March 24th, 2009

South Africa bars Dalai Lama from peace conference

By DONNA BRYSON, Associated Press Writer Donna Bryson, Associated Press Writer Mon Mar 23, 11:45 am ET

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa barred the Dalai Lama from a peace conference in Johannesburg this week, hoping to keep good relations with trading partner China but instead generating a storm of criticism. Friday's peace conference was organized by South African soccer officials to highlight the first World Cup to be held in Africa, which South Africa will host in 2010.

But because the Dalai Lama isn't being allowed to attend, it is now being boycotted by fellow Nobel Peace prize winners retired Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former president F.W. de Klerk as well as members of the Nobel Committee.

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Judge orders FDA to let 17-year-olds use Plan B

Judge orders FDA to let 17-year-olds use Plan B

The Food and Drug Administration let politics cloud its judgment when it denied teenage girls over-the-counter access to the Plan B morning-after pill, a federal judge said Monday as he ordered the FDA to let 17-year-olds obtain the medication.

In a thorough denunciation of the Bush administration, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman blasted the FDA's handling of the issue, saying it had "repeatedly and unreasonably" delayed issuing a decision on the medication.

The morning-after pill is a source of tension for social conservatives who held great sway in the Bush administration and who believe the pill is tantamount to abortion.

The ruling said the FDA in several instances had delayed issuing a ruling for suspect reasons and on two occasions only took action to facilitate the confirmation of acting FDA commissioners whose confirmations had been held up by the repeated delays.
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Was Iran's reaction to Obama speech really the "rebuff" the media portrays it to be?

Khamenei Adopts a Wait and See Attitude to Obama;
"If You Change Your Attitude, We Will Change Ours"

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Saturday, "Of course, we have no prior experience of the new president of the American republic and of the government, and therefore we shall make our judgment based on his actions."

The US corporate media mysteriously interpreted Khamenei's words as a rebuff to Obama, but in light of the phrase I just quoted, I can't understand how they reached that conclusion. Certainly, he did say repeatedly that Iran has had a pretty horrible experience with the United States, and that it would take more than some nice words to change Iranian minds about Washington. You could say that this was a grumpy old man response to Obama's call for engagement. But you can't call it a rebuff, since Khamenei explicitly says that he has no basis for making a judgment about the Obama administration as yet, and will respond to its actual concrete policies.

Interestingly, the French news agency, Agence France Presse, got the story right, entitling their article, "Iran ready to change if US leads way: Khamenei."
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Shell Oil Company largely gives up on alternative energy

Shell dumps wind, solar and hydro power in favour of biofuels
Tuesday 17 March 2009
Shell will no longer invest in renewable technologies such as wind, solar and hydro power because they are not economic, the Anglo-Dutch oil company said today. It plans to invest more in biofuels which environmental groups blame for driving up food prices and deforestation.

Executives at its annual strategy presentation said Shell, already the world's largest buyer and blender of crop-based biofuels, would also invest an unspecified amount in developing a new generat­ion of biofuels which do not use food-based crops and are less harmful to the environment.

The company said it would concentrate on developing other cleaner ways of using fossil fuels, such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. It hoped to use CCS to reduce emissions from Shell's controversial and energy-intensive oil sands projects in northern Canada.

The company said that many alternative technologies did not offer attractive investment opportunities. Linda Cook, Shell's executive director of gas and power, said: "If there aren't investment opportunities which compete with other projects we won't put money into it. We are businessmen and women. If there were renewables [which made money] we would put money into it."

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There's talk about making no impact, carbon neutral biofuel but I'm having a hard time imagining that on a large enough scale. And oh yes, tar sands. There's another ecological disaster.

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Court hears arguments over anti-Hillary movie


WASHINGTON (AP) — Was "Hillary: The Movie" an anti-Hillary Clinton documentary or a 90-minute attack ad?

The Supreme Court will try to figure it out Tuesday as it hears arguments over whether a political movie and its accompanying advertisements should be regulated the same way as political ads during election seasons.

The court will also issue opinions.

Citizens United, a conservative group, wanted to pay for "Hillary" — a documentary filled with negative criticism of the former New York senator — to be shown on home video-on-demand while she was competing against President Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. The group also wanted to run ads featuring clips from the movie on television.

But federal judges said the movie was equivalent to a political ad, and if it was shown on television, it would fall under the McCain-Feingold law, the popular name for 2002 revisions to the nation's campaign finance laws.

Campaign regulations require the backers of political ads to be identified and prohibit corporations and unions from paying for ads that run close to elections and single out candidates.

Citizen United appealed, saying that, despite being critical of the now-secretary of state, nothing in the movie actually urged people to vote against Clinton. Citizens United also argues that its ads simply promoted the movie and should be treated as commercial speech, as opposed to advocacy against the former senator.

The ads include clips from the movie, including one in which Dick Morris — a former Bill Clinton adviser who is now a critic of the Clintons — saying she is "the closest thing we have in America to a European socialist."

The Justice Department said a movie does not have to use the word "vote" to be considered a political ad.

The movie was advertised on the Internet, sold on DVD and shown in a few theaters. Campaign regulations do not apply to DVDs, theaters or the Internet.

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Obama's Global Op-Ed: "A Time For Global Action"

More than 30 papers around the world ran an op-ed today by President Obama arguing for "the urgent need for global economic cooperation."

According to the White House, the op-ed ran in the following papers:

1. Al Watan (Gulf States)
2. Arab Times (Gulf States)
3. Asharq Al Awsat (Arab-wide paper in Arabic)
4. The Australian (Australia)
5. Baltimore Sun (United States)
6. Bangkok Post (Thailand)
7. Chicago Tribune (United States)
8. Clarin (Argentina)
9. Corriere della Sera (Italy)
10. Die Welt (Germany)
11. El Pais (Madrid)
12. El Mercurio (Chile)
13. Eleftyropiea (Greece)
14. Estado de Sao Paulo (Brazil)
15. Gulf News (Gulf States)
16. The Hindustan Times/ The Hindu (India)
17. International Herald Tribune (London)
18. Kristeligt Dagblad (Denmark)
19. Le Monde (Paris)
20. Lidove Noviny (Czech)
21. Los Angeles Times (United States)
22. The News (Pakistan)
23. NRC Handelsblad (Netherlands)
24. Saudi Gazette (Saudi Arabia)
25. South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)
26. Straits Times (Singapore)
27. Sunday Times (South Africa)
28. Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden)
29. Syndey Morning Herald (Australia)
30. WProst (Poland)
31. Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan)

Here's the full text of the piece:

A time for global action
By Barack Obama
Monday, March 23, 2009

WASHINGTON: We are living through a time of global economic challenges that cannot be met by half measures or the isolated efforts of any nation. Now, the leaders of the Group of 20 have a responsibility to take bold, comprehensive and coordinated action that not only jump-starts recovery, but also launches a new era of economic engagement to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again.

No one can deny the urgency of action. A crisis in credit and confidence has swept across borders, with consequences for every corner of the world. For the first time in a generation, the global economy is contracting and trade is shrinking.

Trillions of dollars have been lost, banks have stopped lending, and tens of millions will lose their jobs across the globe. The prosperity of every nation has been endangered, along with the stability of governments and the survival of people in the most vulnerable parts of the world.

Once and for all, we have learned that the success of the American economy is inextricably linked to the global economy. There is no line between action that restores growth within our borders and action that supports it beyond.

If people in other countries cannot spend, markets dry up -- already we've seen the biggest drop in American exports in nearly four decades, which has led directly to American job losses. And if we continue to let financial institutions around the world act recklessly and irresponsibly, we will remain trapped in a cycle of bubble and bust. That is why the upcoming London Summit is directly relevant to our recovery at home.

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Fox News Attacks Barney Frank For Accurately Characterizing Scalia’s Views As Homophobic

In a recent interview with gay news site, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) said he hopes the Supreme Court takes up the issue of gay marriage — but not with its current conservative makeup, led by “that homophobe Antonin Scalia.” Not surprisingly, Scalia’s defenders at Fox News decried Frank’s comments, insisting that Scalia doesn’t attack the gay community directly. “Homophobe is a really strong word,” scolded Fox Supreme Court reporter Shannon Bream. Other Fox hosts leaped to Scalia’s defense:

MEGYN KELLY: In defense of Justice Scalia, in that dissent Lawrence v. Texas, he wasn’t necessarily harsh, he just made clear his position…on homosexual sodomy.

BREAM: There was no direct attack by Justice Scalia on the homosexual community, nothing along those lines. It was a very technical legal argument.

Sean Hannity insisted Scalia is “one of the most brilliant jurists of all time. Absolutely!” Watch a compilation:

The truth is that Scalia’s animus toward gay people is clear. During oral arguments for the 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas — in which the Court struck down Texas’ law making gay sex illegal — Scalia suggested that being gay was somehow contagious, and that a teacher could “induce” a student toward homosexuality:

Rehnquist wonders whether, if these laws are stuck down, states can have laws “preferring non-homosexuals to homosexuals as kindergarten teachers.” Smith replies that there would need to be some showing that gay kindergarten teachers produce harm to children. Scalia offers one: “Only that children might be induced to follow the path to homosexuality.”

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Border plants to be killed to reveal smugglers

The U.S. Border Patrol plans to poison the plant life along a 1.1-mile stretch of the Rio Grande riverbank as soon as Wednesday to get rid of the hiding places used by smugglers, robbers and illegal immigrants.

If successful, the $2.1 million pilot project could later be duplicated along as many as 130 miles of river in the patrol’s Laredo Sector, as well as other parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Although Border Patrol and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials say the chemical is safe for animals, detractors say the experiment is reminiscent of the Vietnam War-era Agent Orange chemical program and raises questions about long-term effects.

“We don’t believe that is even moral,” said Jay Johnson-Castro Sr., executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, located at Laredo Community College, adjacent to the planned test area.

“It is a complicated situation because we have to think about protecting our border,” said Salinas, a retired FBI agent. “But let’s do it in a sensible, reasonable way to make sure humans won’t be harmed, nor the vegetation, nor the animals, nor the environment.”




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Newsweek: Back From The Brink

Geithner may have it right after all

This feels a little like one of those boldelection night calls. The returns are barely in. All sorts of things could still go wrong. But barring something completely unforeseen--a big "but," granted—I think it might be just about time to call the American economy for Tim Geithner.

That call may be against conventional wisdom, for plenty of good reasons. The markets could make me look stupid. The real economy is going to suffer for a long time to come, perhaps well beyond the end of 2009. Geithner, our all-too-boyish Treasury secretary, still looks to many market players like a guy rehearsing for his high school play. He steadfastly refuses to address critical questions to which Wall Street wants answers—like whether private-equity and hedge-funds might find their future compensation packages encumbered by Washington. Key pundits like Paul Krugman have already declared Geithner's private-public partnership plan for distressed assets a failure. Populist outrage is still raging, especially as it becomes clear that his plan to clear the toxic assets off banks' balance sheets will mean another big government-guaranteed payday for Wall Street.

But—and here's the big positive "but"—over the last three weeks the markets have pulled back from the precipice. As Geithner and the Obama administration have laid out most of their plans, we have gone from a desperate and pervasive fear that bank stocks might drop out of sight altogether—leading to a depression after all--to a steady rebound in financial securities. Whereas a month ago there was a real danger the major banks would all collapse at once and become government wards, today even the massively mismanaged Citigroup is no longer a pathetic penny stock (it's soared to the $3 range).
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President Holds Out of this World Conference Call

>youtube site</a>.
With members of Congress and DC-area middle school children by his side, President Obama spent 28 minutes on a videoconference with astronauts on the International Space Station and the shuttle Discovery.

“We’re really proud about the extraordinary work that our American astronauts are doing. You are a representative of the dedication and sense of adventure and discovery that you know we’re so proud of,” Obama said to the members of Discovery, the first space mission on Obama's watch.

The president also spoke with two astronauts from Russia and Japan who joined the Americans on the International Space Station.

“This is an example of the kind of spirit and cooperation that you know we can apply not just in space but here on the ground as well,” the president said.

The president –- who no doubt has job creation on his mind even in space –- inquired about the installation of solar panels that would increase the number of people that could work out of the space station. The crew reported to the president that the work they are doing will roughly double the amount of solar power available to support a larger crew.

“We’re investing back here on the ground a whole array of solar and other renewable energy projects and so to find out that you’re doing this up on the space station is particularly exciting,” Obama added.

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Ambinder: Make Haste, Slowly

President Obama's financial rescue plans have two limiting factors. One is the willingness of the Congress to sanction what amounts to an unprecedented federal intervention in the economy and the ability of the administration to calmly transport the Congress towards a particular destination.

The second is the need to consider not short term consequences or long-term consequences, but interim consequences. This point is often lost. The federal government, not Congress, will manage the aftermath of any action it takes. It can reliably project short-term consequences and probably can envision long-term consequences - they are only a few real possibilities. 2nd order effects of actions - what happens between the solution being implemented and the problem being solved - are notoriously, extraordinarily difficult to envision. Fixing the economic crisis is like playing three-dimensional dominoes.

The administration has heard shouts for nationalization, for firing the bums, for breaking the banks into pieces, for making them eat their losses, and believe you me, there are officials who are privately advocates of all of these positions. What's kept the administration from being as bold as its critics want is not a lack of imagination, or a lack of contact with the outside world, or an overreliance on the banks. (Speaking of questions about boldness: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has co-signed several trillion dollar loan facilities and is testifying today in support of the power for a government to take over a company it considers to be at-risk.)

It's a combination of the knowledge that Obama cannot do big things unless he remains a majority president, that he could make a hash of them if Congress perceives that the administration is pushing too close to the boundary of what's acceptable, and that the administration has accepted that it cannot allow Congress to be a partner in leading the American people towards a solution. The stimulus package debate in February was dispositive; the administration lost confidence in Congress's maturity fairly quickly;

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For You Dean Lovers: Dean on peeves, profanity and feet

Howard Dean has worn a lot of hats during his career: doctor, governor of Vermont, presidential candidate, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He recently joined the law and lobbying firm McKenna Long & Aldridge and just signed on as a regular contributor for CNBC.

Q: Tell us your favorite joke.

A: I actually don’t have one. What I usually do is tell funny stories from the road, many of which are, of course, unprintable. But I don’t actually have a joke. I don’t tell jokes much. I tell little stories. 

Q: Are you not a funny guy?

A: I can be a funny guy. I have a great sense of humor, but it has an ironic twist to it.

Q: When’s the last time you used profanity?

A: Yesterday afternoon, when I got stuck on the Metro in D.C. for 50 minutes and missed my appointment.

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source: Politico
Iowa--Blue Myself

Flores case: At new hearing, two witnesses tie another man to Phyllis Davis slaying

By LEE ROOD • • March 24, 2009

David Flores' long-awaited return to court - 13 years after his controversial conviction for a Des Moines murder - arrived Monday along with tears and quiet anger.

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This will be very interesting if they find enough information to overturn the conviction. The fact that FOUR different people have said he didn't do it is fascinating--though I always wonder why it takes people so long to say these things.

Palestine: Israeli police violently prevent cultural event

1pm, 23rd March, Sheikh Jarrah, Occupied East Jerusalem, (The International Solidarity Movement): Israeli police violently disbanded an event held in conjunction with the Jerusalem Capital of Arab Culture festival in Sheikh Jarrah, occupied East Jerusalem.

At least seven people, including one American and one Danish solidarity activist, have been arrested. One middle –aged Palestinian resident was thrown into a police car with severe bleeding to her head and nose after being roughly handled by police.

Around twenty policemen arrived at the protest tent in Sheikh Jarrah, which was erected to protest the evictions of Palestinian residents in the neighborhood. House evictions and demolition orders number in the hundreds in areas of occupied East Jerusalem, including Silwan and Shufat refugee camps.
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  • Current Mood

Reporters war-game Obama questions

CBS’s Chip Reid jots the gist of his questions on a legal pad. CNN’s Ed Henry writes them word for word on white paper torn from the notebook he’s using, so there’s no danger of cards dropping to the ground. Fox’s Major Garrett has three word-for-word questions and three “concept questions” in reserve.

ABC's Jake Tapper comes with about a dozen questions, including ones he's gathered from colleagues, bosses, his blog and Twitter.

Like athletes limbering up for the big game, White House reporters have been going through elaborate preparatory rituals as they bone up for tonight’s prime-time news conference with President Obama, the second formal “presser” of his presidency.

The Bush White House liked to spring its news conferences with as little as a few hours’ notice, on the theory that reporters would have less time to dream up stumpers and zingers. But Obama aides confidently announced tonight’s 8 ET session six days in advance.

There are 160 chairs, and somewhere between 12 and 20 correspondents are likely to get questions.

The unspoken contest playing out under the East Room lights: The president wants to deliver a message – in this case, reassurance on the economy and a plug for his budget – and not get tripped up by issues he considers extraneous, or that might overshadow what he wants to say.

Reporters have the opposite incentive: They want to “make news” by getting the president to say something he hasn’t said before, or wasn’t prepared to say – which, by definition, is not his message.

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EPA blocks mountaintop removal - Another Reason I voted for Obama

In a major reversal of Bush policy, “mountaintop coal-mining permits are being put on hold until the projects’ impacts on streams and wetlands can be reviewed,” the Environmental Protection Agency announced today:
Citing its regulatory role under the Clean Water Act, the EPA said the letters stated that the projects “would likely cause water quality problems in streams below the mines, would cause significant degradation to streams buried by mining activities, and that proposed steps to offset these impacts are inadequate.”

A midnight regulation by the Bush administration attempted to make permanent its policy of permitting coal companies to strip the tops off of Appalachian mountains and bury watersheds with the waste.
source: Think Progress


Israel slams UN rights report on Gaza

Israel on Tuesday slammed as "one-sided" a report by a UN human rights investigator which said its three-week war on the Gaza Strip was possibly a war crime.

"Unfortunately this is a further example of the very one-sided, unbalanced and unfair attitude of the (UN) Human Rights Council," government spokesman Mark Regev told AFP.

"This sort of report does the service of human rights no good whatsoever," he said. "It's a politicisation of human rights."

The UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, said in a report on Monday that there was "reason" to conclude that Israel's massive military offensive on Gaza in December and January was a war crime.

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Fuck you, Israel.

Freida GQ

Michelle Bachmann: stupidest person in Congress, and possibly the world

This video is just priceless. Rep. Michelle Bachman, easily one of the most embarrassing persons in Congress and also one of the wingnuttiest, spent her five minutes asking inane questions about the Constitutionality of Geithner’s actions.

After about the third time she asked, I would have asked her where in the Constitution it says the desk he is sitting at should be wood. And then asked her to tell me where in the Constitution it says he has to wear clothes.

There are a whole host of things not specifically listed in the Constitution- a wide wide world of government activities- but that doesn’t mean that engaging in those activities is “unconstitutional.” Geithner’s actions do not derive their authority directly from something written into the Constitution several hundred years ago, but from the authority that Congress granted him when they passed the respective bills. In fact, the very reason we have things called “Constitutional Scholars” is because everything isn’t spelled out verbatim in the Constitution.


Guerilla artist hangs naked paintings of Irish Prime Minister

Who snuck nude paintings of Taoiseach Brian Cowen into two of Dublin's most prestigious museums?


That is the mystery surrounding what could be an act of artistic expression or civil disobedience.

An anonymous donor hung the painting in the gallery of the Royal Hibernian Academy aside the regular collection. When a visitor asked staff about the new nude, it was removed.

'We certainly can't condone work coming in this way,' said Rebecca Gale of the gallery, barely containing her smile.

She added that their open submission show, which opens in May, is the best route to get work onto the gallery walls. 'We'll be keeping an eye out for work coming in this way from now on,' Ms Gale said of the guerilla tactic.

Another painting of An Taoiseach, this time naked on a toilet, was found at the National Gallery. It hung for 20 minutes before it was spotted, removed and handed over to gardaí.

One woman who saw the nude at the Royal Hibernian Gallery offered to buy it.

'It's reasonably well painted. It's not the worst thing I've ever seen,' conceded James O'Halloran of Adam's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers. But the Royal Hibernian cannot sell it because it does not own it.

However, if the painter gets in touch with the gallery, they may just have a buyer - and a lot of questions from the gardaí.


(no subject)

"White Girls Who Date Black Guys Are Sluts" And Other Ridiculous Stereotypes


Yesterday's Tyra dealt with racial racist stereotypes. A focus group made up of different ethnicities shared their—at times horrifying—views. One white college student, Christian, is an unconscionable asshole. Tyra put him in his place.

Ralph, a black man, is Christian's roommate at college. He wrote to Tyra to tell her about this guy's behavior, which includes his sweeping negative generalizations about black people (they're all drug-dealing, violent thieves on welfare), constant derogatory remarks and verbal harassment, which includes Christian calling Ralph the N-word.

Props to Tyra, though, because she came back at that guy in the weirdest, most inventive way, when she told him that when she closes her eyes, he "sounds black" to her, because of the tone of his voice. Naturally, he took this as an insult.


(no subject)

British Hotel Bans Gay Sleepovers, While Scottish Castle Bans Gay Weddings


First, an English hotel is sued by two patrons who claim they were refused a stay in a double room because they're gay. The owners, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, say their Christian beliefs have them banning any unmarried couple, gay or straight. But what about Scotland's Castle of Mey, home to the deceased Queen Mother, and its tradition of hosting wedding ceremonies? Sorry gays, but Christ has blocked you again!


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Harvard economist: Prohibition creates violence, legalize all drugs

Published: Tuesday March 24, 2009
Because of his title as a Harvard economist, people tend to listen to Jeffrey Miron. And, if the old principle holds true and controversy always creates interest, expect a lot of people to be talking about Miron's latest volley into the mainstream media.

"Prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground," he wrote in an essay published by CNN on Tuesday. "This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising, so they resort to violence instead.

"Violence was common in the alcohol industry when it was banned during Prohibition, but not before or after."
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source (w/ video of Miron's appearance on CNN's American Morning)
Jake G -  Moving beauty

Obama 'Overexposed': The Media's New New Obsession

So, for weeks and weeks and weeks, the White House has been inundated with a clarion call from the media: "Why have you not fixed the economy yet? You better explain it soon! Oh My God, look at the Dow Jones! It falls, because of you, and your lack of a solution." So, President Barack Obama went on the Tonight Show, and did an interview with 60 Minutes, and will do another news conference tonight. These appearances will help Obama advance an explanation of his bank bailout program, and offer reporters a chance to publicly question the president. One would think that this would be a good thing. But NO! God, no! Doesn't Obama realize that he's risking over-exposure, with all the explaining and answering questions and being a public figure? How dare he?

That's the recent message that's been advancing through the press. After Obama appeared on a rival network's late night show, CBS's Chris Wragge was given to wonderment: "The Obama blitz, the President's appearing everywhere, but is his media tour taking attention away from his message?" Because clearly, the last thing a "message" needs is a series of sessions that allows it to be clearly elucidated!


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Jake G -  Moving beauty

Specter Will Vote Against Employee Free Choice Act

UPDATE: Senator Specter ended speculation on where he would come down on the Employee Free Choice Act by declaring, on the Senate floor, that he would oppose the legislation until the economy improves.

"The problems of a recession make this a particularly bad time to enact Employee's choice legislation," he said. "Employers understandably complain that adding a burden would result in further job losses. If efforts are unsuccessful to give labor sufficient bargaining power through amendments to the [National Labor Relations Act] then I would be willing to reconsider Employees choice legislation when the economy returns to normalcy. I am announcing my decision now because I have consulted with a very large number of interested parties on both sides and I have made up my mind."

Addressing the politics of the situation, he declared: "This announcement should end the rumor mill that I have made some deal for my political advance. I have not traded my vote in the past and I would not do so now."

Labor officials are incredibly distraught and, in some cases incredulous, noting the Specter co-sponsored the bill in 2003 and voted for cloture just last year. But while it is a setback for the legislation's chances, Democrats are not conceding defeat. According to the Huffington Post's Ryan Grim, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared after Specter's speech that "He's not the only Republican who has indicated a willingness to consider something being done... He's not the only suspect."

* * * * *

Some big news emerged Tuesday in regards to the debate over the Employee Free Choice Act, with a prominent Republican strategist declaring that Sen. Arlen Specter will vote against cloture on and passage of the bill.

Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist broke the news during a speech at the Capital Research Center Labor Summit, saying that Specter's chief of staff had let it be known that he would oppose the legislation, which would make it easier for unions to organize. Norquist's remarks were subsequently reported on the Twitter account of Larry Farnsworth -- the former Speechwriter and Deputy Press Secretary to Speaker Dennis Hastert -- and seconded by Dave Weigel of the Washington Independent.

If true, it represents a major blow for EFCA supporters. Specter was the one Senate Republican to vote for cloture when the bill came to the floor in 2007. And with 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster, his defection presents a major parliamentary hurdle for the legislation's passage.

The Pennsylvania Republican is likely to face a major primary challenge from Club For Growth president Pat Toomey in the 2010 election, which may have factored into this apparent decision. Several unions, however, had let it be known that they would have put their political muscle behind the Senator had he voted to support EFCA.

According to an attendee at the CRC Labor Summit, Norquist "was giving a speech at lunch time" when he told the crowd: 'By the way I have breaking news. When I was eating lunch I got a call from Specter's Chief of Staff saying he was voting against cloture.' [The Chief of Staff] had apparently read a prepared statement to Grover over the phone and the Senator's office will apparently be releasing that statement later today."

A call and email to Americans for Tax Reform were not immediately returned.

UPDATE: From Americans for Tax Reform's twitter account:

Sen. Specter has confirmed to Americans for Tax Reform that he will vote against both cloture and passage on the Employee Free Choice Act
Labor officials, meanwhile, are nervous about the development, though one cautioned that this could be another example of "Norquist overreaching."



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Fox Business anchor compares tax on AIG bonuses to sexual abuse.

Today, Fox Business Network anchor Dagen McDowell appeared on Fox News to make the case against the tax on AIG bonuses by comparing it to sexual abuse:

You don’t want to think if you get in bed with Uncle Sam he’s going to strip you naked, chain you to the bed, leave you there and then take nasty pictures of you and then put them on the Internet. Because that’s what’s been happening.

Watch it:

“Thank you, Dagen, well stated,” responded Bill Hemmer.

Me--State Fair

Hooray, NPR!

Consider This: NPR Achieves Record Ratings
By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 24, 2009; Page C01

At a time when newspapers, magazines and TV news continue to lose readers and viewers, at least one part of the traditional media has continued to grow robustly: National Public Radio.

The audience for NPR's daily news programs, including "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," reached a record last year, driven by widespread interest in the presidential election, and the general decline of radio news elsewhere. Washington-based NPR will release new figures to its stations today showing that the cumulative audience for its daily news programs hit 20.9 million a week, a 9 percent increase over the previous year.

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I'm happy to see this. It gives me hope that my dream of saying, "From NPR News in Washington, I'm Rebecca X." will come true!
  • Current Mood

(no subject)

17 Year-Old Gay Vermont Youth Speaks Out On Marriage Equality


Meet our new hero, James Neiley.

(Via - Bilerico)

lol I love what he said about not using the word "homosexuality" around five year olds.  I visited my aunt recently and she was talking to me about how much she loved some gay guy at her job that was really funny but she just kept calling him "happy" because her daughter and stepdaughter were in the room.  *rolls eyes*

He's so cute though. :)

Cartel violence moves north

The Enemy Within


As Manuel exited the Radio Shack in Phoenix with his family one afternoon last month, a group of Hispanic men standing in the parking lot watched him closely. "Do it now, do it now," one said to another in Spanish, according to a witness. One of the men approached Manuel, pointed a revolver at his head and tried to force him into a Ford Expedition parked close by. "Please, I'll get into the car, just don't touch me," Manuel pleaded as he entered the vehicle, his wife told police. Nearby, she said, another man in a Chrysler sedan aimed a rifle or shotgun out the driver's side window. At some point, shots were fired, said witnesses, although apparently no one was hit. Then the vehicles tore off with a screech of tires.

Later that evening, the phone rang. When Manuel's wife picked up, a male voice said in Spanish, "Don't call the police," and then played a recording of Manuel saying, "Tell the kids I'm OK." The man said he'd call again, then hung up. Despite the warning, Manuel's wife contacted the cops. In subsequent calls, the kidnappers told her Manuel owed money for drugs, and they demanded $1 million and his Cadillac Escalade as ransom.

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More pictures.

Sadly, I see this starting more hysteria over illegals(!!1) and increased militarization of the American police than encouraging a realistic look at the "war on drugs".

European Banker Writes Wonk-tastic Open Letter To Paul Krugman

Meant to submit this for approval yesterday, but oh well. One day isn't that late, is it??

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Source @ NYT Economix Blog

OP Note:
I don't know enough about the Euro/ECB/USD situation to judge either way. I remain neutral until I learn more. I decided to put this up for posting b/c it's an interesting counterpoint from a European point of view. And the Lehman retort made me LOL.
Redheads do it best.

Jindal To Respond To Obama's Press Conference Tonight

WASHINGTON – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will again carry the Republican mantle opposite a primetime appearance from President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

Jindal, considered a potential GOP presidential candidate, is slated to headline a major congressional fundraiser that coincidentally fell on the same night as Obama's planned news conference.

Jindal was widely panned for his televised response to Obama's address to Congress last month. This time, he will speak to a live audience of Republican faithful in Washington. And his speech — scheduled well before Obama's news conference — will likely begin before Obama's evening remarks.


Excuse me, y'all, but I believe that's the sound of my day being made.

Oil terminal a concern as Alaska volcano rumbles; Volcano Monitoring still a waste of money...

Oil terminal a concern as Alaska volcano rumbles

An Alaska volcano continued to rumble Tuesday amid new concerns that eruptions and mud flows will damage a nearby oil terminal where about 6 million gallons of crude are stored.
The 10,200-foot Mount Redoubt volcano, about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, erupted Sunday night. Since then there have been five more explosions; the latest, on Monday night, shot an ash plume into the air that was 40,000 to 50,000 feet high.
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Scientists in possible cold fusion breakthrough

Scientists in possible cold fusion breakthrough

Researchers at a US Navy laboratory have unveiled what they say is "significant" evidence of cold fusion, a potential energy source that has many skeptics in the scientific community.

The scientists on Monday described what they called the first clear visual evidence that low-energy nuclear reaction (LENR), or cold fusion devices can produce neutrons, subatomic particles that scientists say are indicative of nuclear reactions.
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Afghan TV station falls under government crackdown

Afghan TV station falls under government crackdown

The manager of an Afghan television network who refused to censor images of women dancing in short skirts and plunging necklines was arrested in what appeared to be a new sign of the government's struggle to define the role of Islam in a country once led by extremists.

The government has previously censured television stations and taken others to court, but the arrest of Emrose TV's Fahim Khodamani on Monday was the first for airing overly salacious content, the Afghan deputy attorney general said Tuesday.

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oh noes, republicans.

Powerless- the fifth estate

"The world of teenaged addiction is as frightening and confusing a place as any a parent will enter. Most rehab centres claim a 30 to 40 per cent success rate. AARC's founder says the facility works with "the worst of the worst" among addicted teens — yet it claims an extraordinary 80 per cent recovery rate of those that come through its doors. Gillian Findlay investigates the centre's claims of its success rate, as well as its controversial treatment program."


There doesn't appear to be anyway of embedding the video, sorry guys.

Anyways, it's a bit old, but I thought I'd bring it up anyway, it's quite horrifying. It's sad, but Canada doesn't have the best sort of track record with these sort of stuff- first it was mental institutions and the forced sterilization of the mentally retarded, then it was Residential schools, and now it's appearently we have these Drug addiction recovery centres dealing out the abuse. I guess this is what happens when you allow private organizations to have total control over people's lives.
  • Current Mood


[My .02 - they are doing this because they are afraid of single payer, wanna say, no, look, we can be cool, check us out! So, that means keep the pressure on!]

Insurers offer to stop charging sick people more

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press Writer
Tue Mar 24, 5:56 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The health insurance industry offered Tuesday for the first time to curb its controversial practice of charging higher premiums to people with a history of medical problems.

The offer from America's Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a potentially significant shift in the debate over reforming the nation's health care system to rein in costs and cover an estimated 48 million uninsured people. It was contained in a letter to key senators.
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biggie aretha
  • bispo

Dear A.I.G., I Quit!

The following is a letter sent on Tuesday by Jake DeSantis, an executive vice president of the American International Group’s financial products unit, to Edward M. Liddy, the chief executive of A.I.G.

DEAR Mr. Liddy,

It is with deep regret that I submit my notice of resignation from A.I.G. Financial Products. I hope you take the time to read this entire letter. Before describing the details of my decision, I want to offer some context:

I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.

After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.
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source: NYTIMES

Twitterers react: Obama’s testy answer to CNN’s Ed Henry

Twitterers react: Obama’s testy answer to CNN’s Ed Henry

The fun thing about watching the presidential press conference with Twitter in the background are the real time reactions of people sitting at home remarking on the event.

Like when President Obama flashed some anger at CNN correspondent Ed Henry for asking why it took him days to express outrage over the bonuses paid to executives at AIG.

“It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak,” Obama snapped.

The Twitterverse snapped too. “Ed Henry” soon became one of the most searched items and people quickly typed out what they thought of the exchange.

daveburkevt wrote, “Obama slams CNN dufus…”

EdJLucio typed, “Daaaamn CNN’s Ed Henry got roasted!”

c3ane agreed saying, “CNN/Ed Henry you got spanked. Deal with it.”

crutis saw things differently though. “I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak. When did THAT start?”

As did sanity check. “Obama’s response to CNN’s Ed Henry was very amateur. He showed he was irritated by Ed’s persistence.”


The discussion between the CNN talking heads brought out reactions from the Twitterers as well. On the set Bill Bennett said, “”After Ed Henry, he looked like he wanted to go home.”

penguinponders agreed with the former Education Secretary. “Bill Bennett on CNN. Good before Ed Henry, after Ed Henry, he looked like he just wanted to go home. I agree.”

Maggietheresa had a differing opinion. “Why isn’t Ed Henry covering a city council meeting in some small town? He embarrassed himself.”