Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bill Maher: Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare

President Barack Obama Takes Debt Battle to Twitter, Loses More than 40,000 Followers in One Day

President Obama brought his debt battle to Twitter and he lost – more than 40,000 Twitter followers.

Obama asked Americans Friday to call, email, and tweet Congressional leaders to “keep the pressure on” lawmakers in hopes of reaching a bipartisan deal to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit ahead of an Aug. 2 deadline.

Obama’s campaign staff used the @BarackObama Twitter account to post the Twitter handles of tweeting GOP leaders – state by state, tweet by tweet.

“Tweet at your Republican legislators and urge them to support a bipartisan compromise to the debt crisis,” Obama’s campaign staff wrote on his account before launching the day-long Twitter campaign.

The campaign appears to have served its purpose: Republican Twitter accounts were flooded with pleas for compromise.

Not everyone is a fan of the presidential spam. By Friday evening, the President had lost more than 40,000 Twitter followers - and counting.

It's Time to Toss Out the Fragging Tea Party

Fragging: "To intentionally kill or wound (one's superior officer, etc.), esp. with a hand grenade."

Take names. Remember them. The behavior of certain Republicans who call themselves tea party conservatives makes them the most destructive posse of misguided "patriots" we've seen in recent memory.

If the nation defaults on its financial obligations, the blame belongs to the tea party Republicans who fragged their own leader, John Boehner.

They had victory in their hands and couldn't bring themselves to support his debt-ceiling plan, which, if not perfect, was more than anyone could have imagined just a few months ago. No new taxes, significant spending cuts, a temporary debt-ceiling solution with the possibility of more spending cuts down the line as well as their beloved constitutional balanced-budget amendment.

These people wouldn't recognize a hot fudge sundae if the cherry started talking to them.

Planned Parenthood Firebombed, Right Wing Silent

A potential incident of domestic terrorism this week got a yawn from most of the press -- and the political right

Someone firebombed a Planned Parenthood clinic in McKinney, Texas, late Tuesday night. Because it was so late, no one was hurt. The clinic doesn't provide abortions, but there had been protesters there earlier that day anyway. You might've read about the news on Twitter or on a liberal blog. Probably not in a newspaper or on a cable new channel. Definitely not at any right-wing blogs. Which is a bit odd, actually, considering how much attention terrorist attacks generally get in this country.

Oh, sorry, how much attention possible Islamic terrorist attacks get.

Iraq to Buy 36 US Fighter Jets

Iraq's prime minister said Saturday he was reviving a stalled deal to buy multi-million-dollar fighter jets from the United States and affirmed the need for American trainers to help Iraqi forces operate and maintain the 36 F-16s.

However, Nouri al-Maliki avoided saying whether the trainers would be active-duty troops or private contractors _ sidestepping the key question of whether American military personnel will be asked to remain past an end-of-year deadline for withdrawing. That question is Iraq's top political issue and is being hotly debated among the country's leaders.

The fighter jet deal, which al-Maliki announced at a press conference, more than doubles the number of aircraft Iraq initially planned to buy.

"We should provide Iraq with the means, including warplanes, to protect its sovereignty," al-Maliki told reporters after addressing a closed session of parliament.

It was a turnabout from earlier this year, when Baghdad abandoned the deal and decided instead that it would spend hundreds of millions of dollars on food rations for poor Iraqis.

Homicides in Mexico Jump by 23% in 2010

The National Institute of Statistics released a report showing the homicide rate of Mexico has increased by 23% in 2010, continuing the bad news for Mexican officials as they fight against cartels.
In an announcement that may come as no surprise to many, Mexico’s homicide rate has increased by nearly a quarter in 2010 when compared to the previous year, as Mexico’s drug war continues to plague border towns. Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography said on Thursday there were 24,374 homicides in 2010, up 23 percent from 2009’s 19,803. Many of the reported homicides were the result of organized drug cartels, according to the Institute.

Afghanistan: Suicide Attack in Lashkar Gah 'Kills 13'

Twelve Afghan policemen and a child have been killed in a suicide attack in the southern Afghan city of Lashkar Gah, officials say.

The attacker targeted the gate of the police headquarters in the city, the capital of Helmand province.

The Taliban said it had carried out the attack, which also wounded 12 people.

Responsibility for Lashkar Gah was recently handed to Afghan forces as part of a plan to return all security to local forces by the end of 2014.

Syrian Unrest: Hama Army Raid 'Kills Dozens'

Syrian security forces have stormed the city of Hama and killed more than 80 people in a bid to crush a long-running anti-government protest, reports say.

Eyewitnesses said tanks and troops moved into the city earlier and have been firing on civilians. Hospitals say they are overflowing with casualties.

The government said troops had been sent in to remove barricades and roadblocks erected by the protesters.

US officials accused the government of waging "full-on warfare" on its people.

The assault was a last act of utter desperation by the Syrian government, said JJ Harder, a US embassy spokesman in the capital, Damascus.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Scott Stantis, Copyright 2011 Tribune Media Services

The Tea Bag Ruptures As Meaningless Debt Ceiling Bill Passes The House

After John Boehner reworked his bill to make the tea party happy, the House passed a bill which is now DOA and completely meaningless.

The final vote total was 218-210. Boehner got two votes more than he needed for passage.

The most interesting thing about this vote is that the entire Democratic caucus stayed together. Not a single Democrat supported the bill. Democrats who did nothing but bicker and feud while in the majority are now standing together as one against a bitterly divided GOP.

Boehner finally got the support of the House tea partiers by adding a constitutional balanced budget amendment to the bill, but this bill has no chance of moving forward. This means that the House GOP wasted critical days fighting with each other and pushed the country closer to default.

The Boehner bill doesn’t solve anything. It is a piece of ultra far right legislation that has already been rejected once by the US Senate, and they will waste no time rejecting it again. Speaker Boehner made numerous political miscalculations during his efforts to get a bill passed, but perhaps his biggest was that he did not even bother to consult House Democrats to see if he could come up with a bill that would get enough Democratic support to get around the tea party caucus.

Darrin Ring: FBI Investigates Taped Beating By Tennessee Police

The FBI has launched a criminal probe into a January incident where Tennessee police stripped a man naked, then kicked and beat him while he lay handcuffed in the snow.

The incident, recorded by a patrol car's dashboard camera, also reveals police repeatedly shocking the man, Darrin T. Ring, of New Johnsonville, Tenn., with a Taser and spraying him with pepper spray.

For nearly ten minutes, the video shows Ring writhing and screaming in pain as a gaggle of officers shout contradictory demands at him.

"If he even flinches, shoot his ass," one officer declares on the tape.

$22 Trillion Social Security Surplus Revealed on C-SPAN

When Peter Coy, the Bloomberg Businessweek Economics Editor, appeared this morning on "Washington Journal," he brought along a chart for his discussion of the magazine's cover article, "Why the Debt Crisis is Even Worse Than You Think."  But, the chart, purported to show a national fiscal gap, did not match Coy's talking points.

As Coy concluded commenting that cuts would be needed to Social Security and other entitlements, C-SPAN moderator Susan Swain pointed out that Coy's chart showed a long-term surplus for Social Security of $22 trillion. Coy confirmed  as accurate her interpretation of the chart and, after some stumbling, admitted that, "The trust fund is not the crucial issue."  Indeed, his own figures show that it is not an issue at all. So, why did he continue to insist that Social Security cuts are needed?$22-trillion-Social-Security-surplus-revealed-on-C-SPAN

Julian Assange Splendour Forum Address 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mike Keefe, Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

Ala. Dems: Ranking GOP Members Violating Law

The Alabama Democratic Party Thursday released more documents to support its claim that the Republican party is violating the recently enacted PAC-to-PAC transfer ban put into place during last year's special session of the legislature.

Party Chairman and former Supreme Court Judge Mark Kennedy said the public records implicate Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner and House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Republicans are denying any illegal actions have taken place.

Kennedy presented campaign finance records for 136 Years PAC, which he said was organized by the GOP under Hubbard's leadership, as well as NETPAC, which he said Hubbard chaired. Several other PACS including Gulf PAC, Sun Pac and South Alabama PAC of Higher Ed were also cited for their alleged transfer of funds.

Kennedy said his research shows 136 Years PAC took a $100,000 contribution on December 20, 2010 from Monica Cooper that was labeled as an individual contribution. Two days later the money was recorded as a "reimbursement" to Cooper by the New Alabama Leadership PAC. 

Kennedy said records kept by the Secretary of State's office show Cooper is the treasurer of New Alabama Leadership PAC, to which Waggoner is the chairperson.

"We have always submitted campaign finance reports accurately and in accordance with the law, therefore if any error was made, it is clearly unintentional," Waggoner's office said. "We will begin working immediately with our finance team and attorneys to identify and return any inappropriate contributions, regardless of size."

Casey Anthony Gets $500,000 Offer from Hustler Magazine

If Larry Flynt has his way, Casey Anthony could reintroduce herself -- nude -- to America on the pages of Hustler magazine, and make well over $500,000 in the process.

The pornography magnate told HLN's "Nancy Grace" show on Thursday night that talks are ongoing that could land Anthony on the pages of his magazine, weeks after a Florida jury acquitted her of murder in her 2-year-old daughter Caylee's death.

John Boehner Weakened: How a Failed Debt Ceiling Vote Disarmed the Nation's Top Republican

House Speaker John Boehner failed to muster enough GOP votes to pass his plan to raise the debt limit on Thursday night, throwing into question the fate of Boehner’s proposal as well as that of his speakership. Republican leaders must now rewrite the legislation in order to attract more conservatives as they try to pass a revised version on Friday. But considerable damage has been done. Boehner’s negotiating stance in the ongoing effort to trim deficits and raise the debt ceiling by next Tuesday’s deadline is hobbled; any credibility he had in claiming that his restive members could get behind a consensus debt deal has vanished. The Speaker has gone lame.

Bachmann Says She, Not Husband, Running for Office

Rep. Michele Bachmann steadfastly refused Thursday to answer questions about her family's business and finances, saying that she — not her husband — was the one seeking the White House.

The Minnesota Republican faced queries about Marcus Bachmann's Christian counseling clinic that attempts to convert gay patients as well as her own beliefs on sexuality during a luncheon at the National Press Club. With her husband sitting nearby, Bachmann said she expected scrutiny as a candidate but questions about her family were off-limits.

"I'm running for the presidency of the United States. My husband is not running for the presidency. Neither are my children. Neither is our business," she said.

"I am more than happy to stand for questions on running for the presidency of the United States," she continued. "I have no doubt that every jot and tittle of my life will be fully looked at and inspected prior to November of 2012."

Bachmann, who is campaigning hard ahead of next month's debate and straw poll in Iowa, has steadfastly refused to discuss the family's business that has faced criticism from gay rights groups. When asked to describe her beliefs on gay therapy, Michele Bachmann said she loved her husband of 32 years and then said her husband was not a campaign issue.

Fox Anchor Wonders If Moon Volcanoes Mean Global Warming Isn't Happening

The Abortion Trap

How America's obsession with abortion hurts families everywhere.

For nearly two decades, anti-abortion activists have been at work in a disingenuous game, using the stark reduction of women in the developing world as an argument for taking away hard-earned rights. Conservative theorists have written openly about how sex-selective abortion is merely a convenient wedge issue in the drive to ban all abortions, both in the United States and abroad. And now, conservative commentators like the New York Times' Ross Douthat, the Wall Street Journal's Jonathan V. Last, and the editors of the New York Sun have claimed that my book, Unnatural Selection, strengthens their case.

This does not surprise me. One of the themes that cropped up again and again in my reporting was the extent to which American abortion politics on both sides of the question has stalled action on issues of major global importance. But it is deeply unfortunate. The American obsession with abortion does not just hinder work on maternal and child health or access to safe birth control abroad -- two areas that have suffered because of domestic campaigns by anti-abortion activists. It's also distracting U.S. policymakers from what should be the real conversation in a country that leads the world in human reproductive technology: whether to allow parents to use a growing range of methods to select for characteristics like sex (or diseases that come on late in life and, perhaps one day, IQ) in their children. Because sex selection is not just a developing-world problem -- it's an American problem, too.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Infographic: Where America Spent All of Its Money

Click for larger image.

100-year-old war veteran wins Alabama beauty contest - Telegraph

A blind, 100-year-old veteran of the Second World War has won a beauty contest in an Alabama nursing home.

Felma Schrimshire, competing under the stage name Ms. Andalusia Manor, was crowned Ms. Alabama Nursing Home this week, beating nine other finalists.

"It was wonderful!" Mrs Schrimshire told "Everybody has just been so nice and so sweet and caring. It's just great. I don't know any other way to express it."

Mrs Schrimshire served in the surgeon's office during the war, according to National Public Radio.

"I was going into the Army myself," said the widow, whose husband's sight was too poor to join at the time. "Not many women were in the army back then, so much to my husband's relief, I got out after one year."

After her husband's death, she moved to Alabama. She now lives with her sister at Andalusia Manor, where she spends her time studying the Bible.

Bomb Materials Found in Soldier's Room Near Fort Hood

FBI agents discovered a bevy of potential bomb-making materials in the hotel room of a missing Muslim American soldier who was arrested near Fort Hood, Texas, the military base where a 2009 shooting spree killed 13 people, an FBI spokesman said Thursday.

Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, a Muslim American who refused to deploy to Iraq and later went AWOL after facing child pornography charges, was arrested at a traffic stop Wednesday by police in Killeen, Texas, just outside Fort Hood, said the FBI spokesman, Erik Vasys.

He is expected to face federal charges, possibly as early as Thursday afternoon, a federal law enforcement official said. The case immediately sounded alarms because of the proximity to Fort Hood.

McCain vs. the Tea Party

Is the old John McCain back?

The fiery, independent version of the Republican senator from Arizona took to the floor of the Senate Wednesday morning. Demanding “straight talk,” Mr. McCain accused conservatives of abandoning reason by opposing the House Republican leader’s plan to resolve the debt crisis.

Mr. McCain mocked Tea Party-allied Republicans in the House for believing — wrongly, he said — that President Obama and Democrats will get the blame for a default if Republicans refuse to increase the nation’s debt ceiling.

By that flawed logic, “Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced budget amendment and reform entitlements and the Tea Party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth,” he said, quoting a Wall Street Journal editorial.

“This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into G.O.P. nominees,” he jeered, referring to two losing Tea Party candidates for the Senate in 2010.

Mr. McCain’s comments recall the visage of the senator prior to the 2008 presidential campaign against President Obama, when Mr. McCain eventually abandoned his “straight talk” mantra and ran as a more conventional conservative. And during Mr. McCain’s reelection campaign in 2010, he downplayed the “maverick” label that he had long proudly worn in the Senate.

But on Wednesday morning, it looked like the maverick had returned.

Mr. McCain assailed the conservative Republicans in the House who are threatening passage of the debt cutting plan by the House speaker, John A. Boehner, calling their political logic “bizarro” and noting sarcastically that they have only been in office a short time.

“Maybe some people who have only been in this body for six or seven months or so really believe that,” he said. “Others know better. Others know better.”

Gov. Chris Christie Blasts Critics of Muslim New Judge

A lawyer who defended Muslims detained after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was sworn in as a New Jersey Superior Court judge on Tuesday, as Gov. Chris Christie called those who criticized his nomination ignorant.

The appointment of Sohail Mohammed, 47 years old, angered some conservatives, who said they were concerned about the influence of Sharia law, an Islamic code of law.

Mr. Christie defended Mr. Mohammed, who is Muslim, calling him an extraordinary American and an outstanding lawyer who helped strengthen ties between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Muslim community after the 2001 attacks.

Mr. Christie said the people Mr. Mohammed represented were inappropriately detained by the FBI after what he called a very difficult time for law enforcement.

"It's just crazy, and I'm tired of dealing with the crazies," he said. "It's just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background." Mr. Christie added: "I'm happy that he's willing to serve after all this baloney."

Exxon 2Q Earnings Rise 41 percent

Exxon Mobil Corp. said Thursday that higher oil prices and improved refining margins boosted its second-quarter profits 41 percent.

The largest publicly traded oil company reported earnings of $10.68 billion, or $2.18 per share, for the three months ended June 30. That compares with $7.56 billion, or $1.60 per share, for the same part of 2010. Revenue grew 36 percent to $125.5 billion.

It's the highest profit for Exxon since it set a corporate earnings record of $14.8 billion in the third quarter of 2008. But the results fell short of Wall Street estimates of $2.30 per share. Revenue topped projections of $119.2 billion.

America's Own Taliban

A fast growing right-wing politico-religious presence plans to implement an end-times, Christian theocracy in the US.

Prior to 9/11, the Taliban government in Afghanistan did not register very much on American radar screens, with one notable exception: when it blew up two colossal images of the Buddha in Bamiyan province in early 2001. But destruction of treasured artifacts isn't just limited to the Taliban.

There's a right-wing politico-religious presence centred in the US, but with a global reach, engaging in similar practises, destroying religious and cultural artifacts as a key aspect of its ideology of "strategic level spiritual warfare" (SLSW).

Until recently a fringe evangelical movement, warned against as deviant, "spiritual warfare" is rapidly positioning itself within America's mainstream political right. It's well past time for political journalists to start covering what this movement is up to.

As an example, leaders have bragged online about the destruction of Native American religious artifacts, which their twisted ideology somehow sees as a liberating act, promoting "reconciliation" between estranged groups of people. Critics, however, see it as reflecting an eliminationist mindset, while traditional conservative evangelicals have denounced the ideology as un-biblical. Some even claim it is actually a form of pagan practice dressed up in Christian clothes, according such artifacts a spiritual power that the Bible itself denies.

The ultimate goal is to replace secular democracy, both in America and around the world, with a Christian theocracy, an ideology known as "dominionism". The supposed purpose is to "purify" the world for Christ's return - again, strikingly similar to what the Taliban believe, but also significantly at odds with more common, long-standing Christian beliefs about the "end times", as well as the nature and purpose of prayer, and the roles of human and divine power.

Newest Netflix Competitor: Walmart

Netflix has a new competitor, and it's a behemoth: Walmart. The world's biggest retailer added Vudu, a movie streaming service it bought 18 months ago, to its site yesterday. Walmart now offers 20,000 titles to rent for $1 to $5.99, or to buy for $4.99 and up; new titles will be available the same day they come out on DVD.

The service arrives just two weeks after Netflix hiked its prices; more than 2 million customers are expected to cancel their Netflix subscriptions. The AP notes that Walmart does not offer subscriptions, however, making its service more akin to Apple's iTunes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mike Thompson, Copyright 2011 Creators Syndiacte

Glenn Beck Slammed for Dead Teen Hitler Comparision

Leading US right-wing broadcaster Glenn Beck has been slammed by the Norwegian government for on-air comments he made comparing the teenage victims of the weekend’s massacre to the Hitler Youth.

In a radio show broadcast in the US overnight, former Fox News presenter and Tea Party poster-boy Glenn Beck said, "There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler Youth or whatever. I mean, who does a camp for kids that's all about politics? Disturbing."

NAACP Passes Resolution Calling For End To Drug War

The NAACP passed a “historic resolution” today at its convention in Los Angeles calling for an end to the war on drugs. “These flawed drug policies that have been mostly enforced in African American communities must be stopped and replaced with evidenced-based practices that address the root causes of drug use and abuse in America,” President and CEO Ben Jealous said in a press release. Instead of sending drug offenders to prison, the NAACP is calling for a public health-oriented approach. The move comes after a high-level international panel in June called the drug war a “failure” and urged world governments to adopt a similar approach.

Al Gore: What Do the Debt Ceiling and Climate Crisis Have in Common?

One of the problems that the Congress is encountering as it tries to raise the debt ceiling is that a significant number of Republican and Tea Party Members of Congress apparently hold the view that there actually would not be consequences for global markets or the US economy if we defaulted. This view is, of course, absurd -- but it illustrates a larger problem. Dramatic changes in the way we communicate with one another about issues affecting the common good have diminished the role of reason and fact-based analysis, encouraging ideological extremists to construct their own alternative version of reality and defend it against fact-based reasoning.

The same problem is found in the debate over the climate crisis. Notwithstanding the unanimous opinion of every National Academy of Science in every major country in the world, every professional scientific society in fields related to the study of the climate crisis and 97 percent of climate scientists in the world, many ideologues cling to the view that these facts are wrong, that scientists are perpetrating a hoax, that they are either greedy for more research dollars or secretly promoting the expansion of government, and that authorities such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are more reliable than the global scientific community in analyzing the impact of global warming pollution.

Mexican Judge Finds 14-year-old U.S. Citizen Guilty of Beheadings

A 14-year-old American citizen has been found guilty in a Mexican court of torturing and beheading at least four people and kidnapping three others.

Judge Jose Luis Jaimes sentenced the teenager, known as "El Ponchis" ("The Cloak") to three years in a correctional facility -- the maximum sentence allowed under Mexican law because of his age. The teen also must pay a 4.5 million-peso fine (about $400,000).

Mexican authorities also said the 14-year-old was responsible for at least three kidnappings as an operative for the South Pacific Cartel.

The teenager's age -- and his on-camera description of the slayings -- brought international attention to the case. Analysts said the dramatic example showed how Mexican drug gangs were increasingly recruiting youths.

Neither the public nor the media had access to the trial because of the defendant's age. Only the judge, attorneys, family members and a human rights observer were inside the courtroom.

Suicide Bomber Kills Kandahar Mayor

In a further strike against the authorities in war-torn southern Afghanistan, the mayor of Kandahar was killed in his office on Wednesday when a suicide bomber detonated explosives hidden in his turban, officials said.

The killing heightened concerns that the tenuous security gains in the violent south are unraveling despite months of intensified fighting by NATO and Afghan forces.

The mayor, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, was killed in his office in central Kandahar, and one other person was injured, according to Zalmay Ayoubi, an official spokesman. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, news agencies reported.

UN Recognises Global Body for Homosexuals

The United Nations has formally recognised the global organisation that brings together gays and lesbians, despite strong opposition from many countries, according to a UN report.

Human rights activists said Monday's move by the world body's Economic and Social Council or ECOSOC was a turning point for sexual minorities at the UN.

They said many gays and lesbians in some developing countries have been under increasing pressure, and faced discrimination and persecution.

In a vote overturning the stand of a New York-based UN committee, ECOSOC approved the granting of consultative status to ILGA - the International Gay and Lesbian Association - which has been seeking admission as a recognised non-governmental organisation (NGO) for over a decade.

Consultative status means ILGA, which claims it has 670 member groups in over 110 countries, can attend UN meetings, speak and provide information to UN bodies on treatment of gays.

It will also be able to take part in meetings of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, where anti-gay sentiment is strong but which last month narrowly passed the first-ever UN resolution on violence against homosexuals.

The overwhelming Monday vote, at a summer session of the 54-member ECOSOC, was hailed by the United States and Belgium.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fox News Refuses to Acknowledge Norway Shooter's Right-Wing Beliefs

Why the Christian Right Becomes More Extreme As America Grows More Tolerant

The rigidity of Christian Right politics has been a complicating factor in governing the United States for the past several decades, stripping away flexibility needed to negotiate on issues as diverse as policies in the Middle East, abortion, health care and the federal budget.

Gone is the more practical approach of assessing government actions based on what might help the country the most – and compromising with those who have differing opinions. Everything, it seems, gets measured by some Christian fundamentalist yardstick of what’s right and wrong.

Adding to this religious style of politics has been a deep sense of victimhood among right-wing Evangelicals, as if Christians were some persecuted minority in the United States, threatened by all-powerful Muslims imposing Sharia law or secular humanists banning Christmas.

Repeated endlessly on right-wing talk radio, these paranoid messages have become real to millions of these religiously inspired voters. So, political adversaries must not only be bested, but crushed. After all, they represent strategies of the anti-Christ.

What happens next with this religious/political phenomenon could dramatically influence the future direction of the United States, a nation founded on principles of religious tolerance and respect for free debate and political diversity.

Michele Bachmann's $4,700 Hair and Makeup Bill

Considering Rep. Michele Bachmann's crusade against government spending and her demand that America live within its means, you wouldn't figure her for a conspicuous spender. But after launching her bid for the White House, Bachmann has broken with her usual frugality and shelled out some serious cash on a stylist in what could be seen as her own John-Edwards'-$400-haircut moment.

According to Bachmann's latest campaign finance filings, her campaign spent nearly $4,700 on hair and makeup in the weeks after she entered the presidential race on June 13. Records show her campaign made three payments of $1,715, $250, and $2,704 to a Maryland-based stylist named Tamara Robertson. Robertson's LinkedIn profile says she works as a makeup artist at Fox News in the DC area. She's also listed in the "Make-up" section of the credits for the Citizens United-produced film A City Upon a Hill, hosted by Newt and Callista Gingrich—a pair who've raised eyebrows with their own spending.

Bachmann's hefty hair and makeup tab in recent weeks far surpasses what she's spent in the past. A review of her campaign records shows less than $1,000 in similar spending last year, which includes her 2010 congressional reelection bid. (A Bachmann campaign spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.)

Audit of the Federal Reserve Reveals $16 Trillion in Secret Bailouts

The first ever GAO(Government Accountability Office) audit of the Federal Reserve was carried out in the past few months due to the Ron Paul, Alan Grayson Amendment to the Dodd-Frank bill, which passed last year. Jim DeMint, a Republican Senator, and Bernie Sanders, an independent Senator, led the charge for a Federal Reserve audit in the Senate, but watered down the original language of the house bill(HR1207), so that a complete audit would not be carried out. Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, and various other bankers vehemently opposed the audit and lied to Congress about the effects an audit would have on markets. Nevertheless, the results of the first audit in the Federal Reserve’s nearly 100 year history were posted on Senator Sander’s webpage earlier this morning.

What was revealed in the audit was startling: $16,000,000,000,000.00 had been secretly given out to US banks and corporations and foreign banks everywhere from France to Scotland. From the period between December 2007 and June 2010, the Federal Reserve had secretly bailed out many of the world’s banks, corporations, and governments. The Federal Reserve likes to refer to these secret bailouts as an all-inclusive loan program, but virtually none of the money has been returned and it was loaned out at 0% interest. Why the Federal Reserve had never been public about this or even informed the United States Congress about the $16 trillion dollar bailout is obvious — the American public would have been outraged to find out that the Federal Reserve bailed out foreign banks while Americans were struggling to find jobs.

The GOP's Debt Ceiling Stance Is Economic Nonsense

President Obama and House Speaker Boehner's dueling debt ceiling speeches did not make news.* The plane is going down, and both pilots told their side of the fuselage that the other guy is responsible. (Both sides knew that already, didn't they?)

The instant analysis after the addresses went like this: MSNBC said Boehner was political, and Fox News said Obama was political. They're both right. The debt ceiling is a political instrument, after all. The president wants a long-term deal because he thinks another debt ceiling showdown will hurt him in 2012. Republicans want to schedule another debt ceiling showdown in 2012 for the exact same reason. Don't ask who's being more political. 
Instead, ask whose political interest is best for the economy. My answer: A long-term debt ceiling deal that backloads spending cuts reduces the possibility of default before 2013 and allows Washington to spend its time on something, anything, that might increase job creation.It's hard to see how the Republicans' position upholds their own economic principles, much less demonstrates an ability to work within a divided government.--Republicans say they want to promote job growth. But by insisting on upfront spending cuts, they'll reduce overall demand, force massive state and local layoffs, and reduce help to the unemployed.--Republicans say they want to eliminate uncertainty in the economy. But after pushing negotiations to the brink of default, many are insisting on holding this fight between one and three more times before the 2012 election, which multiplies the chance for a financial crisis.
--Republicans say they want to reduce the deficit. But they've rejected a $4 trillion deficit reduction package over a small portion of tax increases, even though effective tax rates are at their lowest since before Reagan's tax cut, and even though tax increases were a part of budget reform under both Reagan and the first President Bush.
--Republicans say they want to appease the rating agencies. But S&P has said it prefers Sen. Reid's all-at-once approach precisely because it doesn't try to ensnare the president in another debt ceiling debate in an election year.
--Finally (and least importantly) Republicans routinely appealed to popular opinion polls to criticize the stimulus, health care reform, and the White House. They've been notably quiet on polling showing a consistent preference for tax increases in the debt ceiling deal. Republicans call higher taxes on the rich "class warfare." If that's right, America is overrun with class warriors.

Israel Erupts in Protest

Approximately 30,000 protesters marched in Tel Aviv last night, with social justice activists blocking central streets and chants of "Mubarak. Assad. Netanyahu" filling the air.

Tel Aviv police arrested 42 activists, which is an extremely rare number, "if not unprecedented," according to +972 Magazine, which has been closely following the circumstances surrounding the sudden rise of Israel's progressive left.

The protests are part of a larger movement that began as opposition to rising housing prices, and indeed is still centered around that issue, but has spread to other social justice and progressive causes.

These protests are being described as "the greatest challenge PM Netanyahu faces on the home front," and show that the progressive left in Israel has awoken.

Change in Israel may be coming.,_tens_of_thousands_chant_%22revolution%22

Monday, July 25, 2011

Milt Priggee, Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

Did the FBI Bury Oklahoma City Bombing Evidence?

In 2007, Mother Jones was the first national media outlet to tell the full story of Jesse Trentadue and his quest for the truth, which began four months after the attack on Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killed 168 people. It was then that Trentadue, a Salt Lake City lawyer, learned that his brother, a construction worker and one-time bank robber, had died in a federal prison in Oklahoma City.

Prison officials said the prisoner had hanged himself. But Kenney Trentadue, who had never revealed any suicidal inclination, was shipped home for burial with bruises all over his body and lacerations on his face and throat—suggesting something more sinister. Even Oklahoma City's chief medical examiner would later say, publicly, that it was "very likely he was murdered." But the most compelling evidence in the case was altered or turned up missing. Jesse Trentadue was never able to prove what had actually happened to his brother—though he did win a $1.1 million civil suit for "emotional distress" to his family, based on the way the government had handled the aftermath of Kenney's death.

Trentadue had all but given up, when, in the spring of 2003, he got a call from a small-town newspaper reporter in Oklahoma named J.D. Cash. Cash told him that Kenney very much resembled the police sketch of John Doe No. 2, whom the FBI initially believed to be a second bomber in the Oklahoma City attack. Cash also pointed out that both Kenney and John Doe No. 2 resembled Richard Lee Guthrie, a notorious figure on the racist far right. In 1994 and 1995, Guthrie and his gang, which called itself the Aryan Republican Army (ARA), had carried out 22 bank robberies across the Midwest, netting some $250,000 to support their white-supremacist movement.

Could Kenney Trentadue have been beaten to death in an interrogation gone bad?

Might federal officials have believed that Kenney Trentadue was in fact Richard Lee Guthrie, and that Guthrie was John Doe No. 2? Could he have been beaten to death in an interrogation gone bad? That theory provided what Jesse believed might be a missing motive for his brother's murder, and he set about learning all he could about the federal investigations of the bombing and the Aryan Republican Army.

Dear God, Please End Your Presidential Endorsements

Now that Rick Perry is positioning himself as the next Great American Messiah, it’s hard not to find one’s nerves wearing thin at the number of candidates that God apparently sees fit to endorse, and even more, with their sheer gumption and embarrassing lack of qualification.

Rick, of course, is a delightful case of crackpot and self-aggrandizing delusional quasi-prophet turned politician, but he is hardly alone in being quite so ridiculous. In fact, it seems that God has called most of the Republican field to run; He just can’t seem to make up his mind as to which entrant He finds to be the most tempting. Perhaps we should make them wear apple costumes. The Almighty seems to be fishing towards the lower sections of the barrel when He dredges up the candidates that He wants to run. And you have to ask why, after all, for someone who is omnipotent, could He not pick anyone?

It’s not that much of a surprise that Barack Obama, an ex-drug using Ivory Tower type and formerly non-religious radical is not high on God’s list, even if he might be top of the candidate roster drafted by the less religious factions of the United States. God doesn’t want candidates that are big on that learning bent, but loves candidates that know how to pray!

Let’s just run through the list, shall we? Michele Bachmann is feeling God’s call to run. Rick Santorum and his wife have decided that God wants them in this the race. Tim Pawlenty’s star campaign recruit feels that God not only wants him to help elect the next president, but that that person should be Tim Pawlenty. Herman Cain thinks that God wants him in the milieu as well.

Afghan Insurgents Hang 8-Year-Old

Suspected Taliban insurgents hanged an eight-year-old boy in Afghanistan’s restive Helmand province after the child’s father, a policeman, refused to surrender to them.

The militants took the boy from his home on Friday and threatened his father that the child would be harmed if the police officer did not surrender to them along with his vehicle and his staff.

The local government claimed the Taliban was responsible for the hanging, but the group has denied the allegations, according to the AFP.

Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi dismissed the claims as “propaganda by the puppet Kabul government”.  

In a statement issued today, Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the child's death, CNN reports. He said such actions are "not permitted in any culture or any religions".

Last summer, the Taliban reportedly killed a seven-year-old boy it accused of spying.

Palin’s Documentary Bombs: Per Theater Average Plummets from $6,515 to $1,713

The Undefeated, the much-hyped Sarah Palin documentary, bombed during its second week in theaters, bringing in just $24,000 in ticket sales across 14 theaters.

I can picture writers scrambling to edit rooms to retitle the documentary to ‘The Defeated’.

According to the industry website, Box office Mojo, the movie’s per theater average plummeted from $6,513 to $1,713.  Ouch. Perhaps a less ego-centered and more reality based documentary from all perspectives would have brought in the much needed numbers. 

During the film’s opening weekend it brought in a not so staggering $65,132, nevertheless, it was touted on Fox News as a smash hit.

The film’s earnings went from bad to worse, plummeting by -63.2%. From July 22nd – 24th, showing in 14 theaters, instead of the previous 10: $24,000.  This is reminiscent of her reality show, which rapidly plummeted in ratings, then was taken off the air.

Killings in Norway Spotlight Anti-Muslim Thought in U.S.

The man accused of the killing spree in Norway was deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers and writers who have warned for years about the threat from Islam, lacing his 1,500-page manifesto with quotations from them, as well as copying multiple passages from the tract of the Unabomber.

In the document he posted online, Anders Behring Breivik, who is accused of bombing government buildings and killing scores of young people at a Labor Party camp, showed that he had closely followed the acrimonious American debate over Islam.

His manifesto, which denounced Norwegian politicians as failing to defend the country from Islamic influence, quoted Robert Spencer, who operates the Jihad Watch Web site, 64 times, and cited other Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture.

More broadly, the mass killings in Norway, with their echo of the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by an antigovernment militant, have focused new attention around the world on the subculture of anti-Muslim bloggers and right-wing activists and renewed a debate over the focus of counterterrorism efforts.

In the United States, critics have asserted that the intense spotlight on the threat from Islamic militants has unfairly vilified Muslim Americans while dangerously playing down the threat of attacks from other domestic radicals. The author of a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism withdrawn by the department after criticism from conservatives repeated on Sunday his claim that the department had tilted too heavily toward the threat from Islamic militants.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pat Bagley, Copyright 2011 Cagle Cartoons

In Syria, Protesters Show Their Staying Power

Syria, residents and antigovernment activists said, with enormous protests in two of the country’s five largest cities suggesting a growing momentum that the government of President Bashar al-Assad seemed at a loss to stanch.

Though the death toll was lower than in past weeks — five, by the activists’ count — the scenes in Hama, in central Syria, and Deir al-Zour, in a drought-stricken region in the east, showed the tenacity of the protest movement, which, after four months, can claim wide popular support for an uprising against Mr. Assad’s leadership.

The government’s response seemed to hint at its priorities. Protests were unhindered in Hama and Deir al-Zour. Hama, the scene of one of the modern Middle East’s bloodiest episodes a generation ago, has claimed a measure of independence after security forces withdrew last month. Deir al-Zour, knitted by the loyalties of extended clans, seems too combustible for the government to use repression.

But the government deployed its forces heavily in cities that seemed crucial to its continuity: Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s two largest cities, and Homs, where a Sunni Muslim majority co-exists with Alawites, members of a minority heterodox Muslim sect, from which the government draws strength.

Amy Winehouse Dead at 27

A press release from the Metropolitan Police, which doesn't specifically name Winehouse, says:

"Police were called by London Ambulance Service to an address in Camden Square NW1 shortly before 16.05hrs today, Saturday 23 July, following reports of a woman found deceased.

On arrival officers found the body of a 27-year-old female who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Enquiries continue into the circumstances of the death. At this early stage it is being treated as unexplained."

Belgian Fan on full Veils Comes into Force

A law has come into force in Belgium banning women from wearing the full Islamic veil in public.

The country is the second European Union nation after France to enforce such a ban. Offenders face a fine of 137.5 euros (£121; $197) and up to seven days in jail.

Two women who wear full veils launched an immediate court challenge, saying the law is discriminatory.

France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim population, enforced its ban in April.

Belgium's law bans any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer in places like parks and on the street.

Scientist killed in Tehran

An Iranian physicist was shot dead by a motorcyclist in Tehran on Saturday and Iran's student news agency ISNA quoted an unnamed police official as saying the man was a nuclear scientist.

ISNA named the scientist as Darioush Rezaie, 35, a university teacher who held a PhD in physics. It was not clear whether he was part of Iran's nuclear enrichment program. Enriched uranium can be used for civilian nuclear purposes, but also to build atomic bombs.

"An Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated in front of his house today ... and his wife was also wounded," it said. "He was shot dead by a motorcyclist."

Deputy Interior Minister Safarali Baratlou said it was not clear whether Rezaie was a nuclear scientist, Iran's Labor News Agency ILNA reported. "Police investigations are continuing ... Nobody has been arrested so far," Baratlou told ILNA.

The state news agency IRNA also reported the assassination but gave different details. Officials were not available for comment.

Water-Regulation-As-Federalism Bill Passes House, Looks A Lot Like ALEC

After being fast tracked by a House panel and passing the House last week, a bill that would strip fundamental powers of the EPA to regulate water toxins crept closer to a Senate vote.

It bears a striking resemblance to several pieces of "model legislation" recently leaked from The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and might be the newest testament to the organization's potency.

The mission of the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 (H.R. 2018) is self-evident in its title. It would eliminate, wholesale, the EPA's power to supersede individual states' water pollution rules. States would no longer be held to federal water quality standards they disagree with, and the EPA would be unable to make changes to Clean Water Act quality standards without states' approval.

It would prohibit the federal government from "specification of any defined area as a disposal site for the discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters," so if the state does not believe the dumped material would harm drinking water or fisheries, then chemical dumping and manufacturing runoff would not be prevented.

Koch And Exxon Pay To Write State Legislation Repealing Climate Change Laws

According to tax records and other materials acquired by Bloomberg News, Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, and numerous other corporations paid tens of thousands of dollars to write legislation for lawmakers that would repeal carbon pollution reduction programs in various states around the U.S.

These companies working to dismantle environmental programs are members of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which allows private-sector parties to “pay-to-play” – charging thousands of dollars to sit at the table with legislators and craft bills.

Why Do Parrots Talk?

The world's longest-running study of wild parrots is entering its 24th year, making it the parrot equivalent of Jane Goodall's long-term study of chimpanzees in Tanzania and Cynthia Moss's elephant project in Kenya. And just as those studies tracking individual animals changed our understanding of chimpanzees and elephants, this one is opening new windows into the minds and behaviors of parrots.

Researchers have discovered details of the parrotlets' ecology and life histories, and the project has now entered a new phase focusing on their communicative skills.

Last week, researchers reported that the contact calls of wild parrotlet nestlings—vocalizations that function much like a name—are not genetically programmed. Instead, they learn these calls from their parents, almost like human children learning their names. It is the first study to provide experimental evidence for learned vocalizations in wild parrots.

Texas Ed Board Compromises on Evolution Materials

The Texas State Board of Education gave final approval to supplemental high school science materials on Friday, delivering a blow to the board's social conservatives after a brief flare-up over some lessons teaching the principles of evolution.

The lessons in question included a lab comparison on chimpanzee and , the and cell complexity.

A board-appointed reviewer had called the lessons errors and recommended changes, but a group of scientists objected on Friday, threatening to re-ignite a fierce debate over teaching in Texas public schools.

The board's social conservatives compromised when it appeared they would lose a vote to reject the reviewer's changes in favor of the original lessons.

Instead of a showdown vote on evolution, the panel agreed to approve the material and have Education Commissioner Robert Scott continue working on the lessons in question with publisher Holt McDougal.

"Today we saw Texas kids and sound science finally win a vote on the State Board of Education," said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a group that supports mainstream scientists in the and has repeatedly sparred with board conservatives over education standards.

"We saw the far right's stranglehold over the is finally loosening," Miller said.

The conservative wing in 2009 had pushed through controversial standards that called for schools to scrutinize "all sides" of scientific theory.

Several of the conservative board members disputed the notion of defeat on Friday.

Huge Reservoir of Water Discovered in Space

Water really is everywhere. Two teams of astronomers, each led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. Looking from a distance of 30 billion trillion miles away into a quasar—one of the brightest and most violent objects in the cosmos—the researchers have found a mass of water vapor that’s at least 140 trillion times that of all the water in the world’s oceans combined, and 100,000 times more massive than the sun.

Because the quasar is so far away, its light has taken 12 billion years to reach Earth. The observations therefore reveal a time when the universe was just 1.6 billion years old. “The environment around this quasar is unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water,” says Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and a visiting associate at Caltech. “It’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times.”

U.S. Blocks Oversight of Its Mercenary Army in Iraq

By January 2012, the State Department will do something it’s never done before: command a mercenary army the size of a heavy combat brigade. That’s the plan to provide security for its diplomats in Iraq once the U.S. military withdraws. And no one outside State knows anything more, as the department has gone to war with its independent government watchdog to keep its plan a secret.

Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), is essentially in the dark about one of the most complex and dangerous endeavors the State Department has ever undertaken, one with huge implications for the future of the United States in Iraq. “Our audit of the program is making no progress,” Bowen tells Danger Room.

For months, Bowen’s team has tried to get basic information out of the State Department about how it will command its assembled army of about 5,500 private security contractors. How many State contracting officials will oversee how many hired guns? What are the rules of engagement for the guards? What’s the system for reporting a security danger, and for directing the guards’ response?

And for months, the State Department’s management chief, former Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, has given Bowen a clear response: That’s not your jurisdiction. You just deal with reconstruction, not security. Never mind that Bowen has audited over $1.2 billion worth of security contracts over seven years.

“Apparently, Ambassador Kennedy doesn’t want us doing the oversight that we believe is necessary and properly within our jurisdiction,” Bowen says. “That hard truth is holding up work on important programs and contracts at a critical moment in the Iraq transition.”

This isn’t an idle concern or a typical bureaucratic tussle. The State Department has hired private security for its diplomats in war zones for the better part of a decade. Poor control of them caused one of the biggest debacles of the Iraq war: the September 2007 shooting incident in Nisour Square, where Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians. Now roughly double those guards from the forces on duty now, and you’ll understand the scope of what State is planning once the U.S. military withdraws from Iraq at the end of this year.

Arizonans Enraged at Muslim Word for Dust Storm

The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.

“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?"

Friday, July 22, 2011

An Explosion has Damaged Buildings in Downtown Oslo; Offices are Being Evacuated

A loud explosion has shattered windows and led to evacuations of office buildings near the government headquarters in downtown Oslo.

An AP reporter says newspaper offices in the area are also damaged and smoke is drifting in the streets. He saw a young man with a bleeding leg being helped away from the area. It wasn’t immediately clear whether there were other injuries or exactly where the explosion happened.

Who Owns America? Hint: It's not China

Here's a quick and fascinating breakdown by total amount held and percentage of total U.S. debt, according to Business Insider:

  • Hong Kong: $121.9 billion (0.9 percent)
  • Caribbean banking centers: $148.3 (1 percent)
  • Taiwan: $153.4 billion (1.1 percent)
  • Brazil: $211.4 billion (1.5 percent)
  • Oil exporting countries: $229.8 billion (1.6 percent)
  • Mutual funds: $300.5 billion (2 percent)
  • Commercial banks: $301.8 billion (2.1 percent)
  • State, local and federal retirement funds: $320.9 billion (2.2 percent)
  • Money market mutual funds: $337.7 billion (2.4 percent)
  • United Kingdom: $346.5 billion (2.4 percent)
  • Private pension funds: $504.7 billion (3.5 percent)
  • State and local governments: $506.1 billion (3.5 percent)
  • Japan: $912.4 billion (6.4 percent)
  • U.S. households: $959.4 billion (6.6 percent)
  • China: $1.16 trillion (8 percent)
  • The U.S. Treasury: $1.63 trillion (11.3 percent)
  • Social Security trust fund: $2.67 trillion (19 percent)

So America owes foreigners about $4.5 trillion in debt. But America owes America $9.8 trillion.

Rick Perry Asks Why More Kids are Getting Pregnant in Texas

Texas Governor Rick Perry is toying with a run for president. Perry is a skilled politician and has never lost an election, but he has taken an increasingly antiscience turn in his approach to governing. On global warming he now says that the leading source of "supposedly deadly carbon dioxide" is the mouth of Al Gore. On education he has appointed creationists to lead the Texas State Board of Education. And on the issue of sex ed in Texas, Perry has taken governing positions that affect millions of children based on his own personal opinions, even when those opinions are overwhelmingly contradicted by the evidence.

Texas lawmakers cut sex ed from two six-month courses to a single unit of "abstinence only" education. But early indications showed that the program wasn't working. In fact, teens in almost all high school grades were having more sex after undergoing the abstinence only program. By 2007, Texas had the highest teen birth rate in the nation.

Nevertheless, the program continued. By 2009, 94 percent of Texas schools, which at the time were educating more than 3.7 million students, were giving no sex ed whatsoever beyond "abstinence only," a curriculum that includes emphasizing that birth control doesn't work.

Overturning 250 Years of Scientific Theory: Age, Repeated Injury do Not Affect Newt Regeneration

In research published in Nature Communications this month, Panagiotis Tsonis concludes repeated regeneration, even at old age, does not alter the capacity of newts to regenerate tissue. His findings overturn long-accepted theories proposed by regeneration scientists that age and repeated negatively affect regeneration.

Tsonis, director of the University of Dayton's Center for and Engineering at Dayton (TREND), said his discovery will benefit the entire field of regeneration research and brings science one step closer to a complete understanding of how newts regenerate, which Tsonis believes will one day enable humans to replicate the process.

Focus on the Family Humiliated

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Creepy Michele Bachmann God Speech

Steve Sack, Copyright 2011 Creators Syndicate

New Jersey Becomes 16th State to Approve Medical Marijuana Use

New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie said this afternoon he would permit a bill allowing the dispensing of marijuana for specific medical purposes to become law.

The measure was signed by Christie's predcecessor and Christie said he had doubts about it. But in coming weeks, New Jersey's doctors will be able to legally prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from a specific list of illnesses including HIV and cancer if other treatments have failed.

The Garden State does, however, prohibit home-growing of cannabis.

President Obama Backs Repeal of Defense of Marriage Act

President Obama has endorsed a new bill by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, another step in what the president has termed his "evolving" views on same-sex marriage.

"The president has long called for a legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to have a real impact on the lives of real people — our families, friends and neighbors," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. "He is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act."

Opponents of same-sex marriage said they were disappointed, but not surprised. The Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in 1996 and signed into law by President Clinton, defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman, denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples and allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.

"There is zero chance that Congress is going to repeal [the law] anytime soon, so this is primarily political theatrics on President Obama's part," said Maggie Gallagher, chairwoman of the National Organization for Marriage, an advocacy group that opposes gay marriage.

The announcement is one of the president's bolder moves regarding gay marriage. In the past, he has voiced support for civil unions for gay couples, but stopped short of supporting same-sex marriage.,0,1701692.story

Michele Bachmann Painted by Insiders as An Incapacitated Valley of the Doll

Trying to knock her out, Michele Bachmann insiders say she is “incapacitated” often.

The image of a pill-popping, incapacitated Michele Bachmann is being painted today by “former aides”, “three people who have worked closely with Bachmann”, unnamed witnesses, an unnamed adviser, and “some around her”. I doubt it’s any coincidence that the Daily Caller is reporting this on the heels of the news that Michele Bachmann is the “Grand Old Party’s” new front runner, as they are all quite aware of her limitations against President Obama.

According to these sources, due to “stress”, Bachmann is shuttled in and out of emergency and urgent care, put to bed in CEO’s homes, and propped up by at least three different kinds of pills. Repeated use of the word “incapacitated” to describe Bachman’s “migraine headaches” is taken so far as to say the word is being used deliberately, as the adviser is “terrified about the impact the condition could have on Bachmann’s performance if she actually became president.”

How to Be in Two Places at the Same Time

An ambitious experiment to make a glass sphere exist in two places at once could provide the most sensitive test of quantum theory yet. The experiment will place a sphere containing millions of atoms – making it larger than many viruses – into a superposition of states in different places, say researchers in Europe.

Physicists have questioned whether large objects can follow quantum laws ever since Erwin Schrödinger's thought-experiment suggested a cat could exist in a superposition of being both alive and dead.

The idea is to zap a glass sphere 40 nanometres in diameter with a laser while it is inside a small cavity. This should force the sphere to bounce from one side of the cavity to the other. But since the light is quantum in nature, so too will be the position of the sphere. This forces it into a quantum superposition.

Afghanistan Civilian Death Toll has Risen Sharply, says United Nations

In his last few weeks in charge of the Afghan war before taking the helm of the CIA, General David Petraeus and senior US officials have been talking up their progress.

The metrics of that success, perhaps unsurprisingly, have concentrated on the lethality of US and Nato operations.

From April to July this year – according to a briefing given to the Associated Press – 2,832 special forces raids have led to the deaths of 834 insurgents, while another 2,941 have been captured.

Because of this, according to Petraeus himself, violent attacks have fallen by 14% in 12 months.

"The [Taliban] have less capacity, they have been degraded somewhat," he told the New York Times. "This is the first real indicator – for the first time since 2006 – compared with the previous year, insurgent attack numbers are lower."

These would be impressive figures and claims except for one problem: the US military's figures are starkly contradicted by other sources.

For even as Petraeus was busy talking up his success earlier this month, the UN mission in Afghanistan was describing the course of the conflict in far more bleak and bloody terms.

Speaking on 14 July, Stefan de Mistura, special representative of the UN secretary general for Afghanistan, and his colleague Georgette Gagnon – director of human rights for the mission – described a 15% increase in civilian casualties in the preceding six months, with May 2011 the deadliest month of the war for civilians since 2007.

According to Gagnon (pdf): "The human cost of the Afghan conflict for Afghan civilians rose in the first six months of 2011.

"Afghan civilians experienced a 15% increase in conflict-related civilian deaths over the past six months compared with the same period in 2010."

Ralph Nader's Solution to Debt Crisis: End Corporate Welfare and Corporate Tax Loopholes

As negotiations continue on a debt deal, we ask longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader for his solution. Nader says, “Now we have the situation with the deficit and the debt and spending and jobs. And it’s not that difficult to get out of it. The first thing you do is you get rid of corporate welfare. That’s hundreds of billions of dollars a year. The second is you tax corporations so that they don’t get away with no taxation. The Citizens for Tax Justice put out a report recently. They had 12 major corporations, like Honeywell, Verizon, General Electric, and in three years, they made $167 billion in profit, paid zero tax, and got $2.5 billion back from the Treasury.”


Could the Big Bang have Been a Quick Conversion of Antimatter into Matter?

Suppose at some point the universe ceases to expand, and instead begins collapsing in on itself (as in the “Big Crunch” scenario), and eventually becomes a supermassive black hole. The black hole’s extreme mass produces an extremely strong gravitational field. Through a gravitational version of the so-called Schwinger mechanism, this gravitational field converts virtual particle-antiparticle pairs from the surrounding quantum vacuum into real particle-antiparticle pairs. If the black hole is made from matter (antimatter), it could violently repel billions and billions of antiparticles (particles) out into space in a fraction of a second, creating an ejection event that would look quite similar to a Big Bang.

The idea of a cyclic universe is not new. As Hajdukovic notes in his paper, in 1922 cosmologist Alexander Friedmann noticed that Einstein’s theory of general relativity is compatible with the framework of a cyclical universe. More recently, cyclic models have included loop quantum gravity, braneworld theories, and other “Big Bounce” models. However, unlike Hajdukovic’s scenario, in all of these models, all cycles are dominated by matter. As Hajdukovic explains, he is not offering a new cyclic model of the universe, but simply a mechanism that could, in principle, have allowed the transition from a matter-dominated universe to an antimatter-dominated universe, and vice versa.