scott Beason Unsure Why He Called Blacks Aborigines

As a Republican state senator who secretly recorded conversations for the FBI testified Thursday that he couldn’t explain why he called black customers of a casino “aborigines,” Alabama’s Democrat leader called for his resignation and the Republican Party chairman defended his reputation.

“I don’t use that term normally. I don’t know where it even came from that day,” Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale testified Thursday in federal court, where he is a key prosecution in a statehouse corruption case.

Beason was the first witness in a trial of nine people accused of buying and selling votes for pro-gambling legislation. He wore tape-recording equipment for the FBI in its investigation. Transcripts of the recordings were used by the prosecution to bolster its case and by the defense to challenge Beason’s credibility.

In one transcript, Beason and two other Republican legislators were talking about economic development in predominantly black Greene County and the customers at one of the county’s largest employers, the Greenetrack casino in Eutaw.

“That’s y’all’s Indians,” one Republican said.

“They’re aborigines, but they’re not Indians,” Beason replied.

Alabama Environmental Projects Receive Five Star Restoration Grants

Projects to help restore streams in Phenix City and Prichard will benefit from new grants through the Five Star Restoration program, Alabama Power announced today. 

"Five Star Restoration is just one element of Alabama Power's commitment to work with diverse partners to conserve our state's important natural resources," said Matt Bowden, the company's vice president for Environmental Affairs.

Alabama Power participates in the Five Star Restoration program as part of Southern Company's partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Association of Counties and the Wildlife Habitat Council. Alabama Power is a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company. 

"This year's Five Star Restoration grants will help citizens implement important conservation projects in their communities. They'll also foster ongoing environmental stewardship," said Jeff Trandahl, NFWF executive director and CEO. "We're pleased to support a program that unites the best efforts of public, private and corporate funders."

"The Five Star Restoration program in the Southeast is an excellent example of building partnerships, empowering communities and restoring our natural resources," said EPA Regional Administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming. "This program brings together students, conservation corps, other youth groups, citizen groups, corporations, landowners and government agencies to provide environmental education and training through projects that restore wetlands and streams."

In Phenix City, a $39,100 grant awarded to Auburn University and partners will be used to stabilize 500 feet of extremely eroded stream banks along Holland Creek, near the mouth of the Chattahoochee River. The restoration project will include improvements to help slow the flow of water in the creek, which has contributed to the erosion and to the deterioration of water quality.

Man Bitten by Shark in Gulf Near Alabama-Florida Line

Orange Beach Fire Rescue aided in a shark-bite incident after a man fell off of his watercraft near the Florida state line on Tuesday afternoon.

Initially labeled as “sea-doo accident,” the rescue squad responded to the call with a boat and rescue equipment.

With the help of others on the beach, the man managed to ride the craft back to the shore.

“When they got there, people on the beach had his foot elevated and shirts wrapped around the wound,” Fire Chief Forney Howard said. “He fell off near Flora-Bama. He was bleeding pretty bad.”

Medics on the scene assessed the unidentified man’s injury, assigning the need for surgery. With four major lacerations around his ankle, he was airlifted to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola.

Initially described as a barracuda bite by the fire department, the hospital determined that a shark had caused the injury.

“We hadn’t heard any recent reports of sharks in the area,” Howard said. “That’s the only reason we thought it might be a barracuda.”

The last reported shark attack in the area occurred in 2004. No fatal attacks have been reported in the last decade.

Birmingham's Linn Park Ideal Place to Protest Immigration Law

Birmingham's Linn Park has seen many a protest in its day, including civil rights marches of the early 1960s and the anti-war rallies later in the decade.

It was the scene of attacks by Bull Connor's dogs and fire hoses against peaceful protesters, attacks that created images that defined Birmingham for many years.

And while we are certain there will be no violence when more than a dozen groups march on the park Saturday evening, it does seem an apt venue for a protest aimed at Alabama's harsh new immigration law, which has the potential to stigmatize Hispanics.

Billed as an "interfaith candle march," organizers say the new law is unjust and that they are specifically worried about possible restrictions on church ministries. Among the groups planning the march are the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice and the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama.

Organizers said the march is designed to "change minds at the grassroots level by making a beautiful, very public vision of many faiths in unison in opposition to Alabama's unjust immigration legislation."

Michele Bachmann Misuses a Katy Perry Song on the Campaign Trail

"Firework," Katy Perry's ode to tolerance, acceptance, and pyrotechnic undergarments, is probably not a song you'd associate with Michele Bachmann. But over the weekend Bachmann entered the RightOnline conference in Minneapolis to the tune, probably mistaking it for a patriotic jam much the way Reagan did with "Born in the USA." Ironically, she was glitter-bombed by an supposed LGBT activist later that day.

Herman Cain: Jon Stewart Attacked Me ‘Because I’m Black’

Jon Stewart picked up on the story, imitating Cain and joking that if Cain was president he would require everything to be shorter: “Treaties will have to fit on the back of a cereal box … The State of the Union Address will be delivered in the form of a fortune cookie.” You can watch the segment here. (Chris Wallace later replayed the segment during Stewart’s appearance on Fox News Sunday.)

'Uncontacted' Amazon Tribe Found in Brazil

Government researchers in Brazil say they have found one of the world's last uncontacted tribes in a remote corner of the Amazon rainforest.


Saudis Set To Bankrupt Iran With Flood Of Oil

Today the Wall Street Journal has a fascinating piece describing a speech given this month by Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal. The prince, speaking to a group of U.S. and British servicemen at an airbase near London, explained that Saudi Arabia was so concerned about Iran’s continued march toward attaining nuclear weapons that it was considering opening its oil spigots and swamping the world with oil in the interest of gutting Tehran’s government revenue.

The prince insisted that the Saudis still have sufficient spare production capacity that, if need be, “we could almost instantly replace all of Iran’s oil production” of roughly 4 million bpd.

Barney Frank and Ron Paul will Introduce Legislation on Thursday to Fully Legalize Marijuana

Previous Frank-Paul partnerships include a 2010 op-ed to reduce military spending and a marijuana decriminalization bill introduced in the House in 2009. In the intervening two years, Arizona and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana, and the Connecticut legislature has moved to decriminalize it. Now former U.S. Attorney John McKay and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes are organizing to completely legalize marijuana in Washington State. The time is ripe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Comes to Alabama

A potentially life-threatening disease is impacting a Ft. Payne family. Now, a woman is at U.A.B. Hospital in Birmingham, fighting to recover. 

Doctors there say it's the first case of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever they've seen in years. 

According to Morrison Sanders, his wife, Helena, fell extremely ill with a fever of 104 degrees and an unusual rash a couple of weeks ago.

Their doctor in Ft. Payne couldn't pinpoint the problem. "He had no idea what it was." Morrison Sanders said. "He had never seen anything like it."

Last Saturday, Helena was rushed to U.A.B., where doctors diagnosed her with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  "It can be fatal." said UAB physician Dr. David Pigott. "That's pretty rare, but the longer the patient has the disease, and it's undiagnosed and untreated, the more severe the disease can become."

Morrison Sanders Morrison Sanders The disease is spread by infected ticks, and it is not communicable from person to person. Doctors say they can treat it with antibiotics. Doctor Pigott says more people who get the disease don't even remember being bitten by a tick.