Saturday, March 31, 2012

10 Interesting Facts About Each Republican Candidate

Ron Paul

  • Since the invention of the presidency, there’s been Mr. Ron Paul. That’s right. Ron Paul would be 80 at the end of his hypothetical term. He keeps in great shape, though. Paul starts each day with a 3 to 4 mile walk and finishes with a long distance bike ride.
  • In 2009, Paul is quoted having said he would not risk Americans lives to end the Nazi Holocaust.
  • Ron Paul has pledged to limit his presidential salary to what is “approximately equal to the median personal income of the American worker.” $39,336.
  • The Ron Paul Chocolate Bar is here! But hurry, supply is limited.
  • He is only one of two congressman that has refused the pension plan.
  • A career Republican (if you even consider him that), Paul left in 1988 to become the presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party.
  • He earned a Doctor of Medicine degree from Duke University of Medicine in 1961.
  • Jon Stewart is his friend.

Newt Gingrich

  • Newt Gingrich was hailed as Time Magazine’s "Man of the Year" in 1995.
  • In 1997, for the first time in the House’s 208-year history, Gingrich was reprimanded for ethical wrongdoing.
  • Repeated adulterer, divorcing two prior wives in a time where they were seriously ill.
  • He once co-sponsored a medical marijuana bill in 1981.
  • Under his tax plan, Millionaires would receive a tax cut of more than $600,000 every year compared to today’s law.
  • "Newtie," as his mother called him, shared a bedroom with his grandmother.
  • Gingrich kept jars of snakes on his bedside table as a child.
  • He was born to a teenage mom and was adopted by his step father.

Rick Santorum

  • He’s got a unique (to say the least) arsenal of attack ads.
  • Santorum became the center of an odd national controversy in 2003 after he was quoted in an interview comparing consensual homosexual relationships to abusive "man on child, man on dog" sex. In response, an offended citizen posted a definition of “Santorum” online.
  • Santorum’s wife and the mother of their seven children apparently had a 6-year love affair with the doctor that delivered her as a baby.
  • Santorum hasn't held office for over five years. His 18-point losing margin in 2006 was the biggest loss ever by an incumbent Pennsylvania Republican senator.
  • If Santorum doesn’t fit your fancy, try ‘Rooster’. Apparently the nickname was coined after the strand of hair on the back of his head which stood up, and his competitive, cock fight-like attitude.
  • What little we do know about Santorum’s personal sense of style, we know he worships the sweater vest.
  • Just three years ago, Santorum emphatically told millions of listening Americans: "If you're a conservative, if you're a Republican, there is only one place to go, and that's Mitt Romney."
  • While he was a senator, Rick Santorum voted with president George W. Bush over 95% of the time.
  • Chuck Norris is not a fan.

Mitt Romney

  • With his secure wins in the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary and leading in the polls in South Carolina, the former Massachusetts governor now stands a pretty good chance of facing Obama.
  • Throughout the campaign, Romney has boasted that he has helped create more than 100,000 jobs through investments...
  • ...Under Mitt Romney's leadership, Massachusetts ranked 47th among the 50 states in job creation.
  • Romney's personal financial assets are estimated around $250 million, making him the richest presidential candidate since Steve Forbes ran in 2000.
  • But possibly Romney’s most proud accomplishment would be saving his co-worker’s 14-year-old daughter from a strange city and ecstasy overdose.
  • Or maybe it’s when, along with his sons, he saved a New Jersey family and their dog, Scotty, from a sinking boat.
  • Too bad Seamus, Romney’s own dog, couldn’t be treated with a similar canine respect. in 2007, the pup was strapped in a dog carrier to the roof of the family station wagon for a twelve hour drive across country.
  • In 2010, Romney made more money in one day than the average American makes in a year, yet paid a lower tax rate than many middle-class Americans.
  • After attending Stanford, Romney followed his high school sweetheart to BYU.

Keith Olbermann Ousted from Current TV Talk Show

Keith Olbermann is looking for a new job after less than a year as a talk show host at Current TV.

The left-leaning cable network announced just hours before airtime on Friday that Olbermann's show "Countdown" would be replaced with a new program called "Viewpoint" hosted by former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, beginning that night.

The sometimes volatile Olbermann came to Current in June as the centerpiece of its new prime-time initiative after a stormy eight-year stint at MSNBC — his second at that network— followed by his abrupt departure in January 2011.

Shortly after, Current announced his hiring — reportedly with a five-year, $50-million contract — as the start of an effort to transform the network's prime-time slate into progressive talk. His official title was chief news officer, charged with providing editorial guidance for all of the network's political news, commentary and current events programming.

In a statement, Current TV founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt said the network was "founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it."

They offered no details, but it is known that the temperamental Olbermann repeatedly clashed with his employers. During the primary season he declined to host certain hours of election coverage and has missed a number of regular broadcasts, as well as complaining about technical problems he said undermined his show.

Current considered some of those missed shows to be in "serial, material breach of his contract," terming them "unauthorized absences," according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because that person wasn't authorized to discuss details of Olbermann's dismissal.

"We are confident that our viewers will be able to count on Gov. Spitzer to deliver critical information on a daily basis," Gore and Hyatt said in their "open letter" to viewers.

In a statement posted online, Olbermann countered that "the claims against me implied in Current's statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently."

He said he had been attempting "for more than a year" to resolve his differences with Gore and Hyatt internally, "while I've not been publicizing my complaints." Instead of "investing in a quality news program," he said, his bosses "thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract."

He called his decision to join Current "a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one."

The rupture between Olbermann and his bosses echoed Olbermann's past employment history. At NBC there was ongoing friction between the brash host and his bosses, just as there had been at earlier jobs as far back as Olbermann's star-making, often tumultuous turn as a "SportsCenter" anchor at ESPN in the 1990s.

Just weeks before his exit from MSNBC, Olbermann was nearly fired but instead was suspended for two days without pay for violating an NBC News policy by donating to three political campaigns.

At the heart of his grievance with MSNBC, as he later explained it, was the media consolidation that he felt threatened his independence on the air.

In January 2011, Comcast Corp., the giant cable operator, acquired a controlling stake in Olbermann's already huge employer, NBCUniversal.

The night of Jan. 21, Olbermann told his viewers he was leaving. He said, a bit cryptically, that "there were many occasions, particularly in the last two and a half years, where all that surrounded the show — but never the show itself — was just too much for me."

After that, Current, the privately held network co-founded in 2005 by former Vice President Gore and Joel Hyatt, seemed the perfect fit: It is an independent media outlet.

"Nothing is more vital to my concept of a free media than news that is produced independent of corporate interference," Olbermann said at the announcement of his coming to Current.

Current was then beginning its effort to redefine itself after ditching its original concept as the go-to site for viewer-generated short videos.

Since "Countdown" premiered, Current has fleshed out its prime-time lineup of liberals with "The Young Turks," hosted by Cenk Uygur, and "The War Room" with former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

This week, it introduced a six-hour morning talk block, with live simulcasts of the radio programs "The Bill Press Show" and "The Stephanie Miller Show."

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Clinic’s Landlord Turns the Tables on Anti-Abortion Protesters

Regardless of how you feel about abortion, the way Todd Stave flipped the script on his bullies is pretty dang clever.

Stave is the landlord of a clinic in Germantown that provides abortions. Reproductive Health Services became the focus of antiabortion protesters when it was leased to LeRoy Carhart, one of the few doctors in the nation who acknowledges performing late-term abortions.

There are always protesters outside the office park where the clinic is located, quietly praying or holding vigil, with signs, rosaries, statues of Mary and posters of mangled fetuses.

“Totally appropriate. It’s their right,” Stave told me this week. “They are protected by the First Amendment. And outside the clinic is probably the most appropriate place for them to express their views.”

The abortion conflict has become a way of life for Stave. He’s not just a landlord. The clinic was operated by his father, who was a doctor. Then his sister managed it.

“I’ve been a member of this fight since Roe v. Wade, since I was 5 years old,” he said. The office was firebombed when he was a kid, and protesters gathered outside the family home as he was growing up. So he’s no stranger to the harassment and bullying of doctors and their families.

It has become routine for protesters to distribute fliers and create Web sites that supply personal information about doctors and encourage others to badger them. Kansas doctor George Tiller was killed in 2009, and the farm of his protege, Carhart, was burned to the ground in 1991.

The tactical decision to focus on a clinic’s landlord was a clever move, although Stave could handle it. He’s pretty tough after all the years in this fight.

But his tormentors crossed the line last fall when a big group showed up at his daughter’s middle school on the first day of classes and again at back-to-school night. They had signs displaying his name and contact information as well as those gory images of the fetuses.

“What parent wants to have that conversation with an 11-year-old on the first day of school?” he fumed.

Soon after that, the harassing calls started coming to his home. By the dozens, at all hours. Friends asked him how they could help. He began to take down the names and phone numbers of people who made unwanted calls. And he gave the information to his friends and asked them to call these folks back.

“In a very calm, very respectful voice, they said that the Stave family thanks you for your prayers,” he said. “They cannot terminate the lease, and they do not want to. They support women’s rights.”

This started with a dozen or so friends, and then it grew. Soon, more than a thousand volunteers were dialing.

If they could find the information, Stave’s supporters would ask during the callbacks how the children in the family were doing and mention their names and the names of their schools. “And then,” Stave said, “we’d tell them that we bless their home on such and such street,” giving the address.

The family of a protester who called Stave’s home could get up to 5,000 calls in return.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gorilla Reported At Large in Alabama

Authorities in Alabama are on the hunt for at least one gorilla after reports that the animal was spotted near a store in rural Newbern, Ala.

The Hale County Sheriff’s Office said the town’s volunteer fire department and police have been searching for the gorilla since the sighting was reported over the weekend, according to local affiliate ABC33/40.

Newbern is a town of around 220 people in Hale County, approximately 50 miles south of Tuscaloosa.

Authorities say they are not sure how many gorillas they are searching for.

One sighting was said to have been made by a child, while another person reported seeing what may have been a bear.  The sightings have not been confirmed by home video or surveillance video, 33/40 reports.

The closest zoo to Newbern is located nearly 100 miles away in Birmingham, Ala.  Officials at the Birmingham Zoo confirmed to today that the zoo’s sole gorilla, 16-year-old Cenzoo, is present and accounted for.

BP Oil Spill Seriously Harmed Deep-Sea Corals, Scientists Warn

Deep sea corals appear to have been seriously harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to scientists.

A survey of one site near the well in the Gulf of Mexico uncovered "compelling evidence" of pollution damage. Coral communities more than 1,220 metres (4,000ft) below the surface of the ocean appeared stressed and discoloured.

Tests showed that oil from the site bore Deepwater Horizon's chemical "fingerprint".

Determining the impact of oil spills at the bottom of the ocean can be difficult because oil seeps naturally from cracks in sea floor.

The explosion, in April 2010, poured an estimated 405m litres (160m gallons) of oil into the Gulf, causing a major environmental disaster.

Scientists looked at 11 deep-water coral sites three to four months after the well head was capped.

Healthy coral was found at all locations more than 12 miles from the Macondo oil prospecting site, where the blowout occurred. But at one site, seven miles south-west of the well, coral colonies presented "widespread signs of stress", including bleaching and tissue loss. Almost half of the 43 corals observed at that site showed evidence of impact.

The US scientists used an automated submersible, Sentry, and a manned robotic-armed vehicle, Alvin, to obtain images and samples at a depth of more than 1,300 metres. Their findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Charles Fisher, from Pennsylvania State University, took part in the initial dive, by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), which identified the site.

He said: "We discovered the site during the last dive of the three-week cruise.

"As soon as the ROV got close enough to the community for the corals to come into clear view, it was clear to me that something was wrong at this site. I think it was too much white and brown, and not enough colour on the corals, and brittle stars.

"Once we were close enough to zoom in on a few colonies, there was no doubt that this was something I had not seen anywhere else in the Gulf: an abundance of stressed corals, showing clear signs of a recent impact. This is exactly what we had been on the lookout for during all dives, but hoping not to see anywhere."

A second, more detailed look, including six dives by Alvin, confirmed the findings.

An advanced "fingerprinting" technique called comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography was used to determine the source of the oil.

The scientists wrote: "The presence of recently damaged and deceased corals beneath the path of a previously documented plume emanating from the Macondo well provides compelling evidence that the oil impacted deep-water ecosystems."

Japan Conducts First Hangings in Two Years

Justice minister Toshio Ogawa signed the execution orders on Thursday morning and within hours the inmates were taken to the gallows.

One of the men had killed five people at a train station in western Japan in 1999, local media reported.

It is the first time in two years, and only the second time ever, that the left-leaning government has resorted to the death penalty.

Apart from the United States, Japan is the only major industrialised democracy who implements capital punishment.

More than 130 Japanese inmates remain on death row.

Rick Santorum Tells Boy Not to Use Pink Bowling Ball

At a campaign event at a bowling alley in Wisconsin today, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum told a boy who reached for a pink bowling ball: “You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We're not gonna let you do that. Not on camera.” Santorum went on to say “Friends don’t let friends use pink balls.” The comments were tweeted by Reuters reporter Sam Youngman.

“This is another example of Rick Santorum intentionally making ignorant statements that have a real impact on LGBT people,” said HRC Vice President of Communications Fred Sainz. “Whether he’s comparing our marriages to inanimate objects, saying our children would be better off with a parent in prison as opposed to two loving same-sex parents, or calling open military service a ‘tragic social experiment;’ he’s proven that he thinks LGBT people are second-class citizens not worthy of dignity or respect. In this case, he’s advancing tired gender norms by implying a boy should be ashamed or embarrassed to use a certain color bowling ball.”

Santorum’s anti-LGBT record speaks for itself: in addition to his frequent and vitriolic remarks about issues like marriage equality or LGBT families, he consistently voted against workplace protections while serving in the U.S. Senate, and was an early and vocal supporter of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.

“Kids have enough to worry about,” added Sainz. “They don’t need Rick Santorum telling them that using a pink bowling ball is a bad thing.”

Read more here:

Republicans are Causing a Moral Crisis in America

There is moral crisis afoot! So say the Republican candidates for president, their pals in Congress and in state houses. Abortion, gay marriage, contraception — contraception, for Pete’s sake — things that so shock the conscience that it’s a wonder The Washington Post can even print the words!

Here’s something I bet you wouldn’t think I’d say: They’re right. There is a moral crisis in the United States. The only thing is — they’re wrong about what it is and who is causing it.

The real crisis of public morality in the United States doesn’t lie in the private decisions Americans make in their lives or their bedrooms; it lies at the heart of an ideology — and a set of policies — that the right-wing has used to batter and browbeat their fellow Americans.

They dress these policies up sometimes, give them catchy titles like Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity.” But they never cease to imbue them with the kind of moral decisions that ought to make anyone furious. Ryan’s latest budget really is case in point. It’s a plan that says that increases in defense spending are so essential, that massive tax cuts for the wealthy are so necessary, that we must pay for them by ripping a hole in the social safety net. The poor need Medicaid to pay for medicine and treatment for their families? We care, we really do, but the wealthy need tax cuts more. Food stamps the only thing standing between your children and starvation? Listen, we feel your pain. We get it. But we’ve got more important things to spend money on. Like a new yacht for that guy who only has one yacht.

It’s hard to point to a single priority of the Republican Party these days that isn’t steeped in moral failing while being dressed up in moral righteousness. This week, for example, they are hoping the Supreme Court will be persuaded by radical (and ridiculous) constitutional arguments to throw out some or all of the Affordable Care Act. Sure, you could argue that it’s really nice to make sure 31 million people who didn’t have health care can get it. Sure you could make the case that lifetime limits are a bad thing, that women shouldn’t have to pay more for health insurance just because they’re women, that the United States shouldn’t be a country where you die because you lost your coverage when you lost your job. But then again, liberty. Let’s not forget liberty. Also, freedom.

It is a very strange thing that the people who lecture most fervently about morality are those who are most willing to fight for policies that are so immoral.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nate Beeler, Copyright 2012 Cagle Cartoons

TN Science Bill Protects Teachers Who Allow Debate Over Evolution

The Tennessee Senate approved a bill Monday that would encourage teachers and students to debate evolution in the classroom, setting aside complaints that the measure would drag the state back onto the battleground over the teaching of creationism.

Senators voted 24-8 to pass a bill that says schoolteachers cannot be punished for “helping students to understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories” taught in public schools.

The measure has drawn strong opposition from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Center for Science Education and the American Civil Liberties Union, which said it is cover for teachers who want to teach creationism or intelligent design. Supporters said the measure would give teachers more guidance to answer students’ questions about science topics.

“The idea behind this bill is that students should be encouraged to challenge current scientific thought and theory,” said state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson.

Why Isn't the Gun Nut Lobby Saying Trayvon Martin Should Have Been Armed?

Think about it. Every other situation in which an innocent person gets gunned down there is a cacophony of gun nuts screeching that if only this person had been armed he could have defended himself. It's been the basis of every concealed and open carry argument for the last couple of decades.

And yet, in this case, nothing. No impassioned appeals for loosening the gun laws so that ordinary Americans could go to the store in the evening to buy some candy and an iced tea without getting stalked and shot by some unhinged vigilante. No solemn op-eds about the dangers for average Americans when venturing unarmed into the streets of their own neighborhoods. No fiery speeches from Wayne LaPierre insisting that if only everyone in the neighborhood had been armed with submachine guns they could have run outside and started firing immediately upon hearing the screams for help. Nada. Why do you suppose that is?

Right-Wing Hate Groups Exploding in Size and Reach

The radical right grew explosively in 2011, the third such dramatic expansion in as many years. The growth was fueled by superheated fears generated by economic dislocation, a proliferation of demonizing conspiracy theories, the changing racial makeup of America, and the prospect of four more years under a black president who many on the far right view as an enemy to their country.

The number of hate groups counted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) last year reached a total of 1,018, up slightly from the year before but continuing a trend of significant growth that is now more than a decade old. The truly stunning growth came in the antigovernment "Patriot" movement - conspiracy-minded groups that see the federal government as their primary enemy.

The Patriot movement first emerged in 1994, a response to what was seen as violent government repression of dissident groups at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and near Waco, Texas, in 1993, along with anger at gun control and the Democratic Clinton Administration in general. It peaked in 1996, a year after the Oklahoma City bombing, with 858 groups, then began to fade. By the turn of the millennium, the Patriot movement was reduced to fewer than 150 relatively inactive groups.

But the movement came roaring back beginning in late 2008, just as the economy went south with the subprime collapse and, more importantly, as Barack Obama appeared on the political scene as the Democratic nominee and, ultimately, the president-elect. Even as most of the nation cheered the election of the first black president that November, an angry backlash developed that included several plots to murder Obama. Many Americans, infused with populist fury over bank and auto bailouts and a feeling that they had lost their country, joined Patriot groups.

The swelling of the Patriot movement since that time has been astounding. From 149 groups in 2008, the number of Patriot organizations skyrocketed to 512 in 2009, shot up again in 2010 to 824, and then, last year, jumped to 1,274. That works out to a staggering 755% growth in the three years ending last Dec. 31. Last year's total was more than 400 groups higher than the prior all-time high, in 1996.

Meanwhile, the SPLC counted 1,018 hate groups operating in the United States last year, up from 1,002 in 2010. That was the latest in a string of annual increases going all the way back to 2000, when there were 602 hate groups. The long-running rise seemed for most of that time to be a product of hate groups' very successful exploitation of the issue of non-white immigration. Obama's election and the crashing economy have played a key role in the last three years.

At the same time, a third strand of the radical right - what the SPLC designates as "nativist extremist" groups, meaning organizations that go beyond normal political activism to harass individuals they suspect of being undocumented immigrants - shrank radically. After five years of sustained growth, these vigilante groups plummeted last year to 184 from 319 in 2010, a one-year drop of 42%. The decrease appears to be a product of bad press, internecine quarrels, and the co-optation of the immigration issue by state legislatures around the country passing draconian nativist laws like Alabama's H.B. 56.

Scientists Create First Self-Replicating Synthetic Life

Man-made DNA has booted up a cell for the first time.

In a feat that is the culmination of two and a half years of tests and adjustments, researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute inserted artificial genetic material — chemically printed, synthesized and assembled — into cells that were then able to grow naturally.

“We all had a very good feeling that it was going to work this time,” said Venter Institute synthetic biologist Daniel Gibson, co-author of the study published May 20 in Science. “But we were cautiously optimistic because we had so many letdowns following the previous experiments.”

On a Friday in March, scientists inserted over 1 million base pairs of synthetic DNA into Mycoplasma capricolum cells before leaving for the weekend. When they returned on Monday, their cells had bloomed into colonies.


“When we look at life forms, we see fixed entities,” said J. Craig Venter, president of the Institute, in a recent podcast. “But this shows in fact how dynamic they are. They change from second to second. And that life is basically the result of an information process. Our genetic code is our software.”

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Drew Sheneman, Copyright 2012 Tribune Media Services

Intel Shows Iran Nuclear Threat Not Imminent

The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran's nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead.

Those conclusions, drawn from extensive interviews with current and former U.S. and European officials with access to intelligence on Iran, contrast starkly with the heated debate surrounding a possible Israeli strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities.

"They're keeping the soup warm but they are not cooking it," a U.S. administration official said.

Reuters has learned that in late 2006 or early 2007, U.S. intelligence intercepted telephone and email communications in which Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading figure in Iran's nuclear program, and other scientists complained that the weaponization program had been stopped.

That led to a bombshell conclusion in a controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate: American spy agencies had "high confidence" that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003.

Current and former U.S. officials say they are confident that Iran has no secret uranium-enrichment site outside the purview of U.N. nuclear inspections.

They also have confidence that any Iranian move toward building a functional nuclear weapon would be detected long before a bomb was made.

These intelligence findings are what underpin President Barack Obama's argument that there is still time to see whether economic sanctions will compel Iran's leaders to halt any program.

The Obama administration, relying on a top-priority intelligence collection program and after countless hours of debate, has concluded that Iranian leaders have not decided whether to actively construct a nuclear weapon, current and former officials said.

There is little argument, however, that Iran's leaders have taken steps that would give them the option of becoming a nuclear-armed power.

Iran has enriched uranium, although not yet of sufficient quantity or purity to fuel a bomb, and has built secret enrichment sites, which were acknowledged only when unmasked.

Iran has, in years past, worked on designing a nuclear warhead, the complicated package of electronics and explosives that would transform highly enriched uranium into a fission bomb.

And it is developing missiles that could in theory launch such a weapon at a target in enemy territory.

There are also blind spots in U.S. and allied agencies' knowledge. A crucial unknown is the intentions of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Another question is exactly how much progress Iran made in designing a warhead before mothballing its program. The allies disagree on how fast Iran is progressing toward bomb-building ability: the U.S. thinks progress is relatively slow; the Europeans and Israelis believe it's faster.

U.S. officials assert that intelligence reporting on Iran's nuclear program is better than it was on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, which proved to be non-existent but which President George W. Bush and his aides used to make the case for the 2003 invasion.

That case and others, such as the U.S. failure to predict India's 1998 underground nuclear test, illustrate the perils of divining secrets about others' weapons programs.

"The quality of intelligence varies from case to case," a U.S. administration official said. Intelligence on North Korea and Iraq was more limited, but there was "extraordinarily good intelligence" on Iran, the official said.

Israel, which regards a nuclear Iran as an existential threat, has a different calculation. It studies the same intelligence and timetable, but sees a closing window of opportunity to take unilateral military action and set back Iran's ambitions. Israel worries that Iran will soon have moved enough of its nuclear program underground -- or spread it far enough around the country -- as to make it virtually impervious to a unilateral Israeli attack, creating what Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently referred to as a "zone of immunity."

While Israel would not be able to launch an effective offensive in this analysis, the U.S., with its deeper-penetrating bombs and in-air refueling capability, believes it could still get results from a military strike.

Israel has not publicly defined how or when Iran would enter this phase of a nuclear weapons program. Barak said last month that relying on an ability to detect an order by Khamenei to build a bomb "oversimplifies the issue dramatically."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Three Men Plead Guilty to Federal Hate Cimes in Mississippi Killing

Three white Mississippi men pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes Thursday in connection with the 2011 beating death of an African-American man in Jackson, the Justice Department announced.

Deryl Dedmon, John Aaron Rice and Dylan Butler each admitted to conspiracy and violating the 2009 federal hate-crimes law in last June's killing of James Craig Anderson. They face sentences of up to life in prison and $250,000 in fines, federal prosecutors said.

The 19-year-old Dedmon had already pleaded guilty to state murder and hate-crime charges Wednesday in a state court and was sentenced to life in prison. Rice, 19, and Butler, 20, made their initial appearances with Dedmon in federal court Thursday morning.

The men are among the first defendants to be prosecuted under the federal hate-crime statute that President Barack Obama signed in 2009 and the first to be prosecuted in a fatal attack, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, the head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said in a statement on Thursday's pleas.

"The Department of Justice will vigorously pursue those who commit racially motivated assaults and will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that those who commit such acts are brought to justice," Perez said. "And I note that our investigation in this matter is ongoing."

Wrongfully Jailed Alabama Mom May get Compensation

Alabama took the first step Tuesday toward paying nearly $119,000 to a church pianist and mother of two who was wrongfully jailed for nine months on a capital murder charge because of a botched autopsy on her newborn son.

The Senate's General Fund committee unanimously approved the payment Tuesday for Bridget Lee, a 37-year-old from Carrollton in west Alabama.

"I feel blessed they are considering that, but there is no amount of money that will get my life back," she said in a phone interview.

Alabama law allows the state Legislature to compensate people who are wrongfully incarcerated. The district attorney who initially prosecuted Lee, Chris McCool, said he never would have brought the case against her if he had been provided the correct facts from the beginning. He supports her getting compensated.

"Our job is not just to prosecute and win cases. Our job is to do justice," he said in an interview.

Lee acknowledges the facts looked bad when she was arrested in November 2006.

The bank bookkeeper and Baptist church pianist had an affair in her small west Alabama town of 1,000, got pregnant and tried to keep it secret. She felt sick on Nov. 6, 2006, went home from work and delivered a premature baby in her bathroom. She panicked, placed the newborn in a plastic container and hid it in her vehicle for several days before a co-worker's husband notified authorities.

Lee told investigators the baby was born dead, but a state forensic pathologist ruled the child was suffocated.

"I knew something was wrong because I knew I did not suffocate the baby, but I had no way to prove it," Lee said.

She was indicted for capital murder, which carries the death penalty. She spent nine months in jail and 20 months on home confinement at her parents' home.

During the ordeal, her husband divorced her and got custody of the children and their possessions.

Then her attorney got an independent expert to review the autopsy. His findings led the Alabama Department of Forensic Science to reopen the case and rule the child was stillborn. The department also reviewed dozens of other autopsies that the forensic pathologist performed during a brief stint with the department, but did not alter any of those.

Lee's life is partially back in order. She has a full-time data entry job. She's playing piano again at Aliceville First Baptist Church. And she's engaged.

But she said she only has visitation with her children, ages 8 and 10, every other weekend. And her life will never be normal again because some people will always question what happened.

"I live in a small town, and it will always be there," she said.

The payment to Lee is included in an appropriations measure that must be approved by the full Senate and House, and that must be signed by Gov. Robert Bentley.

The committee's chairman, Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur, said he expects that to happen because the payment has the backing of House and Senate leaders.

The $118,767 payment would amount to about $50,000 annually for the time she faced the capital murder charge.

"I pray and hope it passes because I lost everything. I lost my children and I lost my reputation," Lee said.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Adam Zyglis, Copyright 2012 Cagle Cartoons

Effective World Government Will Be Needed to Stave Off Climate Catastrophe

Almost six years ago, I was the editor of a single-topic issue on energy for Scientific American that included an article by Princeton University’s Robert Socolow that set out a well-reasoned plan for how to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations below a planet-livable threshold of 560 ppm. The issue came replete with technical solutions that ranged from a hydrogen economy to space-based solar.

If I had it to do over, I’d approach the issue planning differently, my fellow editors permitting. I would scale back on the nuclear fusion and clean coal, instead devoting at least half of the available space for feature articles on psychology, sociology, economics and political science. Since doing that issue, I’ve come to the conclusion that the technical details are the easy part. It’s the social engineering that’s the killer. Moon shots and Manhattan Projects are child’s play compared to needed changes in the way we behave.

A policy article authored by several dozen scientists appeared online March 15 in Science to acknowledge this point: “Human societies must now change course and steer away from critical tipping points in the Earth system that might lead to rapid and irreversible change. This requires fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions toward more effective Earth system governance and planetary stewardship.”

The report summarized 10 years of research evaluating the capability of international institutions to deal with climate and other environmental issues, an assessment that found existing capabilities to effect change sorely lacking. The authors called for a “constitutional moment” at the upcoming 2012 U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio in June to reform world politics and government. Among the proposals: a call to replace the largely ineffective U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development with a council that reports to the U.N. General Assembly, at attempt to better handle emerging issues related to water, climate, energy and food security. The report advocates a similar revamping of other international environmental institutions.

FACT CHECK: More US Drilling Didn't Drop Gas Price

It's the political cure-all for high gas prices: Drill here, drill now. But more U.S. drilling has not changed how deeply the gas pump drills into your wallet, math and history show.

A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by The Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.

If more domestic oil drilling worked as politicians say, you'd now be paying about $2 a gallon for gasoline. Instead, you're paying the highest prices ever for March.

Political rhetoric about the blame over gas prices and the power to change them — whether Republican claims now or Democrats' charges four years ago — is not supported by cold, hard figures. And that's especially true about oil drilling in the U.S. More oil production in the United States does not mean consistently lower prices at the pump.

Sometimes prices increase as American drilling ramps up. That's what has happened in the past three years. Since February 2009, U.S. oil production has increased 15 percent when seasonally adjusted. Prices in those three years went from $2.07 per gallon to $3.58. It was a case of drilling more and paying much more.

U.S. oil production is back to the same level it was in March 2003, when gas cost $2.10 per gallon when adjusted for inflation. But that's not what prices are now.

That's because oil is a global commodity and U.S. production has only a tiny influence on supply. Factors far beyond the control of a nation or a president dictate the price of gasoline.

Coulter: Maybe Time to ‘Go After the Obama Children'

Ann Coulter, a controversial backer of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, suggests that conservatives should begin attacking President Barack Obama’s two young daughters.

On Wednesday, Fox News host Sean Hannity told Coulter that liberals had been “feigning outrage” over radio host Rush Limbaugh calling Georgetown University law student a “slut” because she wanted contraception to be covered by her health insurance.

“Coming from people who are constantly telling us about their abortions and their vaginas, no, I find it very hard to believe that they’re so upset about any word Rush Limbaugh uses,” Coulter explained. “I don’t really care what words people use. I don’t care about dirty jokes, sexist jokes, racist jokes etcetera, etcetera. All I care about is that they be funny. And I would like to hold a little seminar for certain individuals like David Letterman’s writers to explain what is funny and what isn’t.”

U.S. News - Pew Survey: Americans Think Politicians are Talking Too Much about Religion

In an election campaign season in which issues such as birth control and gay marriage have made headlines, a growing number of Americans think political leaders are talking too much religion, according to a new national survey.

The survey released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds signs of uneasiness over the mixing of religion and politics.

Nearly four in 10 Americans (38 percent) say there has been too much expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders -- an all-time high since the Pew Research Center began asking the question more than a decade ago. Thirty percent say there has been too little.

Most Americans (54 percent) continue to say that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of politics. It’s the third consecutive poll conducted over the past four years in which more people have said churches and other houses of worship should keep out of politics than said they should express their views on social and political topics, according to Pew. That's also an about-face from 2006, when 51 percent of Americans believed churches should speak out and 46 percent said they should keep quiet.

The view that there is too much expression of religious faith by politicians remains far more widespread among Democrats than Republicans, and there are also divisions within the GOP primary electorate.

Fifty-seven percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters who favor Mitt Romney (a Mormon) for the presidential nomination say churches should keep out of political matters. By contrast, 60 percent of GOP voters who support Rick Santorum (a devout Catholic) say that churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political questions.

And while more than half (55 percent) of Santorum’s supporters say there is too little expression of religious faith and prayer by political leaders, just one in four (24 percent) of Romney’s backers agree.

Santorum has worked hard on the campaign trail to court conservative Christian voters, and the former Pennsylvania senator has talked openly about the journey of his faith in visits to evangelical churches.

Researchers Identify a Protein that May Trigger Male Pattern Baldness. Could It Point the Way to a Cure?

After bringing the hammer down hard on the coaches, administration and future of the New Orleans Saints Wednesday, National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell clearly has one major job remaining in his discipline of those involved in the Saints bounty scandal: the players.

Goodell spared the 22 to 27 players involved in the case, for now. But it's clear from the tone of his statement in banning coach Sean Payton for a year and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for at least that long, he's prepared to rule harshly on some of the players involved too.

Said Goodell: "I am profoundly troubled by the fact that players -- including leaders among the defensive players -- embraced this program so enthusiastically and participated with what appears to have been a deliberate lack of concern for the well-being of their fellow players. While all club personnel are expected to play to win, they must not let the quest for victory so cloud their judgment that they willingly and willfully target their opponents and engage in unsafe and prohibited conduct intended to injure players."

So why didn't Goodell include player discipline today? Two reasons seem likely:

1. He's attempting to keep a good relationship with De Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, by including Smith in the loop of those he has discussed the penalties with. Because the union is having its annual meetings in Florida late this week, Goodell likely wants to discuss the issue further with Smith after the meetings before making a final decision on player discipline.

2. One of the players who has admitted making contributions to a pay-for-performance pool, linebacker Scott Fujita, is now one of the most respected leaders of the union's 11-man Executive Board, and worked diligently to increase player safety in the 2011 negotiations for a new labor agreement with the owners. A source told Sports Illustrated earlier this month that Fujita and two other defensive leaders contributed between $2,000 and $10,000 to the performance/bounty pool the Saints defenders ran in 2009. It's likely the NFLPA would staunchly defend Fujita and other players accused by the league, and this could make the disciplining of players extremely sticky for the league.

The first reaction out of the box from a Saint seemed to ensure the players, if sanctioned, will appeal any harsh discipline. Soon after Goodell's ruling, cornerback Jabari Greer said he felt the NFL was "painting us as thugs.''

Added Greer: "The punishment that was imposed, it seems as if they are trying to destroy our season. They are trying to take away our leaders, take away our leadership. But it's not going to happen. We are New Orleans. We will be strong, we will get through this, we will fight through this, and we will win.''

The league charged that the Saints' bounty program paid players $1,500 for knocking a player out of a game, and $1,000 for a "cart-off,'' or a player helped off the field, as well as lesser rewards for individual plays. Those rewards, the league said, increased during the playoffs, and, as an example, the NFL has accused Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma of offering any player on the defense $10,000 for knocking Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the NFC Championship Game in January 2010.

The bounties violated the league's $120.3 million salary cap as extra off-the-books compensation, number one, and also this specific portion of the league's constitution: "No bonuses or awards may be offered or paid for on-field misconduct (for example, personal fouls to, or injuries inflicted on, opposing players).''

Vilma seems like the player in most trouble with Goodell, and is almost certain to get a multi-game suspension for his brazen offer. But some other veterans, obviously, could be in trouble, including players still on the Saints roster. If Goodell has proof that multiple players funded bounties for injuring players, he could suspend or fine a slew of them.

That leads to questions about how severely the Saints will be impacted by the sanctions, apart from losing their head coach for a season and their highly respected general manager for half of the 2012 season. If there are multiple player suspensions for players still on the Saints, and they are not staggered but imposed all at the beginning of the season, it could be a major competitive disadvantage for the Saints.

The effect of multiple bans in September could get the Saints off to a poor start in a season that the city is hosting the Super Bowl.

Fujita, now with Cleveland, adamantly told SI earlier this month that he never funded a pool for players to try to injure another player. "Over the years, I've paid out a lot of money for big plays like interceptions, sacks and special-teams tackles inside the 20[-yard line], but I've never made a payment for intentionally injuring another player,'' he said. Fujita said he didn't think he ever put money into a collective pot; rather, when a player earned money for a football play, Fujita handed him the money he'd promised.

Fujita and former Cards and Steelers special-teams star Sean Morey pushed hard during the labor negotiations for improvements in working conditions, including fewer practices with full contact during the season. It was Fujita's emphasis on health care for former players who have debilitating illnesses, such as close friend and former Saint Steve Gleason, who suffers from ALS, that made the two sides include lifetime care for ex-players with ALS.

"You don't spend all this time with guys like Sean Morey and other former players, or have close friends whose health fails them, possibly because of this game, and not be affected by that,'' Fujita said at the time. "I wanted to be part of the paradigm shift.''

It was thought that Goodell would issue all of the Saints sanctions at the same time. The fact that he didn't now puts a shadow over the players union meeting in Florida this weekend -- and over the NFL's annual meetings in Palm Beach, which begin Sunday afternoon. You can be sure there will be a lot of players not sleeping well in the coming days, and maybe weeks, as the players await their fate from a commissioner who has a history of harsh penalties when he feels the league's integrity is being threatened.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Why Conservatives Are Still Crazy After All These Years

It suddenly feels like conservatism has gotten crazier than ever.

Republican debate audiences cheer executions and boo an active-duty soldier because he is gay. Politicians pledge allegiance to Rush Limbaugh, a pill-popping lunatic who recently offered "feminazis" a deal: "If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, we want you to post the videos online so we can all watch." Thousands of "Oath Keepers" — "Police & Military Against the New World Order"— swear to disobey the illegal orders certain to come down the pike once Barack Obama institutes martial law. One major Republican presidential candidate talks up indentured servitude — and another proposes turning schoolchildren into janitors. Only 12 percent of Mississippi Republicans believe Barack Obama is a Christian. Arizona Republicans push a bill to allow bosses to fire female employees for using birth control.

And so on and so forth, unto whatever wacky new wingnuttism just flashed over the wires today.

But are right-wingers scarier now than in the past? They certainly seem stranger and fiercer. I'd argue, however, that they’ve been this crazy for a long time. Over the last sixty years or so, I see far more continuities than discontinuities in what the rightward twenty or thirty percent of Americans believe about the world. The crazy things they believed and wanted were obscured by their lack of power, but they were always there – if you knew where to look. What's changed is that loony conservatives are now the Republican mainstream, the dominant force in the GOP.

I'm in a unique position to judge. A sixties obsessive since childhood, I misspent my teenage years prowling a ramshackle five-story used-book warehouse that somehow managed, until last October, to stay one step ahead of Milwaukee, Wisconsin's building inspectors. There, I collected volumes from a decade gone mad: texts by Black Panthers decrying "AmeriKKKa"; by New Leftists proclaiming that "the future of our struggle is the future of crime in the streets"; and by right-wingers like preacher David Noebel, who exposed the "Communist subversion of music" by which Russian spymasters deployed Pavlov's techniques to rot the minds of America's youth via their bought-and-paid-for agents, the Beatles. People who thought like Black Panthers and New Leftists, of course, proved a historical flash in the pan. People like Noebel, however, have proved a constant in American history. In fact, Noebel himself is still with us. In the 1970s, he was a favorite source for James Dobson, the still enormously popular Christian Right radio pschologist and Republican power broker. Most recently, Noebel's reputation got a boost from an admiring Glenn Beck on Fox News, and now he’s a Tea Party favorite.

Final Banned Doonesbury: “The Republican party is hoping you get caught in a shame spiral…”

Men Kiss During Rick Santorum's Values Speech

Friday, March 16, 2012

Stephen Smith, The Birmingham Free Press

10 Reasons the Rest of the World Thinks the U.S. Is Nuts

The rest of the civilized world thinks this country has lost its mind. It's no wonder. Look at this list of frenzied misogyny:

1. Making women carry still-born fetuses to full term because cows and pigs do. This week, Mr. Edwards, you supported a bill requiring just this, because of just that. It has passed the House in Georgia and might very well pass the Senate. Women are different from farm animals, Mr. England, and this bill, requiring a woman to carry a dead or dying fetus, with no possibility of abortion, even when the she is in danger of dying, is inhumane and unethical. By forcing a woman to do this, you are violating her right not to be subjected to inhuman treatment and tortured. And, yes, involuntarily carrying a dead fetus to term, although not torture to you or to a pig, is torture for a woman. It is also a violation of her bodily integrity and a threat to her life and as such violates her right to life.

2. Consigning women to death to save a fetus. Abortions save women's lives. "Let women die" bills are happening all over the country. There is no simple or pretty way to put this. Every day, all over the world, women die because they do not have access to safe abortions. Yet, here we are, returning to the dark ages of maternal sacrifice. Do really have to type this sentence: this is a violation of women's fundamental right to life.

3. Criminalizing pregnancy and miscarriages and arresting, imprisoning and charging women who miscarry with murder, like Rennie Gibbs in Mississippi or at least 40 other similar cases in Alabama or like Bei Bei Shuai, a mentally ill person, who is currently imprisoned and charged with murder after trying to commit suicide while pregnant. Pregnant women are becoming a special class subject to "special" laws that infringe on their fundamental rights.

4. Forcing women to undergo involuntary vaginal penetration (otherwise called rape) with a condom-covered, six- to eight-inch ultrasound probe. Pennsylvania is currently considering that option along with eleven other states. Trans-vaginal ultrasounds undertaken with out a woman's consent are rape according the legal definition of the word. This violates a woman's bodily integrity and also constitutes torture when used, as states are suggesting, as a form of control and oppression. Women have the right not to be raped by the state.

5. Disabling women or sacrificing their lives by either withholding medical treatment or forcing women to undergo involuntary medical procedures. We impose an unequal obligation on women to sacrifice their bodily integrity for another. For example, as in Tysiac v. Poland, in which a mother of two, became blind after her doctor refused to perform an abortion that she wanted that would have halted the course of a degenerative eye disease. If my newborn baby is in need of a kidney and you have a spare matching one, can I enact legislation that says the state can take yours and give it to her? No. We do not force people to donate their organs to benefit others, even those who have already been born. One of the most fundamental of all human rights is that humans be treated equally before the law. Denying a woman this right is a violation of her equal right to this protection.

6. Giving zygotes "personhood" rights while systematically stripping women of their fundamental rights. There is too much to say about the danger of personhood ideas creeping into health policy to do it here. But, consider what happens to a woman whose womb is not considered the "best" environment for a gestating fetus in a world of personhood-for-zygote legislation: who decides the best environment -- the state, her insurance company, her employer, her rapist who decides he really, really wants to be a father? Anyone but a woman.

7. Inhibiting, humiliating and punishing women for their choices to have an abortion for any reason by levying taxes specifically on abortion, including abortions sought by rape victims to end their involuntary insemination, imposing restrictive requirements like 24 hour wait periods and empowering doctors to lie to female patients about their fetuses in order to avoid prosecution. In Arizona, Kansas, Texas, Virginia, Colorado, Arkansas and other states around the country bills that make women "pay" for their choices are abounding.

8. Allowing employers to delve women's private lives and only pay for insurance when they agree, for religious reasons, with how she choses to use birth control. In Arizona, which introduced such a bill this week, this means covering payment for birth control as a benefit only when a woman has proven that she will not use it to control her own reproduction (ie. as birth control). As much as I am worried about women and families in Arizona though, I am more worried about those in Alabama. You see, as recently revealed in a public policy poll in Alabama, conservative, evangelicals who support "personhood" related "pro-life" legislation and are fighting for their "religious liberty" -- 21 percent think interracial marriage should be illegal. So, what if they decide that an employee involved in an interracial marriage should not, by divine mandate, reproduce? Do they switch and provide birth control for this employee? Do they make contraception a necessary term of employment for people in interracial marriages? This violates a woman's right to privacy. My womb is one million times more private than your bedrooms, gentlemen.

9. Sacrificing women's overall health and the well-being of their families in order to stop them from exercising their fundamental human right to control their own bodies and reproduction. Texas just did that when it turned down $35million dollars in federal funds thereby ensuring that 300,000 low-income and uninsured Texas women will have no or greatly-reduced access to basic preventive and reproductive health care.

10. Depriving women of their ability to earn a living and support themselves and their families. Bills, like this one in Arizona, allow employers to fire women for using contraception. Women like these are being fired for not.

You presume to consign my daughters and yours to function as reproductive animals.

Mississippi Lawmakers Pass Controversial Immigration Bill

Another controversial immigration bill is on the horizon in the South, a regional battleground that has seen a number of states pass reforms on illegal immigration.

Mississippi's Republican-dominated House of Representatives voted 70-47 Thursday to pass the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Act."

The bill now goes to the Senate for approval, where it is also expected to pass. Both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans, who won majorities last year for the first time in 140 years.

Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican who supports the measure, said he believes too little has been done on immigration policies and a crackdown is urgently needed.

"Perhaps it's boat-rocking time in Mississippi," said Bryant, surrounded by fellow supporters of HB 488 at the state Capitol, where he passionately advocated for immigration reform.

Bible Belt Loves Porn

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hate And Extremist Groups Hit Record Levels, New Report Says

The number of domestic hate and extremist groups in the United States grew to record levels in 2011, led by a surge in anti-government radicalism, according to a report released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a prominent civil rights organization based in Montgomery, AL. In 2011 there were 1,018 "hate groups" nationally, representing a slight increase from the previous record, one year earlier in 2010, when there were 1,002 hate groups tallied.

The 2011 figures are the eleventh consecutive annual increase and the highest number since the SPLC began enumerating hate group totals in the 1980s. In 2000 there were just 602 of these groups nationally. While 2011 hate crime numbers are not yet tabulated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the agency counted 6,624 hate crimes in 2010 in the United States, an increase of only 26 from a 14 year low recorded the previous year. A 2010 analysis by the Institute for Homeland Security Solutions found that from 1999-2009 white supremacist and anti-government domestic extremist plots were only surpassed by those undertaken by radical Salafist and al-Qaeda followers during the decade

Friday, March 9, 2012

Japan Shutting Down its Nuclear Power Industry

All but two of Japan’s 54 commercial reactors have gone offline since the nuclear disaster a year ago, after the earthquake and tsunami, and it is not clear when they can be restarted. With the last operating reactor scheduled to be idled as soon as next month, Japan — once one of the world’s leaders in atomic energy — will have at least temporarily shut down an industry that once generated a third of its electricity.

With few alternatives, the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has called for restarting the plants as soon as possible, saying he supports a gradual phase-out of nuclear power over several decades. Yet, fearing public opposition, he has said he will not restart the reactors without the approval of local community leaders.

Japan has so far succeeded in avoiding shortages, thanks in part to a drastic conservation program that has involved turning off air-conditioning in the summer and office lights during the day. It has also increased generation from conventional plants that use more expensive natural gas and other fossil fuels in a nation already uneasy about its reliance on foreign sources of energy.

The loss of nuclear power has hurt in another way: economists blame the higher energy prices for causing Japan’s first annual trade deficit in more than three decades, which has weakened the yen and raised concerns about the future of the country’s export-driven economy. And as the weather warms, Japan faces a possible energy crisis, considering that last summer it still had 19 nuclear plants in operation.

On a more fundamental level, the standoff over nuclear power underscores just how much the trauma of the Fukushima accident has changed attitudes in Japan, long one of the world’s most committed promoters of civilian atomic energy. Political and energy experts describe nothing short of a nationwide loss of faith, not only in Japan’s once-vaunted nuclear technology but also in the government, which many blame for allowing the accident to happen.

Stop Incarceration for Profit

If you live in one of 48 states, right now there's a proposal sitting on your governor's desk from a company called Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). That for-profit corporation is offering to buy and run prisons across the nation. In exchange, states must agree to keep the prisons at least 90 percent full. Two articles in  USA Today examine the ethical concerns raised by the proposal.

America already has a problem with mass incarceration, and handing over our prisons to corporations that profit from keeping them full will only make it worse — not to mention turn the priorities of the corrections system upside down.

And, since private prisons thrive from keeping the bottom line low and their profits high, they have an incentive to cut corners — meaning lower-paid, less experienced staff and little accountability. The results can be troubling: in 2008, a study by the Idaho Department of Corrections found that the CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) had four times as many prisoner-on-prisoner assaults as Idaho's other seven prisons combined. In 2010, we filed a lawsuit challenging the culture of violence at ICC. More than 100 assaults were occurring every year at ICC, including this one captured on a video camera that

occurred two months before our suit was filed, a brutal inmate-on-inmate beating as guards and staff stood idly by:The company that runs that prison now stands ready to buy the prisons in your state, and to keep as many of your fellow citizens locked up as possible. A broad coalition including the ACLU, the Teamsters, the NAACP and several faith groups have already urged governors to reject the offer. Now you can too: go here to take action.

Defending freedom and justice all across America is up to all of us. It's time to stop the prison takeover before it starts.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Top Rabbi believes Catholic Church is imposing Sharia Law on Americans over contraception | Irish News | IrishCentral

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, the well known Rabbi who is founder and director of New York's Shalom Center, has this week condemned what he calls the Catholic Church's 'outrageous attempt to impose sharia law on the US government and the American public.' 

Writing in the Huffington Post, Waskow, one of the twenty most influential Rabbis in the nation, clarifies that he is not speaking of Muslim sharia, but what he calls a Roman Catholic equivalent 'sharia' with regard to contraception.  The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is trying to impose on Americans of all faiths and beliefs who happen to work in Catholic-sponsored hospitals or university throughout the nation, Waskow claims. 

Muslims have not been campaigning to impose sharia law on US courts he continues, yet they have had to listen to various Republican candidates for President condemn non-existent attempts to impose sharia on the US public, meanwhile, actual attempts at doing this are ongoing by the Catholic bishops, Waskow contends.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rush Limbaugh Advertisers: 27 Drop Out

At least 27 companies have pulled their ads from the “The Rush Limbaugh Show” since the conservative talk show host called a law student a “slut” on the air last week, as the social media blitz against the popular radio program showed no signs of slowing down Tuesday.

Companies are continuing to join the rapidly growing list of businesses that have ceased advertising on Limbaugh’s show, responding to the flood of grievances that are pouring in from disgruntled customers.

The list of companies that officially announced on Twitter or Facebook that they would stop advertising on the radio show include: AccuQuote Life Insurance, Allstate Insurance, AOL, Bare Escentuals, Bethesda Sedation Dentistry, Bonobos, Carbonite, Cascades Dental, Citrix, Goodwill Industries, Hadeed Carpet, JCPenney, Legal Zoom, Matrix Direct, Philadelphia Orchestra, PolyCom, ProFlowers, Quicken Loans, Sears, Sensa, Service Magic, Sleep Train, Sleep Number, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Tax Resolution, Thompson Creek Windows and Vitacost.

Monday, March 5, 2012

9 Best Strategies to End Corporate Rule

The power of corporations in politics and in our daily lives can seem insurmountable. They’ve got piles of cash, and no qualms about spending big to get their own way. The latest issue of YES! Magazine is a look at ways to shift the balance of power back toward real people. Here are nine strategies to put people back in charge.

1. Amend the constitution to end corporate personhood.

The Supreme Court says corporations have at least as many rights under the Constitution as you and I. We need an amendment that says rights are for flesh and blood people.

2. Dive into grassroots campaigns.

What happens when we put aside our partisan differences and take up a common cause? We stop polluting pipelines, get universal health care, and put economic fairness on the agenda. Grassroots power still works.

3. Hold corporations accountable to our laws.

There are powerful means already in place to hold corporations accountable: Deny them government contracts, revoke their charters, use lawsuits to hold them accountable for the damage they cause. We have the tools. We just need to use them.

4. Get past the propaganda.

Corporations have spent millions to convince people that false things are true. “Social Security is broke.” “Tort reform will save us all money.”  Well-known “facts,” not at all true. Get past the propaganda.

5. Support independent media and keep the Internet free.

Cell phones and the Internet have been key components of mass movements from Egypt to Europe to the United States. They’re a threat to corporate power and oppressive governments. That’s why corporations are working hard to limit access to phones and the Net. Citizen groups are fighting back—and winning.

6. Protect the commons from private interests.

The profit motive often gets in the way of the public good. The corporation that supplied electricity to Boulder, Colo., didn’t listen when citizens asked for clean energy, so now Boulder’s making its electricity a public utility. The things we own in common and the necessities of life shouldn’t be owned by corporations. Time to take them back.

7. Vote. Build a strong democracy and put progressive leaders in office.

Even though corporations can now spend unlimited money in campaigns, we can make them tell where they’re spending it. Publicly funded elections let citizens run for office without selling out. We trust juries with justice—citizen juries can also sort out false from true on campaign issues. And recall elections can keep runaway politicians in check.

8. Make your dollars matter.

The “Move Your Money” campaign is going big time. Cities, universities, and faith organizations are moving billions from the big corporate banks to local banks and credit unions. And you can make your personal finances—from everyday purchases to long-term investments—send a message that you’re through supporting the big corporations.

9. Get creative to raise awareness.

Flash mobs, mud piles, mic checks, and singing in the courtroom. We can’t spend as much money as corporations to spread our message. But we’ve got something no corporation has: Wit and soul.

Kirk Cameron on Homosexuality

ProFlowers Latest Limbaugh Sponsor to Pull its Business

The number of advertisers who have at least temporarily cut ties with Rush Limbaugh grew to seven on Sunday in the aftermath of the conservative radio host's self-described "insulting word choices" about a female law student.

ProFlowers, an online florist, is one of the latest companies to announce it would halt advertising on Limbaugh's show.

"Mr. Limbaugh’s recent comments went beyond political discourse to a personal attack and do not reflect our values as a company. As such, ProFlowers has suspended advertising on the Rush Limbaugh radio program," it announced on its Facebook page.

ProFlowers, like other Limbaugh sponsors, faced pressure from women's groups to end its relationship with his show after Limbaugh branded Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, 30, a "slut" and "prostitute," equating Fluke’s advocacy of expanded coverage for contraceptives with her wanting to be "paid to have sex." Fluke has been a vocal supporter of a new Obama administration rule that mandates greatly expanded access to contraceptives through health insurance plans.

One activist group, UltraViolet, said 91,000 people had signed its petition urging ProFlowers to suspend advertising on Limbaugh's show.

"UltraViolet members are glad that ProFlowers decided to suspend their advertising from the Rush Limbaugh show. … Our members hope that ProFlowers will do the right thing and not only suspend their advertising but pull it permanently," it said in a statement.

Quicken Loans, Sleep Train, Sleep Number, Citrix Systems Inc., Carbonite and LegalZoom also have suspended their advertising with Limbaugh, according to The Associated Press.,0,4986601.story