More Believe In God Than Heaven
Friday , June 18, 2004
By Dana Blanton
More Americans believe in God than in angels, miracles, and even heaven. And while half attend worship services on a regular basis, a majority thinks religion plays too small a role in people’s lives today.
Fully 92 percent of Americans say they believe in God, 85 percent in heaven and 82 percent in miracles, according to the latest FOX News poll. Though belief in God has remained at about the same level, belief in the devil has increased slightly over the last few years — from 63 percent in 1997 to 71 percent today.
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Most of the material he used was recycled from the 2007 routine he performed at the "Funniest Celebrity in Washington" contest. (He finished second after Joseph Randazzo, assistant editor of the "The Onion," but ahead of Ana Marie Cox.) But he did throw in jabs at town hall protesters and Sarah Palin.
"Arlen has always loved stand up comics," says Joan Specter. "If he has the chance to go to a comedy show, that's his first choice."
Sometimes this jovial nature gets him in trouble, like when he cracked Polish jokes at New York's Rainbow Room while speaking at the annual meeting of the Commonwealth Club. The "New York Post" reported that Specter began by asking if anyone in the room was Polish. At that, around 10 people raised their hands. He proceeded to tell a few jokes about Polish people until one guest interrupted him, saying, "Hey, careful. I'm Polish!" Specter responded, "That's OK, I'll tell it more slowly." This was met with grumblings of tastlessness, and Specter eventually apologized saying it was a mistake.
Here's Arlen stand-up from this week (in two parts), and below is his routine from the 2007 "Funniest Celebrity in DC Contest":
Arlen Specter Mocks Town Halls, Viagra, And Sarah Palin In Comedy Routine (VIDEO)
Despite publicly breaking with an American private security company in Iraq, the State Department continues to award the company, formerly known as Blackwater, more than $400 million in contracts to fly its diplomats around Iraq, guard them in Afghanistan, and train security forces in antiterrorism tactics at its remote camp in North Carolina.
The contracts, one of which runs until 2011, illustrate the extent to which the United States government remains reliant on private contractors like Blackwater, now known as Xe (pronounced zee) Services, to conduct some of its most sensitive operations and protect some of its most vital assets.
Disclosures that the Central Intelligence Agency had used the company, which most people still call Blackwater, to help with a covert program to assassinate leaders of Al Qaeda have touched off a storm in Washington, with lawmakers demanding to know why this kind of work is being outsourced. New details about Xe’s involvement in the covert program emerged Friday.
The C.I.A. and the State Department are both trying to reduce their dependence on outside contractors, but the administration is also struggling to deal with an overstretched military and spy service.
In the case of the C.I.A., outsiders still help carry out some of its most important jobs, including collecting intelligence in foreign countries, dealing with foreign agents, and taking part in covert programs.
The State Department continues to use Blackwater guards in Afghanistan, despite the company’s involvement in civilian shootings in Baghdad in 2007, and despite Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s pledge to “reduce our dependence on private security contractors.”
The department declined to discuss its ties with Blackwater publicly, but a senior department official said it would be costly for the government to terminate, without cause, the other contracts that are in place. A spokeswoman for Xe Services did not respond to messages requesting comment.
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Blackwater Disclosure Adds to CIA Worries
News of 'Targeted Killing' Program Precedes Interrogation Report, Possible Probe
The disclosure Wednesday of the CIA's decision five years ago to let a private security contractor help manage its sensitive effort to kill senior al-Qaeda members drew congressional criticism Thursday on the eve of key decisions by the Obama administration that current and former intelligence officials fear could compound the spy agency's political troubles.
Those decisions include the expected release Monday of newly declassified portions of a 2004 CIA report that questions the legality and effectiveness of the agency's harsh interrogations at secret prisons. Additionally, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. may order a probe of possible criminal actions by CIA officers and contractors during those interrogations.
"In September, you are going to have a hurricane coming through Washington that is aimed right at the intelligence community," warned Porter J. Goss, the CIA's director from September 2004 to May 2006. He noted that a Justice Department inquiry is also pending into whether laws were broken when CIA officers destroyed videotapes of the harsh interrogations.
Democratic House and Senate lawmakers and staff members have already described as inappropriate the Bush administration's decision to hand management and training responsibility for the CIA's "targeted killing" efforts to Blackwater USA, and they have reiterated their intent to press for speedier and more complete disclosure by the agency of such activities in the future. CIA Director Leon E. Panetta terminated the program in June, shortly before telling Congress about its existence.
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Bond of Two Iowa Families Unbroken Despite Killing
By JOHN BRANCH
Published: August 20, 2009
PARKERSBURG, Iowa — The body of the football coach lies under a rectangular patch of dirt, slowly being covered by creeping clover and crab grass. But there is no doubt among people here that his soul is somewhere high above. A tombstone for Ed Thomas should be in place this fall.
The body of the former football player is in a county jail. But there is no doubt among people here that his is a soul lost. An insanity defense for 24-year-old Mark Becker is expected when his murder trial starts next month.
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Not gonna lie, I cried a little at this. Just because...I dunno, I guess if it happened to me, I can't imagine being that compassionate.
President Barack Obama is likely in September to end Democratic efforts to work with Republicans on health-care legislation and press for a party-line vote if the stalemate on the issue in the U.S. Senate persists, a person close to the White House said.
The president and his advisers have started devising a strategy to pass a measure by relying only on the Democratic majority in each house of Congress, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In a separate interview, former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle said Obama is losing patience with negotiations between three Democrats and three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, the only congressional panel seeking a bipartisan consensus on a plan to remake the nation’s health- care system.
“He’s waited and waited,” Daschle said yesterday after meeting with the president. “He has indicated, much to the chagrin of people in his party, that virtually everything’s on the table. And he’s gotten almost nothing in return for it.”
A move by Democrats to seek a partisan bill may provoke a backlash from Republicans and weaken public support for the health-care overhaul, Obama’s top domestic priority. It might also result in watered-down legislation.
Former Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole told reporters earlier this summer that while he believed the Democrats could pass a bill on a party-line vote, it would be a mistake.
"If there is not a Senate Republican vote for the package, then the American people are going to be very skeptical,"
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C.I.A. jailors at different times held the handgun and the drill close to the body of the detainee, Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, threatening to use them if the prisoner was not cooperative with his interrogators, according to a government official familiar with the contents of the report.
Mr. Nashiri, believed to be the mastermind of the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, was one of two C.I.A. detainees whose interrogation sessions were videotaped. The tapes that were destroyed by C.I.A. officers in 2005, and it is unclear whether the incidents with the gun and the power drill were documented on the tapes.
In a separate episode detailed in the report, C.I.A. officers fired a gunshot in a room next to a detainee, making the prisoner believe a second detainee had been killed.
It is a violation of the federal torture statute to threaten a detainee with imminent death.
The C.I.A. declined to comment on specifics of the report, which were first reported Friday evening by Newsweek.
Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, said that the “C.I.A. in no way endorsed behavior- no matter how infrequent—that went beyond the formal guidance. This has all been looked at; professionals in the Department of Justice decided if and when to pursue prosecution.”
A federal judge had ordered that the report be made public Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, according to The Associated Press.
Newsweek’s article said the interrogation tactics outlined in the agency’s report included threatening Mr. Nashiri with a gun and a power drill during an interrogation, as well as staging a “mock execution” in a nearby room in an effort to make a detainee believe that another detainee had been killed.
Mr. Nashiri, who was captured in 2002 and is one of three detainees known to have been waterboarded, confessed to several terrorist plots during his interrogation but later said he had only done so because he had been tortured. Before leaving office, the Bush administration acknowledged that tapes of Mr. Nashiri’s interrogations, and those of another detainee, had been destroyed by the C.I.A. in 2005.
Mr. Nashiri remains in United States custody, though his trial in front of a military tribunal was frozen in February as part of a broader review by the Obama administration of legal approaches to terrorism suspects.
Tastee Diner Releases Video of Lesbian Couple It Kicked Out
Yesterday I posted about a lesbian couple who organized a sit-in at Tastee Diner in Silver Spring, Maryland in response to their expulsion for what the restaurant said was inappropriate behavior.
Watch the report on the incident, sit-in, and interview with the lesbian couple, HERE.
Lisa Wilkes, the diner's manager, called the behavior "X-rated". In an attempt to clear their name, the Tastee Diner has now posted surveillance video of the "X-rated" incident online, but it may backfire.
The video shows the couple interacting, and at one point one of the women places her head on the other woman's chest.
I see a 25-second hug. Obviously, to some homophobes, this is terrifying. The question is, would the diner have kicked a straight couple out for this behavior?
By ALICE DREGER
The only thing we know for sure about Caster Semenya, the world-champion runner from South Africa, is that she will live the rest of her life under a cloud of suspicion after track and field’s governing body announced it was investigating her sex.
Why? Because the track organization, the I.A.A.F., has not sorted out the rules for sex typing and is relying on unstated, shifting standards.
To be fair, the biology of sex is a lot more complicated than the average fan believes. Many think you can simply look at a person’s “sex chromosomes.” If the person has XY chromosomes, you declare him a man. If XX, she’s a woman. Right?
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When this issue was brought up at ONTD I thought it was probably better left here since some of those comments made my brain explode? But here's some fun clarification of sex chromosomes, which I was pleased to learn about since science isn't really my forte.
What are your thoughts, ontd_p? Should the rules be adjusted? How do intersex individuals fit into this? And, of course, what are your thougts on this whole Semenya issue?
Group to Launch Television Ad Criticizing Obama
Seeking to ensure that President Obama has a less-than-restful vacation, a group opposed to the White House's health-care proposals is launching an ad campaign this week that will run locally during his stay at Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
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One of the most widely accepted arguments against a government medical plan for the middle class is that it would quash competition – just what private insurers seem to be doing themselves in many parts of the U.S.
Several studies show that in lots of places, one or two companies dominate the market. Critics say monopolistic conditions drive up premiums paid by employers and individuals.
For Democrats, the answer is a public plan that would compete with private insurers. Republicans see that as a government power grab. President Barack Obama looks to be trapped in the middle of an argument that could sink his effort to overhaul the health care system.
Even lawmakers opposed to a government plan have problems with the growing clout of the big private companies.
"There is a serious problem with the lack of competition among insurers," said Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the highest-cost states. "The impact on the consumer is significant."
Wellpoint Inc. accounted for 71 percent of the Maine market, while runner-up Aetna had a 12 percent share, according to a 2008 report by the American Medical Association.
Proponents of a government plan say it could restore a competitive balance and lead to lower costs. For one thing, it wouldn't have to turn a profit.
A study by the Urban Institute public policy center estimated that a public plan could save taxpayers from $224 billion to $400 billion over 10 years by lowering the cost of proposed subsidies for the uninsured, while preserving private coverage for most people.
"Right now, there's no incentive for insurers or big hospital groups to negotiate with each other, because they can pass higher payments on through premiums," said economist Linda Blumberg, co-author of the report. "A public plan would have the leverage to set lower payment rates and get providers to participate at those rates."
"The private plans would come back to the providers and say, 'If you don't negotiate with me, you're going to be left with only the public plan.'" Blumberg continued. "Suddenly, you have a very strong economic incentive for them to negotiate."
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Health insurers trying to tame rising medical costs have started offering medical care in other countries as a money-saving solution. Here are some things to consider if your insurer offers these trips.
— How high is your deductible?
Travel can make little sense if insurance is already covering most of your bill for care closer to home. But it may be worthwhile if you have a high-deductible plan that means you have to fork over several thousand dollars out of your pocket.
— Are there any incentives?
Some insurers will waive the deductible if you agree to take the trip because the savings to them is so great. Employers also may provide time off for the travel, and some programs will pick up travel costs too.
— What kind of savings can you find abroad?
Medical tourism can cost 80 percent less, not counting travel costs, depending on the procedure. Dental work, hip and knee replacements, heart bypasses and cosmetic procedures are common procedures for medical tourists.
— How can you check for quality?
Ask your insurer how it vetted the hospital or care providers in its overseas care network. Ask how many times the doctors have done your procedure, since there’s a strong tie between quality and experience.
— How will follow-up care be handled?
Some U.S. providers have agreements with hospitals in other countries to coordinate care after a procedure.
— What are the travel expenses outside the cost for care?
These can run anywhere from several hundred dollars to $10,000 depending on where you go and how long you stay. Some overseas hospitals provide accommodations for the patient and a companion.
— Is it OK to travel alone?
No. The Medical Tourism Association recommends traveling with a friend or relative, who can assist you and help and navigate the health care system in another country.
— How long do these trips take?
Again, it depends on what you have done. Trips for dental care can take only a few days, but surgeries may require a stay of a couple weeks.
Sources: Medical Tourism Association, Harvard Medical School professor Sharon Kleefield
The latest conservative obsession - dutifully spread via Sarah Palin's Facebook page - is marked by the same alarmism and factual inaccuracy as the hysteria over "death panels."
According to this tale, America's veterans are being steered into ending their lives via a "death book" distributed by the government.
It all started with Jim Towey, the former president of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives under George W. Bush, who penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal describing how the Department of Veterans Affairs was using an end-of-life planning document that was aimed at steering veterans toward choosing death.
Towey stated that the message of the veterans' health-care system to its patients was "hurry-up-and-die" and he contrasted the "death book" with "Five Wishes," his own advance care planning document.
In dramatic language, he wrote:
"One can only imagine a soldier surviving the war in Iraq and returning without all of his limbs only to encounter a veteran's health-care system that seems intent on his surrender."Soon enough, Palin linked to the piece, stating that "the Veterans Administration encourages veterans to forego care as they make end-of-life decisions."
They failed to mention that the so-called "death book" contains the same advance-care planning required of all health care organizations under federal law, has been in use since 1997 and was developed with the input of interfaith ministers.
In addition, Towey seems to have his own axe to grind. He has repeatedly tried to get the government to spend millions to purchase his "Five Wishes" book, which is published by Aging With Dignity, a non-profit group he founded, to distribute to veterans across the country, according to sources within the VA. Towey used his influence with the White House to get a meeting with VA officials, including then-Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson. At one meeting, Towey was informed that the VA could not act on such an unsolicited proposal without violating federal procurement regulations, according to VA sources.
The VA's policy is in accordance with the 1990 Patient Self Determination Act, which requires all institutions receiving Medicare funds to provide information to patients regarding end of life, living will and other advance directives. During the Bush administration, the VA changed its regulation to extend the act to cover all VA facilities.
In 2007, after Towey complained that the so-called "death book," "Your Life, Your Choices - Planning for Future Medical Decisions," was biased against the right-to-life viewpoint, the VA convened an outside panel of experts to assess and update the booklet.
In his op-ed, Towey stated that this panel did not include any representatives of faith groups or disability rights advocates. In fact, according to the VA, the panel included a priest, a rabbi, a renowned disability rights advocate, and the president of the organization that produces "Five Wishes," the alternative advance care planning document that Towey is promoting and selling.
The panel supported the use of the "Your Life, Your Choices" booklet but included some suggestions for revising its content. The plans to update and release the booklet were developed under the Bush administration and it is due for release in 2010.
Towey, along with Assistant Secretary Of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth are scheduled to discuss the issue on "Fox News Sunday" tomorrow.
Dr. Ellen Fox, the Chief Officer for Ethics in Health Care at the Veterans Health Administration, defended the use of the booklet:
Your Life, Your Choices is an educational workbook that was designed specifically for Veterans. The authors went to great lengths to ensure it would be meaningful and helpful to all Veterans, regardless of their religious and cultural backgrounds. I am impressed by the development process they used, which included extensive input and testing by different Veterans groups, religious leaders from 10 different faiths, elderly and disabled individuals, and experienced doctors and nurses. They even made sure to incorporate everyday language that Veterans commonly use to describe medical conditions, while at the same time providing accurate information from the physician's perspective. Over the past 10 years it has been tested through scientific research, endorsed by many respected professional organizations, and widely used throughout the U.S. health care system. It is one of many educational resources we provide to help Veterans and their families. As a Federal agency we have an obligation to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars by maximizing the services we provide our Veterans. Providing an educational resource like Your Life, Your Choices at no cost to Veterans is one of the many ways we fulfill this mission. The whole purpose of this workbook is to encourage more conversations between patients, families, and health care teams. Anyone who is seriously interested in ensuring that Veterans receive the best care possible should recognize this.Towey did not return calls placed to St. Vincent College, where he is the president.
If Washington wants health care reform with bipartisan support, experts say consider what former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney accomplished as governor in Democratic Massachusetts.
"You don't have to have a public option," Romney said. "You don't have to have the government getting into the insurance business to make it work."
Three years after enacting its own version of reform, Massachusetts now has near-universal coverage.
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I wonder how much Mittens paid for this glowing review. And I wonder who is hurt more by the comparison, him or Obama.
VICTIM FAIL: Flood victims WASTE FOOD by dumping boxed lunches made for them in the trash
Victims don't even touch the food in the boxed lunches (spaghetti and lamb stew) before dumping them in the trash. They think the food is too crappy to eat. Volunteers start making the boxed lunches at 4am in the morning and despite their effort, some people don't give a shit because they're too stuck up even though they're HOMELESS. The boxed lunch lady interviewed said that she was sad how they don't appreciate her and others' effort.
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DONOR FAIL: Expired food gets donated to the victims
Charities have to sift through all the food that come in because people donated EXPIRED food like moldy crackers and stuff for the victims to eat. One of the interviewed people was saying how "They're victims not destitutes." (rough translation) The citizens who donated on the surface look like they're good but in actuality, what they did was donate the food that was almost expiring from their house (clearing inventory kinda thing).
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Source 1, Source 2