March 8th, 2009

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Two Bountiful Jr. High teachers accused of sex with same student

Two Bountiful Junior High School teachers are accused of sexually assaulting the same 13-year-old student, after their separate relationships with him spiraled from personal conversations to the exchange of sexual text messages and phone sex, authorities said.

On Friday, the Davis County Attorney's Office filed first-degree felony charges of rape and sodomy on a child against Linda R. Nef, 46, and Valynne Bowers, 39.

Nef, a Utah studies teacher and cheerleading adviser, and Bowers, who teaches math, each confessed to having sex with the student, said Bountiful Police Lt. Randy Pickett. Until recently, the two teachers did not know about each other's relationship with the same boy, Pickett said.

The charges were filed after Nef arranged a meeting with police on Thursday and admitted having sex with the boy for more than a year, Pickett said. Their sexual relationship allegedly began in October 2007 and lasted until December 2008, he said.

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Guantanamo worse since Obama election: ex-detainee

by Katherine Haddon Katherine Haddon – Sat Mar 7, 10:05 pm ET

LONDON (AFP) – A freed Guantanamo prisoner has said conditions at the US detention camp in Cuba have worsened since President Barack Obama was elected, claiming guards wanted to "take their last revenge".

Binyam Mohamed, the first detainee to be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay since Obama took office, also said British agents "sold me out" by cooperating with his alleged torturers, in his first interview since release which was published Sunday.

Mohamed, a 30-year-old Ethiopian-born former British resident, gave further details of what he has called the "medieval" torture he faced in Pakistan and Morocco, as well as in a secret CIA prison in Kabul and at Guantanamo.

"The result of my experience is that I feel emotionally dead," he told the Mail on Sunday newspaper. "It seems like a miracle my brain is still intact."

Far from improving, Mohamed said conditions at Guantanamo have worsened since Obama was elected in November.

The US president had promised during his campaign to shut down the Guantanamo prison and two days after taking office announced it would close this year.

"Since the election it's got harsher," Mohamed told the newspaper. "The guards would say, 'yes, this place is going to close down,' but it was like they wanted to take their last revenge."

He also claimed the Emergency Reaction Force at Guantanamo, a team which he said punishes inmates in their cells and once almost gouged his eyes out when he declined to give his fingerprints, is now being used more often.

Mohamed said he was beaten at Guantanamo and also described mistreatment at other detention centres.

He said his chest and penis were slashed with razors while he was held in Morocco.

In Afghanistan, he said he lived in constant darkness for five months and "came close to insanity" after being forced to listen to the same album by rapper Eminem at a deafening volume for a solid month.

He flew back to Britain last month, tasting freedom for the first time since 2002 when he was arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of attending an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and plotting to build a radioactive "dirty bomb".

But the United States never charged him, and British police also questioned him on his return and let him go free.

In the newspaper interview, Mohamed gave further details of his claim that British officials had colluded in his alleged torture.

He said while he was in Morocco in 2002, his Moroccan interrogators "started bringing British files to the interrogations... it was obvious the British were feeding them questions about people in London.

"When I realised that the British were cooperating with the people torturing me, I felt completely naked," he said. "They sold me out."

He said he subsequently made false confessions about one plot to build a "dirty" nuclear bomb and another to blow up apartments in New York linked to alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The paper also quoted two telegrams, shown to Mohamed by his military lawyer, from Britain's MI5 security service to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in November 2002. They allegedly detail specific questions that the British wanted to be put to Mohamed.

"We note that we have also requested that briefs be put to Binyam Mohamed and would appreciate a guide from you as to the likely timescale for these too," one is quoted as saying.

"We fully appreciate that this can be a long-winded process but the urgent nature of these enquiries will be obvious to you."

In response to the claims, Britain's Foreign Office released a statement saying: "We abhor torture and never order it or condone it...

"In the case of Binyam Mohamed, an allegation of possible criminal wrong-doing has been referred to the Attorney General. We need now to wait for her report."

Mohamed is undergoing therapy to come to terms with his experiences.

Looking to the future, he said he wanted to stay in Britain, which is currently considering whether to let him remain. "It's the only place I can call home," he said.

In an editorial, this week's Independent on Sunday said his case was "only the most dreadful of many instances where the British government's policy seems to have been to turn a blind eye".


Brooks: GOP Spending Freeze Idea Is "Insane," Party Too Stuck On Reagan

Brooks: GOP Spending Freeze Idea Is "Insane," Party Too Stuck On Reagan

New York Times columnist David Brooks said on Sunday that it was "insane" for Republicans in Congress, including every GOP member of the House, to support a spending freeze in the middle of a recession.

Tying such proposals to an intellectual simplicity exhibited by Rush Limbaugh, the conservative scribe also said the party was too obsessed with pursuing the legacy of Ronald Reagan in a drastically different time.

"The problem with them and the problem with Limbaugh in terms of intellectual philosophy is they are stuck with Reagan," Brooks said during an appearance on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "They are stuck with the idea that government is always the problem. A lot of Republicans up in Capitol Hill right now are calling for a spending freeze in a middle of a recession/depression. That is insane. But they are thinking the way they thought in 1982, if we can only think that way again, that is just insane. And there are a lot of Republicans like David Frum ... who are trying to say Reagan was right for his era, but it is time to move on. And there are just not a lot of them on Capitol Hill right now, and I think the party is looking for that kind of Republican."

Earlier in the week, House Minority Leader John Boehner urged President Barack Obama to work with Republicans to impose a spending freeze until the end of this fiscal year. Introduced as legislation, the measure failed when it came to a vote, with every Republican but only eight Democrats supporting its passage.

Obama Ponders Outreach to Elements of Taliban

Obama Ponders Outreach to Elements of Taliban

WASHINGTON — President Obama declared in an interview that the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq.

Mr. Obama pointed to the success in peeling Iraqi insurgents away from more hard-core elements of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a strategy that many credit as much as the increase of American forces with turning the war around in the last two years.
“There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and in the Pakistani region,” he said, while cautioning that solutions in Afghanistan will be complicated.

In a 35-minute conversation with The New York Times aboard Air Force One on Friday, Mr. Obama reviewed the challenges to his young administration. The president said he could not assure Americans the economy would begin growing again this year. But he pledged that he would “get all the pillars in place for recovery this year” and urged Americans not to “stuff money in their mattresses.”

“I don’t think that people should be fearful about our future,” he said. “I don’t think that people should suddenly mistrust all of our financial institutions.”
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Report: Shoe hurled at Ahmadinejad in Iranian city

A shoe was recently hurled at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while he was in the city of Urmia, an Iranian Web site has reported.

The incident in the Iranian city was an apparent imitation of a similar attack on former U.S. president George Bush in Iraq last year.

Urmia News, the Iranian site, reported that Ahmadinejad was in a car en route to an election rally when the shoe was thrown. Ahmadinejad was traveling to a local stadium where he was meant to deliver a speech ahead of upcoming presidential elections.

According to the report, a hat was also thrown at the Iranian president before his convoy sped away from the scene.

The incident was not reported by Iran's major news outlets. But it has been widely commented upon in the Islamic Republic's blogosphere, which is viewed as one of the most developed in the world. It is one of the key tools for disseminating information that contradicts the position of the regime that controls the traditional media.

A number of pro-Ahmadinejad bloggers denied the report, claiming it was a rumor spread by "monarchists" and "anti-revolutionaries," the accepted terms for members of the Iranian opposition.

Urmia News said the incident occurred after riots erupted in the city in response to harming by the convoy of an elderly pedestrian who had sought to hand Ahmadinejad a letter.

Urmia News did not say when the incident transpired, but it apparently took place at some point over the last few days.

In December last year, an Iraqi television news reporter threw his shoes at Bush and called him a "dog" in Arabic, during a press conference in Baghdad. The act triggered a spate of copycat shoe-hurling incidents across the world.

Michelle Obama's prom date describes their high school romance

The first boyfriend of Michelle Obama has provided new insights into the First Lady, not to mention a prom night photograph of her in a satin dress with plunging neckline and a high slit.
By Tom Leonard in New York

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Michelle Obama: It was taken seven years before she met her future husband Barack at the Sidley Austin law firm in Chicago Photo: SPLASH

David Upchurch escorted the then 18-year-old Michelle Robinson to the prom at Whitney M Young High School in Chicago in 1982.

Now a customer service representative and divorced father of three living in a modest house in Colorado Springs, he said that their romance went nowhere.

"I was a screw-up, plain and simple," he told the Enquirer magazine.

He claimed he had "pretty much forgotten" their prom date together and couldn't even recall if it ended with a kiss.

Mr Upchurch, the first of Mrs Obama's former boyfriends to speak publicly about their relationship, knew her family from an early age as they were both raised in Chicago's South Side.

"I grew up with Michelle and her brother Craig. We were neighbours and our families were close."
After his father died, Michelle's father, Fraser, took him "under his wing" and helped him to deal with his loss, he said.

They "began dating" when Michelle was in the middle of her junior year at high school –when she would have been 16 or 17 – and continued to see each other for a year and a half, until she graduated, he said.

"Michelle and I really liked each other, but you know how some high school boys are," he told the magazine.

"We're not ready to be responsible and we screw up. I was a screw-up, plain and simple! At that point, I just didn't take my life or my future seriously."

"But Michelle knew what she wanted, and after graduation she was off to Princeton. I couldn't stand in her way. I wished the best for Michelle because she's always been a wonderful person."

Mrs Obama's siblings have said that their parents taught them to have high standards.

Craig Robinson, her brother, has said he used to vet the boys she dated but stressed that she never had too many long-term boyfriends.

She met Barack Obama when she was a 25-year-old lawyer at a corporate law firm, having just left Harvard Law School.

"I always knew Michelle was special and would make a difference in the world," said Mr Upchurch.


Awww, awkward prom photos FTW. Now Barack's prom dates need to come out...
K-Box cartoon



Think Progress >> Gingrich Strikes Back At Limbaugh: ‘You’re Irrational If You Don’t Want The President To Succeed’

In his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, hate radio talker Rush Limbaugh repeated his assertion that he hopes President Obama “fails.” In the same speech, Limbaugh took a veiled shot at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is one of his rivals for the leadership of the conservative movement, saying that people who say the GOP needs to move on from Ronald Reagan must be stamped out.

On NBC’S Meet The Press today, Gingrich fired back, saying that “you’ve got to want the president to succeed.” “You’re irrational if you don’t want the president to succeed because if he doesn’t succeed, the country doesn’t succeed,” said Gingrich.

Asked by host David Gregory if that clashed with the views of people like Limbaugh, Gingrich warned against calling for Obama’s failure:

GREGORY: Do you think that Republicans are discordant on that point, about whether they want him to fail or succeed?

GINGRICH: I don’t think anyone should want the president of the United States to fail. I want some of his policies to be stopped, but I don’t want the president of the United States to fail. I want him to learn new policies.
Watch it:

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On a related note: Why Rush is Wrong | The party of Buckley and Reagan is now bereft and dominated by the politics of Limbaugh. A conservative's lament. | By David Frum |

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Eliot Spitzer choked her during sex, claims high-end call girl

Eliot Spitzer 

His political rivals used to accuse Eliot Spitzer of going for the jugular. Now a new call girl is claiming the former governor literally went for hers — claiming he wrapped his fingers around her neck during some kinky role-playing.

As the first anniversary of his resignation as governor approaches, Spitzers Emperors Club VIP plaything Ashley Dupre is still holding back on details about their romp.

But a high-end escort, whom well call Annie, has opened up to us about what she says was a date with Spitzer that "went a little too far."

Annie says she was working for madam Kristin Davis when she met Spitzer, who was then state attorney general, at Davis apartment at The Corinthian on E. 38th St.

"He booked two hours," says Annie. "I don't remember exactly how much he was charged, but definitely over $1,000 an hour.

"He wanted a scenario where I was supposed to say I had just been to a self-defense class. He was supposed to respond, 'Let's see if you learned anything. He would be aggressive. I would have to defend myself.

"When he arrived, he took off his jacket but kept on his shirt and tie. His demeanor was nice, but I don't remember any kissing or tenderness. He wanted to get on with the role-play. It was the first time I'd done that.

"I remember holding his wrists and him pushing back. I felt he was gauging my strength. We moved to the bed. He put his clothes neatly to the side, folding his pants. Yes, he did leave his socks on.

"I was never fully undressed. He was naked. He was perspiring a lot. He was holding me down. He pinned me to the bed. That didn't bother me. But when he grabbed my throat, that was too much. I remember trying to push myself up off the bed, which made him apply more pressure. I've never been worried about my safety, but I was really concerned.

"Finally, I pushed him away and got up. He hadn't finished. But I'd had enough. I don't think he was planning on really hurting me. He didn't ask if I was all right. He didn't appear to be mad, either. Maybe he had had so many experiences with other people that he could see I didn't know what I was doing. As he was leaving, he gave me a tip."

A lawyer for Spitzer said, "This is outrageous and defamatory." Madam Kristin, now on probation for promoting prostitution, says that she told Spitzer that some of her girls had complained hed gotten "rough and too aggressive" — and that he refused to use a condom.

"Define 'rough and aggressive,' " Davis quotes prosecutor Spitzer as saying in her memoir (available at Manhattan She says he later apologized.

P.S. Annie says she also had a date with "a current governor," not from New York. "But I'm not going to talk about that one." For now.

cookie monster

Times are tough, anybody have similar recession stories they want to share?


California's Inland Empire

Hard times hit, and we slowly disappear.
By Susan Straight
March 8, 2009
First in a series

At night, I can hear the soft thumps as the rats land on my roof. They launch themselves from the branches of the apricot tree because they want to get inside my attic, into a house with heat.
The house next door, and the one next to that, have been empty since October. Their yards have gone feral, with hundreds of dandelion heads glistening gray in the night.

The rats are cold and hungry. The skunks have a den somewhere next door, where the metal shed was dismantled. Opossums, raccoons and lizards have colonized the abandoned yards on my block in Riverside. And it's spooky, at night, to see so much darkness, to hear skittering, to keep an eye out for homeless people trying to break in and sleep, to listen for the sounds of desperate humans and animals.

Last week, a woman stole a pair of shoes right off my neighbor Maria's front porch. Maria woke her son, who ran down the street and confronted the woman. She threw the shoes back at him. After a pair of clippers disappeared from my yard, I've started taking ladders and anything else of possible worth inside at night.

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David Brooks is a tool.

Want proof? He thinks far too much about Michelle Obama's attire.

Money quote from today's MoDowd article:
In the taxi, when I asked David Brooks about her amazing arms, he indicated it was time for her to cover up. “She’s made her point,” he said. “Now she should put away Thunder and Lightning...

David was not smitten by the V-neck, sleeveless eggplant dress Michelle wore at her husband’s address to Congress — the one that caused one Republican congressman to whisper to another, “Babe.”

He said the policy crowd here would consider the dress ostentatious. “Washington is sensually avoidant. The wonks here like brains. She should not be known for her physical presence, for one body part.” David brought up the Obamas’ obsession with their workouts. “Sometimes I think half the reason Obama ran for president is so Michelle would have a platform to show off her biceps.”
I mean, seriously, you have nothing better to think or talk about?

Real IRA claims responsibility for attack on army base

'Real IRA was behind army attack'

A Dublin-based newspaper has received a call supposedly from the Real IRA which claimed responsibility for the attack at Masserene army base.

Using a recognised codename, it claimed responsibility for the attack in which two soldiers were killed.
Four other people, including two pizza delivery men, were also injured when gunmen struck at the Antrim base.

The prime minister described the attack as "evil" and said "no murderer" would derail the peace process.

The soldiers are the first to be murdered in Northern Ireland since Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was killed by an IRA sniper in 1997. The dead men, both in their early 20s were due to fly to Afghanistan in the coming days.

 Flowers have been laid at the scene and a vigil was held nearby on Sunday.

Gordon Brown told the BBC: "I think the whole country is shocked and outraged at the evil and cowardly attacks on soldiers serving their country.

"We will do everything in our power to make sure that Northern Ireland is safe and secure and I assure you we will bring these murderers to justice.

"No murderer will be able to derail a peace process that has the support of the great majority of Northern Ireland."

 All four injured men are being treated at Antrim Area Hospital, about a mile away from the scene.

Of those who were injured, one person is critical, two are in a serious condition and another is serious but stable.


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Why, hello there bad old days...



A Dazzling Evening With Ted Kennedy and Friends

Obama leads salute to Ted Kennedy

Bill Cosby, Lauren Bacall, James Taylor among performers

Image: Ted Kennedy event
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., second from right, acknowledges the audience with his wife, Vicki Kennedy, right, Vice-President Joe Biden, left, and Sen. John Kerry.


WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama led a Kennedy Center crowd in a performance of "Happy Birthday" Sunday night, capping a star-studded musical birthday tribute to ailing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

The Massachusetts Democrat was honored at the Kennedy Center at an event hosted by comedian Bill Cosby. Actresses Lauren Bacall and Bernadette Peters, singer James Taylor and conductor John Williams were among those who performed.

Toward the end of the gala, Cosby introduced Obama to loud applause from the performers and the audience. The president strode to the center of the stage and then conducted the performers in the birthday tune. Kennedy stood and delivered a thumbs-up from his balcony, where he was accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama.

The president later met Kennedy in his box as the performers sang "The Best Is Yet to Come."

Caroline Kennedy presented her uncle with her family's Profile in Courage Award, paying tribute to his efforts to reform the U.S. health care system. When reform becomes a reality, Caroline Kennedy said: "We will all have you to thank. ... We love you, Uncle Teddy."

Referring to her short-lived attempt to seek former New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate seat, Caroline Kennedy joked, "I never thought I'd be in a room with so many senators."

The audience included Massachusetts' other senator, Democrat John Kerry, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joe Biden.

The 77-year-old Sen. Kennedy is battling brain cancer. He returned to Washington for a White House health care summit last week from Florida, where he has been continuing his treatment and physical rehabilitation.

Kennedy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor after he had a seizure last May.

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His words, the president's voice

Obama has called his head speechwriter a mind-reader. And at age 27, his prose is being acclaimed worldwide

WASHINGTON — The new president's first address to Congress loomed and Barack Obama had convened a few trusted advisers in the Oval Office.

Seated in a chair beside the fireplace, Obama turned his attention to a 27-year-old with close-cropped hair among the aides perched on the office couch. His instructions were familiar.

"You and I always tell a story pretty well. I still want to make sure we do that here," Obama said, according to one participant.

Behind a president defined more by his oratory than any political figure in a generation is chief speechwriter Jon Favreau, whose work with Obama began soon after the Illinois senator arrived in Washington four years ago and who knows the president's ideas and rhythms so well that Obama has called him a mind-reader.

Throughout the grueling, nearly two-year-long presidential campaign, Favreau lived a life of constant deadlines and caffeine-fueled nights, carrying Obama's 1995 autobiography, "Dreams From My Father," and committing to memory the 2004 Democratic convention speech that introduced Obama to the country. He now works one floor below the president, in a basement office in the West Wing.
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Nanny Ogg by kes

An economic sector that's been making good decisions?

Kiva sent me a link to this video about a microlending group in Nepal. It's longish, but if you find the first half boring in spite of the music, check out Rita's story beginning at about 5:40. The woman strikes me as competence personified. I could easily visualize her running a board meeting, except she seems to have a lot more common sense than the CEOs who have been in the news lately.

Kiva in Nepal: A Field Visit from Chris Baker on Vimeo.

Source for more info about the microlending process. You don't earn interest back (although interest is charged borrowers to cover administrative costs), so it would be like giving to a charity, if you got your charitable donations back eventually and were able to make another donation with the same money. I checked into instances of fraud, and there have been a few but Kiva seems to resolve them quickly, and default rates are low. I've looked for similar sites that work in developed countries but haven't found any that I feel are stable and trustworthy.

{cross-posting to my LJ}
jesus &amp; the dinosaurs, philosopy in a tea cup


Open Letter to the Republican Traitors (From a Former Republican)
by Frank Schaeffer

Dear Republican Leaders: The Republican Party has become the party dedicated to sabotaging the American future. Check out the sermon I just delivered about the Republican Party on CNN when being interviewed by D.L. Hughley -- and/or read on.

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Seriously, watch the video. The dude's totally on fire.
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Chicago Magazine: The Making of a First Lady

The first Saturday after Barack Obama won the White House, his wife, Michelle (“Miche” to her pals), did what she had been doing most Saturdays for years—joined her friends Sandy Matthews and Yvonne Davila to take their daughters to ballet and soccer and later to a movie. Usually, they went to the California Pizza Kitchen on North Avenue for lunch, but this time Yvonne picked up sandwiches, and they ate in the car en route to see Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. The friends had kept to their routine through the nearly two-year presidential campaign, so having the Secret Service in tail was nothing new.

It was a last burst of normalcy before the lives of Michelle, 45, and her daughters, Sasha, seven, and Malia, ten, would get turned upside down. But sticking to that prosaic Saturday routine—just four days after the Obama family celebrated a historic ascension before a thrilled audience of tens of thousands in Grant Park and millions more on TV worldwide—suggests something fundamental about the personality and style of the striking five-foot-eleven woman who was about to become the nation’s First Lady.

Colleagues and friends from every era of her life describe a woman of remarkable consistency in demeanor, looks, objectives, and habits. “Michelle appears to differ very little today from the student I knew in college,” said Derrick Burns, a friend at Princeton University. “Much like now, Michelle did not seek the spotlight in college. When it was on her, she shone brightly.”
continued, warning, looooong 5 pages...