January 10th, 2009

McCain Praises Obama On Fox News, Says GOP Must Work With Obama

Reverting to the role of Republican foil that made him an unpopular figure for many conservatives, John McCain argued on Friday that historical circumstances should compel his GOP colleagues to work closely with Barack Obama.

"There are not many times in history," he said, "that a president has come to office with as many challenges as the president-elect does and that's incumbent then upon all of us to try and do all we can to work with him."

Appearing on Fox News for one of the few times since losing the election, McCain offered a supportive assessments of the president-elect's agenda. He acknowledged the need to pass a stimulus, but said he would reserve judgment until he saw the final package.

"All I can say to you is that I want to see the stimulus package I want to see what it does, I want to see what kind of provision it has in it," he told Neil Cavuto. "I think the president-elect is going to marshal public opinion. Right now his approval ratings and hopes of the American people are very high," he later added.

He also called Obama's national security team "excellent," and saved special praise for CIA Director nominee Leon Panetta.

"I think that Leon Panetta is highly qualified, and in all due respect I think it is not bad from time to time to have somebody from outside of the intelligence community but with strong managerial experience as Chief of Staff of the White House, to be head of one of these agencies. I think there is some good balance there."

McCain said he talked with Obama since the election about foreign policy and domestic matters. Calling those conversations "very cordial," he added, "I want to help the president succeed."

It was the type of interview that would make hard-core partisans shake their heads. Not because McCain was overly effusive in his praise -- Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, after all, has said he expects a stimulus bill to pass with wide Republican support -- but because he didn't use the public forum to score any political points for his party.

And, sure enough, in Cavuto's next segment both he and Ann Coulter offered acid-dripped interpretations of the former Republican figurehead's message.

"I had John McCain earlier and he was sort of saying it is our duty now ... to work with the president-elect and presumably support this stimulus measure," Cavuto said. "He seemed to be saying that Republicans could look, you know, like obstructionists if they object to everything that Barack Obama does. What do you make of that?"

"I don't think the Republicans should be taking advice from John McCain," Coulter said. "I don't really know much about what is going on right now because this came out Tuesday, so I don't know the details of the stimulus plan. But I think it is pretty clear from the last election the voters want Republicans to be Republicans."


Baltimore Mayor Indicted, Accused Of Spending Money For The Poor On Shopping Spree

BALTIMORE — Mayor Sheila Dixon was indicted Friday on charges that she accepted illegal gifts during her time as mayor and City Council president, including travel, fur coats and gift cards intended for the poor that she allegedly used instead for a holiday shopping spree.

A grand jury indicted Dixon on 12 counts, including four counts of perjury and two counts of theft over $500. She was also charged with theft under $500, fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary and misconduct in office.

The State Prosecutor's Office, which has been investigating corruption at City Hall for nearly three years, said Dixon received holiday gift cards for four years from several people. Prosecutors said the gift cards were to be distributed to needy families, but were instead used by Dixon to buy electronics including an Xbox, a PlayStation 2 and a camcorder clothes and other merchandise and also handed out to members of her staff.

"I am being unfairly accused," Dixon said in a statement. "Time will prove that I have done nothing wrong, and I am confident that I will be found innocent of these charges."

Dixon said she would not step down. "I will not let these charges deter me from keeping Baltimore on the path that we have set."
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Pastor Ted Haggard Still "Struggles" With Same-Sex Attraction

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Ted Haggard, the powerful U.S. evangelist who fell from grace in 2006 amid a gay sex scandal, returned to the spotlight on Friday saying his faith was stronger but he wished people had been more forgiving.

Haggard, 52, was exiled from the New Life mega-church he founded and told by church elders to leave Colorado after admitting "sexual immorality" and buying methamphetamines from a male prostitute.

It was a stunning admission for the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, a formidable force among U.S. conservative Christians and a group that had the ear of the White House.

An HBO documentary about Haggard's year in exile, his struggle with his sexuality in the face of his past condemnation of gays, and his attempts to make a living outside the church, will air on the cable TV network on January 29.

Haggard, his wife Gayle and two of his five children appeared on a panel for U.S. television critics on Friday to promote the documentary, "The Trials of Ted Haggard." He had previously been barred by evangelical leaders from speaking to the media.

"I don't think it is a flattering piece. I think it is even-handed," Haggard told Reuters in an interview. "It is embarrassing for me for people to see it, but it does answer their questions."

Haggard refers to himself in the documentary as a sinner who deserved the punishment meted out to him. He says he came close to suicide.
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Report: SKorean blogger arrested

Report: SKorean blogger arrested

A South Korean blogger pleaded not guilty Saturday to charges that he spread false economic information on the Internet, a news report said, in a case that drew heated debate over freedom of speech.

The blogger, identified only by his surname Park, gained prominence among South Koreans because some of his dire predictions about the global economy, including the collapse of Lehman Brothers, later proved to be correct.

Known widely by his pen name "Minerva," the mythological Greek goddess of wisdom, the 31-year-old Park was accused of spreading false information on an Internet discussion site last month that the government had ordered major financial institutions and trade businesses not to purchase U.S. dollars.
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just when I thought my people couldnt do anything so stupid stupider
DC: Congress

Congressman Finding Interesting Housing

This was recently posted on DCist, about a Utah representative choosing to live in his office rather than rent an expensive Capitol Hill apartment.  (article source)
If you're Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Ut.), welcome home.

Think Progress yesterday followed up on an ABC story and Politico scoop from November about Chaffetz, a freshman representative from Utah who will shun a temporary apartment in Washington and opt instead for living in his Longworth office. (Chaffetz first came to our attention with his strident opposition to legislation that would grant both D.C. and Utah an additional seat in the House.) According to the ABC report, Chaffetz isn't a fiscal conservative just in theory, but also in practice. "I'm trying to live the example that it doesn't take big dollars in order to get where we want to go," Chaffetz said. "I can save my family $1,500 a month by sleeping on a cot in my office as opposed to getting a fancy place that's maybe a little bit more comfortable." He's apparently not alone -- 40 other members of the House are said to live where they work.

Yeah you read that right - 40 other House representatives live in their offices!!!   Who knew? 

The same article references a NYTimes article from a year ago (yeah yeah old meme I know) about 5 Congressman who live together as roommates.  This pictures are quite hilarious (source here)

Think MTV’s “Real World” with a slovenly cast of Democratic power brokers. While Washington may have more than its share of crash pads for policy-debating workaholics, few, if any, have sheltered a quorum as powerful as this one. About a quarter-mile southeast of the Capitol, the inelegantly decorated two-bedroom house has become an unlikely center of influence in Washington’s changing power grid. It is home to the second- and third-ranking senators in the new Democratic majority (Mr. Durbin, the majority whip, and Mr. Schumer, the vice chairman of the Democratic caucus) and the chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee (Mr. Miller).

Mr. Delahunt, a six-term congressman, is the least prominent of the four but perhaps the funniest. More to the point, he is the only one willing to sleep in the living room with a close-up view of Mr. Schumer slumbering a few feet away in his boxers.

The NYTimes article even has pictures!!!


I had no idea some Congressman take this route!  Hilarious!


5 Somali pirates drown with ransom share

5 Somali pirates drown with ransom share

Five of the pirates who hijacked a Saudi supertanker drowned with their share of a $3 million ransom, a relative said Saturday, the day after the bundle of cash was apparently dropped by parachute onto the deck of the ship.

The Sirius Star and its 25 crew sailed safely away Friday at the end of a two-month standoff in the Gulf of Aden, where pirates attacked over 100 ships last year. Hundreds more kidnapped sailors remain in the hands of pirates.

Piracy is one of the few ways to make money in Somalia. Half the population is dependent on aid and a whole generation has grown up knowing nothing but war. A recent think-tank report said pirates raked in more than $30 million in ransoms last year.
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Israel tells Gazans to brace for war escalation

Israel tells Gazans to brace for war escalation

Israel pounded rocket sites and tunnels Saturday while its planes dropped leaflets warning of an escalation, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas predicted a "waterfall of blood" unless all parties adhere to the U.N.'s call for a durable cease-fire.

Hamas fighters kept up attacks on southern Israel, launching 15 rockets. And with neither side ready to step down, the death toll in two weeks of fighting rose to more than 800 Palestinians, according to Palestinian medical officials, and 13 Israelis.

Flames and smoke rose over Gaza City amid heavy fighting.

Diplomacy was not finished, but it appeared to be in retreat following both sides' defiance of Thursday's U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a halt to fighting. Struggling to keep peace efforts alive, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak invited representatives of Gaza's Hamas rulers to Egypt for further talks on his cease-fire initiative.

Defying the international calls for a cease-fire, Israel threatened to launch a "new phase" in its offensive.
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Trying To Change Its Face, GOP Weighs Black Chairman

January 11, 2009

Trying to Change Its Face, G.O.P. Weighs a Black Chairman

WASHINGTON — As the nation is on the verge of inaugurating its first black president, the Republican Party is facing a telling choice: Whether to elect its first black chairman.

The contest for chairman comes as Republican leaders seek to figure out what the party stands for, as well as what face to put forward as it struggles to avoid shrinking into a party of Southern white men at a time when the country is increasingly diverse. Among the six candidates are four white men, including two from the South, and two blacks: Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, and Ken Blackwell, the former secretary of state of Ohio.


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' jules
  • schmiss

Where is my mind

Smarter Men Have More Sperm

Women tend to like smart men because they're usually more successful and better providers. But here's another reason: Their sperm is better, a new study says.

Researchers at King's College London, the University of Delaware and the University of New Mexico recently compared results from five intelligence tests given to 425 Vietnam War vets in 1985 as part of the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention's Vietnam Experience Study. These vets, aged 31 to 44, also provided sperm samples, so the researchers analyzed the sperm per milliliter of semen, plus how many of the sperm swam normally, and other measures of sperm health.

The smarter the men were, the more sperm they produced and the better their wee ones swam - and it didn't matter how old the men were or whether they smoked, drank or were obese.

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Anti-Gay Marriage People Want To Be Anonymous

Calif. gay marriage foes want donors anonymous

By STEVE LAWRENCE – 1 day ago

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Supporters of the ballot measure that banned gay marriage in California have filed a lawsuit seeking to block their campaign finance records from public view, saying the reports have led to the harassment of donors.

"No one should have to worry about getting a death threat because of the way he or she votes," said James Bopp Jr., an attorney representing two groups that supported Proposition 8, Protect Marriage.com and the National Organization for Marriage California. "This lawsuit will protect the right of all people to help support causes they agree with, without having to worry about harassment or threats."


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(no subject)

It's Official: 'First Granny' Marian Robinson To Join Family In White House

Get ready for the in-law in chief.

President-elect Barack Obama's mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, is moving into the White House at least temporarily to join Michelle Obama and the two children, transition officials said Friday.

That's good news not just for late-night comics, but for 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha. During the campaign, Robinson retired from her job as a bank executive secretary to help care for her granddaughters.

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lolol. Make that money, bb.

Advertising wonks say that Barack Obama's public devotion to his Blackberry would be worth as much as $50M if the president were able to sign an endorsement deal.
President-elect Barack Obama has repeatedly said how much his BlackBerry means to him and how he is dreading the prospect of being forced to give it up, because of legal and security concerns, once he takes office. “I’m still clinging to my BlackBerry,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday in an interview with CNBC and The New York Times. “They’re going to pry it out of my hands.”

What could the “BlackBerry president” charge for his plugs of the device if he were not a public servant? More than $25 million, marketing experts say, and maybe as much as $50 million. “This would be almost the biggest endorsement deal in the history of endorsements,” said Doug Shabelman, the president of Burns Entertainment, which arranges deals between celebrities and companies. “He’s consistently seen using it and consistently in the news arguing — and arguing with issues of national security and global welfare — how he absolutely needs this to function on a daily basis.”
Shades of Idiocracy to be sure, but I can imagine a day when sitting presidents make product endorsements.
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Dick Cheney finds Obama's inauguration historic, remarkable, also exciting!

In what could pass for a remarkable and historic interview during his last 10 days as likely the most powerful vice president in national history, conservative Republican Dick Cheney says he sees the inauguration of liberal Democrat Barack Obama as positive and remarkable and historic.Conservative Republican vice president Dick Cheney sees the impending inauguration of liberal Democrat Barack Obama as remarkable, exciting and historic

Even exciting.

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by <lj_user="yellowbang">

The time of the righteous

What's happening in Gaza is not a natural disaster, an earthquake or flood, for which it would be our duty and right to extend a helping hand to those affected, to send rescue squads, as we so love to do. Of all the rotten luck, all the disasters now occurring in GazaThe righteous warmongers will not be able to allow themselves these luxuries. 
are manmade - by us. Aid cannot be offered with bloodstained hands. Compassion cannot sprout from brutality.

Yet there are some who still want it both ways. To kill and destroy indiscriminately and also to come out looking good, with a clean conscience. To go ahead with war crimes without any sense of the heavy guilt that should accompany them. It takes some nerve. Anyone who justifies this war also justifies all its crimes. Anyone who preaches for this war and believes in the justness of the mass killing it is inflicting has no right whatsoever to speak about morality and humaneness. There is no such thing as simultaneously killing and nurturing. This attitude is a faithful representation of the basic, twofold Israeli sentiment that has been with us forever: To commit any wrong, but to feel pure in our own eyes. To kill, demolish, starve, imprison and humiliate - and be right, not to mention righteous. The righteous warmongers will not be able to allow themselves these luxuries.

Anyone who justifies this war also justifies all its crimes. Anyone who sees it as a defensive war must bear the moral responsibility for its consequences. Anyone who now encourages the politicians and the army to continue will also have to bear the mark of Cain that will be branded on his forehead after the war. All those who support the war also support the horror.

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  • lucy_u2

When is the last time you saw such a CEO?

In striking contrast with American CEOs like those at the “Big Three” auto manufacturers, Japan Airlines’ CEO takes the bus to work, has his desk in the “bullpen” with the rest of the employees and slashed his salary to below that of his pilots (he’s currently paid about US$90,000):

I looked around and nothing came up, so I don't think this was posted and it's really interesting!

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heinlein quote

One shuttle, two shuttle, red shuttle, blue shuttle!

NASA Renegades Pitch Obama Team New Post-Shuttle Plan

As the Obama team wrestles with the best way to put Americans back in space, a group of engineers today proposed a plan it calls Jupiter Direct to replace NASA's current plans for the Ares rocket. The engineers claim that the new plan would get astronauts to the ISS in less time, and for less money. For more on the Jupiter proposal, check out the chart at right that compares Ares and Jupiter plans. And be sure to pick up Popular Mechanics February issue on newsstands next week to read the whole story behind the battle over the future of spaceflight.

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tl;dr - There's an alternative to the massive failure that is the Ares rockets.

How about some rocket sauce?

Edit: to correct source link durhur. XD
  • bispo

Conyers introduces bill creating commission to investigate Bush’s torture and wiretapping policies

TPM notes that House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) has introduced legislation setting up a National Commission on Presidential War Powers and Civil Liberties. The panel’s goal is to “establish a Blue Ribbon Commission comprised of experts outside government service to investigate the broad range of policies of the Bush administration that were undertaken by the Bush administration under claims of unreviewable war powers.” While he is unlikely to prosecute Bush officials for war crimes, President-elect Obama has hinted at support for such a commission.
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GOP sees Franken as top public enemy; America Most Wanted agree...

GOP sees Franken as top public enemy

With only a longshot court appeal standing in the way of Democrat Al Franken’s election to the Senate, Republicans are gritting their teeth and bracing for the arrival of a new senator whose every utterance will sound like nails on a chalkboard to them.

While Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) has filed suit to contest the results of a disputed recount process that turned his narrow lead into a 225-vote deficit, his likely defeat stands to turn Franken, the polarizing former “Saturday Night Live” writer, into the senator who launched a thousand direct mail fundraising appeals.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had an opponent who is so disliked by Republicans as Al Franken,”
said Minnesota Republican Party Chair Ron Carey, who cautioned that Coleman’s election challenge could still turn the results back his way. “It’s one thing to lose to an honorable opponent, but Al Franken is not considered an honorable opponent by Minnesota Republicans.”

Marty Seifert, the Republican leader in the Minnesota House of Representatives, said Franken’s long record of antagonizing conservatives would make it difficult for him to connect with voters who supported Coleman.

“It’s going to be hard for Franken to be very effective with any Republicans, in terms of having any credibility with us, just because he’s been so nasty in the past,” Seifert said. “He certainly has callous and very partisan behavior in the past that is beyond the pale.”

According to Carleton College political scientist Steven Schier, Franken’s record as a “flamboyant and aggressive partisan” would make him ripe for criticism back home.

“I think it’s impossible to overstate the hostility Minnesota Republicans feel toward Al Franken,” Schier said. “He will be a very useful fundraising tool.”

Republicans outside Minnesota are equally apoplectic when it comes to Franken. Prominent conservative Rush Limbaugh, who Franken mocked in the title of one of his books, has already jabbed Franken on his radio show, telling listeners in December that Franken “won’t quit [the Senate race] because he doesn’t know how to get a real job…He’s a pathetic figure.”
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  • capthek

OK guys, help me understand why conservatives hate Al Franken so much.

It's not because he won this election:
Because it was before that, and Franken is not the only guy to write books bashing the right. Why do people outside of Minnesota even care? Full disclosure, I think he is great! But nobody seems to agree with me : ( Article below:

GOP sees Franken as top public enemy

In this Nov. 4, 2008 file photo, Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken shakes AP – In this Nov. 4, 2008 file photo, Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken shakes hands with supporters …

With only a longshot court appeal standing in the way of Democrat Al Franken’s election to the Senate, Republicans are gritting their teeth and bracing for the arrival of a new senator whose every utterance will sound like nails on a chalkboard to them.

While Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) has filed suit to contest the results of a disputed recount process that turned his narrow lead into a 225-vote deficit, his likely defeat stands to turn Franken, the polarizing former “Saturday Night Live” writer, into the senator who launched a thousand direct mail fundraising appeals.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had an opponent who is so disliked by Republicans as Al Franken,” said Minnesota Republican Party Chair Ron Carey, who cautioned that Coleman’s election challenge could still turn the results back his way. “It’s one thing to lose to an honorable opponent, but Al Franken is not considered an honorable opponent by Minnesota Republicans.”

Marty Seifert, the Republican leader in the Minnesota House of Representatives, said Franken’s long record of antagonizing conservatives would make it difficult for him to connect with voters who supported Coleman.

“It’s going to be hard for Franken to be very effective with any Republicans, in terms of having any credibility with us, just because he’s been so nasty in the past,” Seifert said. “He certainly has callous and very partisan behavior in the past that is beyond the pale.”

According to Carleton College political scientist Steven Schier, Franken’s record as a “flamboyant and aggressive partisan” would make him ripe for criticism back home.

“I think it’s impossible to overstate the hostility Minnesota Republicans feel toward Al Franken,” Schier said. “He will be a very useful fundraising tool.”
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Sacre Bleu! Le Monde Publishes Never-Before-Seen 1996 Interview With Obamas About Their Marriage


"Ma priorité est de ramener les valeurs publiques ou collectives au centre du débat," said President-elect Barack Obama in an interview running in today's Le Monde newspaper.

Mr. Obama was not speaking in French; his words had been translated.

And in fact he hadn't uttered them in more than 12 years.

The French newspaper Le Monde on Saturday took the Obama team by surprise by publishing an interview with Barack and Michelle Obama from 1996 in which the two spoke at length about their marriage, only four years after they were wed, and two years before their oldest daughter Malia was born.

Many themes will not surprise those who know or follow the Obamas.

Sitting down to talk about their future the same year Obama eventually ended up running for state senate (and winning), his wife Michelle in the interview expresses reservations about whether a life in politics is what they want.

And while her husband is less uncertain of his calling, he wonders aloud about his ability to maintain a balance between private and public life. He also sounds out some notes about restoring civility in discourse to public life and the notion that we're all in this together, themes that have stayed with him throughout his career up through this week.

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  • softlyy

pro-Palestine rally in Oslo, Norway, turns violent



After riots broke out during a pro-Israel rally held Thursday night in the Norwegian capitol, the organizers of today's rally in support of a free Palestine urged part takers not to result to violence. 


The rally started at around 14.00 CET with speeches held in front of the Norwegian Parliamentary Building, and at around 14.30 the march towards the Israeli Embassy began up Karl Johan's street, Oslo's main street leading up to the Royal Castle. 


Police and rally organizers kept people under control, working especially hard to make sure young people in their teens and early twenties did not break away from the crowd to cause violence.


The march is lead by a group of young children, wearing white teachers with red paint to symbolize blood, carrying Palestinian flags and shouting pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli chants.



At around 15.30 the crowd arrives as near the Israeli Embassy as police will allow. They've blocked part of the street, and are already wearing gas mask. (Thursday's riots had to be broken up using teargas)


Soon after arriving in front of the Embassy, protesters resort to throwing fireworks at the police. The young children who earlier led the march were removed, in fear of their safety.


16.05: The situation is tense, with protestors continuing to throw fireworks and other small objects, but police have yet to resort to force, hoping to not have to repeat the events of Thursday night. They are however careful to not let anyone come too near the Embassy building.


16.20: One person is reported injured because of the fireworks


16.30: Protestors attack the police barricades, and the police respond by mobilizing their vehicles to stop them. Members of the radical group Blitz are approaching the spot. Earlier that day, one of the most known Blitz activist, Stein Lillevolden, was arrested, and in the days leading up to the rally, Blitz official homepage encouraged protesters to get violent at today's rally.


16.40: Police begin using teargas in hopes of scattering protesters, who minutes earlier had begun throwing rocks.



Nearly 100 protestors have been arrested as of 17.30 CET

Chief of staff Johan Fredriksen with Oslo's police district said the following in his statement:

Sadly some people try to sabotage what was meant to be a peaceful and dignified rally. These people have fired a large amount of fireworks into the crowd, and thrown rocks and other objects at the police. This was clearly a threat towards the peaceful protesters, and towards the police officers who were there to secure their freedom of speech.

The use of fireworks could also have posed a potential firehazard. To avoid further violence and damage to people or objects, the police had to use teargas to scatter those who were not there to protest peacefully. This was also done out of concern for the people living in the area.


Near 100 people have been take into custody for disturbing the peace. In addition the police have arrested two people, suspected of violence against the police.

At least two people were injured in the clashes in front of the Israeli Embassy.

Additionally, a string of McDonalds stores have been attacked, having their windows broken, etc. The reason for the attacks stem from a chain text message which originated in Sweden, claiming that all the money the fast food chained earned Saturday January 10th would go to Israel. (http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/article2859721.ece)


The latest count is that 130 people have been brought in by the police, 10 of whom are under the age of 16 - the youngest only 13 years old. 8 of them have been formally arrested for violence against police officers and destruction of public property.

Personally, I was very disturbed by the children leading the march. They couldn't have been any older than 12, at the most, and many of them looked to be as young as 5-6. They were shouting louder and with more passion than even the adults, and it really terrified me because you could hear the hatred and disgust in their voices. How is there going to be a peaceful end to this when the next generation has already decided that this is the enemy?

sources: aftenposten 1, 2, 3 (translated by me), my picture

Gaza medics face war's carnage daily

Gaza medics face war's carnage daily

The medics who brave Israel's assault on Gaza have come under fire from tanks and faced days-long delays in getting to the scene of attacks, sometimes finding animals gnawing at corpses when they finally reach the dead and wounded.

Few are more exposed to the carnage of Israel's two-week military offensive than Gaza's medics, who number around 400 including volunteers. They work long hours, get little sleep and risk their lives daily. Many have lost friends and family, but the overwhelming workload leaves no time to process what they've seen.

Awaiting coordination with Israel often delays access to the injured, medics said. Some reported finding people stranded in their homes for days, or bodies lying in the streets uncollected.
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  • bispo

Obama Visits Ben's Chili Bowl

For years, a sign at U Street's landmark Ben's Chili Bowl carried this message:

"Who eats free at Ben's: Bill Cosby. No one else."

During the 2008 race, they changed it: "Who eats free at Ben's: Bill Cosby. The Obama Family." And today, the president-elect finally investigated the offer.

Barack Obama arrived at the fast-food joint with D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty shortly before 1 p.m.. He posed with diners and staff, then returned to the counter to collect his order: a chili half smoke and sweet tea, plus cheese fries and water for the mayor. They dined together at a two-person table.

Asked by a member of the traveling press pool about the signficance of his visit, Obama said, "it means I'm going to get a hot dog."

And as for Ben's generous offer. . . As promised, they didn't try to charge him. Obama handed over a $20 bill anyway for what would have been a roughly $12 meal, reports our colleague N.C. Aizenman. Did he want change, the counterman asked. "No, we're straight," said the future prez.
thanks ladypolitik edit:

Anger at cardinal's likening of Gaza to death camp

Anger at cardinal's likening of Gaza to death camp

Israel said Saturday it was shocked and distressed by a senior Vatican cardinal's likening of Gaza under Israel's military offensive to a concentration camp.

A spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry said the cardinal, whose remarks appeared in an interview Wednesday, adopted the kind of language that Hamas and other Islamic militant groups have used to demonize Israel and equate it with Nazi Germany.

"It was shocking to hear the same kind of terminology from such a high-ranking member of the church," Israeli spokesman Yigal Palmor said Saturday.

Cardinal Renato Martino, a former Vatican envoy to the United Nations and now Pope Benedict XVI's top official on issues of peace and justice, said in the interview that Gaza now resembles a "big concentration camp."
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L.A. may restrict outdoor smoking

Lighting up on the outdoor patios of cafes and coffee shops may soon be a thing of the past in Los Angeles. The city's arts and parks committee took a first step Wednesday toward a new ban on smoking on restaurant patios or within 10 feet of any outdoor establishment that serves food or beverages.

Bars with outdoor areas and other over-18 venues would be exempt.

If the full City Council approves the law, the measure could be in place this summer after a six-month grace period allowing businesses to adjust to the new rules.

Though questions remain about what the penalties would be and how the proposed law would be enforced, Councilman Tom LaBonge, chairman of the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee, said it was getting easier to enforce the smoking bans because of cooperation by restaurant owners.

"The patrons are really demanding it," LaBonge said after his committee directed city lawyers to draft the ordinance Wednesday. "One day we'll be an absolutely smoke-free world as we move forward, but people still enjoy it, so we're still allowing it."
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Madoff: Who is really to blame?...

When it Comes to Bernie Madoff, Congress is More to Blame Than the SEC

My question of the day is, "Why is Congress having hearings to investigate the Securities and Exchange Commission?" If it's looking for the real culprit to blame in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, Congress needs only to look in its collective mirror.

Before I became a "recovering attorney," I practiced law for 15 years, several of them as an enforcement attorney at the SEC. I was ready to fight fraud! I was ready to investigate! I was ready to take on the bad guys!

Reality, however, didn't take long to set in. My new business cards were barely back from the printer when I realized that the SEC staff is always fighting an uphill battle and would never be able to truly protect investors and fight fraud in any significant way. The bureaucracy was too overwhelming, the procedural hoops too daunting and the staff would never have the resources it needed to do the job the right way.

Why? Money and influence. Two things the SEC needs and has little of. Two things that corporations and investment bankers have in buckets. Remember Enron? WorldComm? Den of Thieves?
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As prosecutors in New York tried to have Bernard Madoff's bail revoked, the inspector-general of the SEC was in Washington, giving politicians details of his probe into the regulator - and facing their wrath

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is facing a sweeping internal investigation into allegations its officials ignored complaints about Bernard Madoff for 10 years and were influenced by Mr. Madoff's clout and personal connections to SEC staff.

The circumstances "surrounding the Bernard Madoff matter may very well dictate a more expansive analysis of commission operations," David Kotz, the inspector-general of the SEC, told the House of Representatives committee on financial services yesterday in Washington.

Mr. Kotz said his office launched the investigation on Dec. 17 and has begun gathering documents and e-mails from dozens of current and former SEC officials. He said the probe will review how complaints about Mr. Madoff were handled and whether commission staff missed "red flags" about Mr. Madoff's business.
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Ken Starr - A Jackass of all Trades

Where Are They Now - The Clinton Impeachment

Then: A former federal judge under Ronald Reagan, Kenneth Starr served as United States Solicitor General and was at one time a leading candidate to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. In 1994, Starr replaced Robert Fiske as the independent counsel tasked with investigating the Whitewater controversy, a scandal which eventually morphed into the Monica Lewinsky investigation. President Clinton's impeachment trial came to define Starr's time in the office.

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In 2004, he became dean of Pepperdine University's Law School; he has also remained active in private practice, including several high-profile cases. In 2005 he did pro bono work representing Robin Lovitt, a Virginia man who was sentenced to death for a 1998 murder. More recently, he has worked on the defense of security contractor Blackwater International in lawsuits involving the deaths of civilian contractors in Iraq, and is currently acting as counsel for several religious groups who campaigned to enact Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban.

Starr remains silent on the details of the Clinton impeachment, but reached by TIME while vacationing over the holidays in Florida, he acknowledged there were things that might have been done differently.

"All in all, it would have been better, more prudent for a different independent counsel to be appointed to investigate the Lewinsky phase of the investigation, but I think that is wishful thinking," Starr says, "It had to be investigated under the [independent counsel] statute. The statute required that if certain information came to the attention of the attorney general, then the matter had to be investigated and Attorney General [Janet] Reno did her duty and said the Lewinsky matter has to be investigated and the sitting independent counsel should be the one to do it."

(link to article)

Remember that trial? Good times. It was fun hearing about blowjobs at the age of 11.


Bush reportedly rejected Israeli plea to raid Iran; WWIII Aborted.

Bush reportedly rejected Israeli plea to raid Iran

President George W. Bush rejected a plea from Israel last year to help it raid Iran's main nuclear complex, opting instead to authorize a new U.S. covert action aimed at sabotaging Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program, The New York Times reported.

Israel's request was for specialized bunker-busting bombs that it wanted for an attack that tentatively involved flying over Iraq to reach Iran's major nuclear complex at Natanz, where the country's only known uranium enrichment plant is located, the Times reported Saturday in its online edition. The White House deflected requests for the bombs and flyover but said it would improve intelligence-sharing with Israel on covert U.S. efforts to sabotage Iran's nuclear program.
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More police shootings.

Questions surround shooting of baseballer's son

Robbie Tolan sits in a Houston, Texas, hospital bed with a bullet from a police officer's gun lodged in his liver. The son of a famed baseball player was shot in his own driveway.

But how this unarmed 23-year-old and his cousin ended up in the cross-hairs of an officer's gun, suspected of stealing a car, is a question sparking allegations of racial profiling.

"There's no doubt in my mind that if these had been white kids this does not happen," said David Berg, Tolan's attorney.
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Family wants police charged in New Orleans killing

As fireworks exploded over the Big Easy on New Year's Eve, 22-year-old Adolph Grimes III pulled up to his grandmother's home near the French Quarter after a five-hour drive from Houston, Texas.

Grimes, who relocated to Texas with his fiancée, Shae Whitfield, after Hurricane Katrina, couldn't wait to get home with their 17-month-old son, Chris, and ring in the new year with friends and family.

"He made it at 12 o'clock exact, with a second to spare," said his father, Adolph Grimes Jr.

Three hours later, Grimes lay dying on the sidewalk half a block from his grandmother's front door, with fireworks giving way to the hue of flashing police lights.

The Orleans Parish coroner said Grimes was shot 14 times, including 12 times in the back.

Grimes had just walked out of the house and was in a car waiting for his cousin, according to family members, when nine plainclothes officers -- part of an undercover narcotics task force driving around New Orleans on New Year's Eve -- surrounded Grimes' vehicle.

Shots rang out; New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley said Grimes shot at police first.

The Grimes family disagrees, saying police executed a loved one as he ran for his life.
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Casualties of War: Palestinian Moderates

Casualties of War: Palestinian Moderates

The biggest political loser in the battle of wills between Israel and Hamas that continues to rage in Gaza is the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas. Even as Western and Arab diplomats take care to assign the increasingly marginalized Abbas a role in negotiations over a truce to end the fighting that has claimed more than 700 lives, he is facing mounting fury from Palestinians, not only in Gaza but also in his West Bank stronghold. When the blistering sermons and Friday prayers were done, several thousand inhabitants of Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority's West Bank seat of power, gathered in the city's central square for what organizers had billed as a demonstration of Palestinian unity against the Israeli offensive in Gaza. But Palestinian unity is wearing pretty thin.
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' jules
  • schmiss

Look at these fucking numbers goddamn.

Romer and Bernstein on stimulus

OK, Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein have put out the official (?) Obama estimates of what the American Association of Retired Persons American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan would accomplish. The figure above summarizes the key result.

Kudos, by the way, to the administration-in-waiting for providing this — it will be a joy to argue policy with an administration that provides comprehensible, honest reports, not case studies in how to lie with statistics.

That said, the report is written in such a way as to make it hard to figure out exactly what’s in the plan. This also makes it hard to evaluate the reasonableness of the assumed multipliers. But here’s the thing: the estimates appear to be very close to what I’ve been getting.

The key thing if you want to do comparisons is to note that I made estimates of the average effect over 2009-2010, while they do estimates of effect in the fourth quarter of 2010, which is roughly when the plan is estimated to have its maximum effect. So they say the plan would lower unemployment by about 2 percentage points, I said 1.7, but their estimate may actually be a bit more pessimistic than mine. They have the plan raising GDP by 3.7 percent, but that’s at peak; I thought 2.5 percent or so average over 2 years, again not much difference.

So this looks like an estimate from the Obama team itself saying — as best as I can figure it out — that the plan would close only around a third of the output gap over the next two years.

One more point: the estimate of what would happen to the economy in the absence of a stimulus plan seems kind of optimistic. The chart above has unemployment ex-stimulus peaking at 9 percent in the first quarter of 2010 and coming down through the year; the CBO estimates an average unemployment rate of 9 percent for 2010, so the Obama people are more optimistic than the CBO, and a lot more optimistic than I am.

Bottom line: even if I use the Romer-Bernstein estimates instead of my own — there really isn’t much difference — this plan looks too weak.


ETA: TPM has more.