August 29th, 2009

rachel mcadams in all her gorgeousness

The Case of Rifqa Bary

Florida has a knack for turning family dysfunction into national spectacle. Ten years ago it gave us the Elian Gonzalez mess; five years later came the Terri Schiavo debacle. Now we have a new domestic dispute that threatens to become another culture-war circus, complete with a clash-of-religions angle to boot: the battle for Rifqa Bary, a 17-year-old girl from Columbus, Ohio, who ran away to an Evangelical church in Orlando, Fla., because, she claims, her Sri Lankan Muslim family has threatened to kill her for recently converting to Christianity.

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Harold and Maude - Amused


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Based on new research from the National Institutes of Health, first dog Bo is once, twice, but not quite three times a lady a mutant.

Researchers from the NIH and several universities have shown that variation among the coats of different dog breeds can be traced back to three genes.>

Like about half of other Portugese water dogs, Bo possesses two mutant genes that contribute to the appearance of his coat of curly hair. What he lacks is a third mutant gene which would have given him the "furnishings," or a moustache and eyebrows, that are typically seen in dogs with wiry hair. Bo's lack of furnishings means that he has the ancestral form of that gene, matching the patterns found in wolves, according to the research.

"I think he's a perfect example of a Portuguese water dog, and a Portuguese water dog is an outstanding breed." It's an outstanding choice for the first breed," said Elaine A. Ostrander, chief of the cancer genetics branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute, the study's lead author.

She noted that the lack of eyebrows and a moustache was not a hindrance to Bo, a gift to the Obamas from recently deceased Sen. Ted Kennedy, who owned several Portuguese water dogs himself.

"You don't expect Portuguese water dogs to have that," she said of the furnishings. "He looks like a very typical Portuguese water dog."

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944 lovely gaga

Japan's DPJ looking to take away LDP control of the Diet in tomorrow's election

Japan opposition may score landslide win

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's opposition Democratic Party may be headed for a big landslide victory in the August 30 general election, knocking the conservative ruling party out of power for only the second time in 54 years, a newspaper said on Saturday.

The Democrats could win more than 320 seats of the 480 seats in parliament's lower house, although the number could change because 20-40 percent of voters did not reveal how they would vote, the Mainichi newspaper said based on a telephone poll.

Prime Minister Taro Aso's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), hit by voter anger over scandals and long-term uncertainties about social security, could see its strength whittled to less than 100 seats from 300 going in to the election, the Mainichi said.

The LDP's junior coalition partner, the New Komeito, is also struggling to woo voters and could have trouble maintaining its 31 seats, the newspaper added.

An overwhelming victory for the opposition Democrats would end a policy deadlock in parliament, where the party and its allies already control the less powerful upper chamber and can delay legislation.

If the Democrats win 320 seats or more, it would mean they control two-thirds of the lower house and thus have the power to enact bills rejected by the upper house. The Democrats are mostly aligned on policy with their two smaller allies but have rifts over security issues.

The Democrats have pledged to put more money in the hands of consumers, hold off on raising the 5 percent sales tax for the next four years and adopt a diplomatic stance more independent of top ally the United States.

Voters are anxious for change as the LDP, which has ruled for all but 10 months since its founding in 1955, grapples with new challenges such as how to care for a fast-aging population. Aso's two predecessors both stepped down with low approval ratings after just a year in office.

But some analysts worry about the novice Democrats' ability to govern as the economy shakes off a recession and say their big spending plans could add to Japan's already sky-high public debt and push up long-term interest rates.

(Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by Alex Richardson)

This article is about a week old, but I haven't seen any other posts around here about this topic. Is anyone else here following the election in Japan? This is a big freaking deal, obviously. But is it really going to create change in Japanese politics? Or is it going to be a repeat of what ended up happening in the 90s?
Mr. F!

Be sure to report tortilla-eating in the wilderness to your government!

US Forest Service warning linking tortillas and Tecate to armed pot growers called profiling

DENVER (AP) — A federal warning to beware of campers in national forests who eat tortillas, drink Tecate beer and play Spanish music because they could be armed marijuana growers is racial profiling, an advocate for Hispanic rights said Friday.

The warnings were issued Wednesday by the U.S. Forest Service, which is investigating how much marijuana is being illegally cultivated in Colorado's national forests following the recent discovery of more than 14,000 plants in Pike National Forest.

"That's discriminatory, and it puts Hispanic campers in danger," said Polly Baca, co-chairwoman of the Colorado Latino Forum.

The U.S. Forest Service quickly retracted the warning.

"It is inexcusable and we regret that this insensitivity distracted attention from the real problem of illegal marijuana cultivation on federal land and the threats to human safety and environmental degradation it poses," said Hank Kashdan, associate chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

Forest Service officials said they believe illegal immigrants are being brought to Colorado by Latin American drug cartels for mass cultivation of marijuana.

Michael Skinner, a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado, said warning signs of possible drug trafficking include "tortilla packaging, beer cans, Spam, Tuna, Tecate beer cans," and campers who play Spanish music. He said the warning includes people speaking Spanish.

The warning signs were included in a slide presentation put together for drug agents in Colorado and the public.

Skinner said this may or may not represent criminal activity, but are indicators and he urged any campers who encounter long-term campers meeting the profile to "hike out quickly" and call police.

"Our goal is to not allow organization using foreign nationals or any other persons involved in illegal drug production to take over our national forests," the department warned.

Baca said there is no evidence that Hispanics are the only people involved in large-scale drug operations and said she was "appalled that anyone, especially someone from the federal government, would say something like that."

Marvink Correa, spokesman for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said federal officials are painting an unfair stereotype of Hispanics.

"When I go camping, I'll be sure to play nothing but Bruce Springsteen," he said.

The recent discovery was the second large seizure this summer in Colorado. Two people were arrested, but federal officials refused to provide details, saying the investigation is continuing.

In July, authorities spent more than 24 hours clearing another marijuana growing operation in Pike National Forest. They say the plants' street value was about $2.5 million, but no arrests were made.

bristol; hrmph.


Memphis City Schools alter policy on flunking

In a far-reaching change in culture and strategy, teachers in Memphis City Schools will no longer be allowed to flunk children from prekindergarten through third grade.

It doesn't matter if the child misses weeks of school at a time or has trouble doing the work.

In an extension of the same new policy, children in fourth through eighth grades can be held back only once. Also, officials are replacing "A" through "F" grades for elementary school students with assessments of whether the children meet expectations.

The changes, which take effect this school year, represent a realization that the way children have been traditionally graded is punitive and often based on what is easiest for the teacher, school spokesmen say.

"Prekindergarten through grade 3 is the most fundamental, the most essential developmental period in a child's educational experience," said Deputy Supt. Irving Hamer.

"To retard by that retention is completely wrong-headed," he said, describing retention as a crushing blow to a child's self-esteem.

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This is quickly becoming a gigantic issue here in Memphis. I thought I'd try to see what some perspectives are from people outside this local politics three-ring we've got going on.

And OT: We're having a special mayoral election in October. The debates were on this past Thursday. Just to give you a hint at how things go here: One man running is pro-wrestler Jerry "The King" Lawler. Another is Prince Mongo, who stated at the debate he wanted to give every Memphian an Uzi. ...That is all.

GOP Under Fire For Hinting Dems Would Deny Republicans Health Care

GOP Under Fire For Hinting Dems Would Deny Republicans Health Care

The national Republican Party has mailed a fundraising appeal suggesting Democrats might use an overhaul of the health care system to deny medical treatment to Republicans.

A questionnaire accompanying the appeal says the government could check voting registration records, "prompting fears that GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system."

It asks, "Does this possibility concern you?"

Katie Wright, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said the question was "inartfully worded."

But she said people should worry because government officials would have access to personal financial and medical data.

"The RNC doesn't try to scare people," said Wright. "We're just trying to get the facts out on health care. And that's what we do every day."

Jon Vogel, executive director of the Democratic House campaign organization, called the GOP letter "shameless fear-mongering."
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Rep. Trent Franks: I Came Within Three Days of Launching an Obama Citizenship Lawsuit

Rep. Trent Franks: I Came Within Three Days of Launching an Obama Citizenship Lawsuit

After a week of unwanted attention that seemed to end with him signing on to Rep. Bill Posey’s (R-Fla.) bill to demand birth certificates from future presidential candidates, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) has released the audio and transcriptfrom the town hall where, according to the Mohave Daily News, he had talked about suing for proof of the president’s citizenship.

The real story on what Franks revealed at the town hall? He was “terrified” of Obama and “willing to go into a lawsuit,” and “did all kinds of research” that, at first, did nothing to calm him. He only saw 1961 newspaper reports of Obama’s birth “about three days before we were going to launch a lawsuit.” According to the congressman’s spokeswoman, Bethany Haley, this period of investigation and decision came before the election.

The transcript:

The ironic part about this is I was one of the few Members of Congress that was willing, if I could come up with a way to prove that Barack Obama was not born in this country, I was willing to go into a lawsuit. I don’t know of any other Member of Congress who was willing to do that, because I wanted to make sure that we were protecting both the Constitution and, quite frankly, I was terrified of this guy. But I wanted to do it in a way that comported with the honest evidence that I have in front of me. And so we did all kinds of research. We found all kinds of conflicting research. And we had to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to divorce myself from politics and I’m going to look at the evidence for what it is, and see what we come up with.’ And one of the things that happened, about three days before we were going to launch a lawsuit, is that we found several different newspapers that had shown that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii two years after it became a state. Now, there was no way to have forged that… I just don’t have evidence that shows me that he was not born here. Now, I know that everybody says that they’ve got it, but I’ve never seen it.

Franks posted this at along with a frustrated rant about the media coverage he got. “My actual remarks were the exact opposite of that which was blindly repeated by countless main stream news outlets,” he wrote at the conservative site.

Indeed, the original stories suggested Franks was about to sue, not that he’d considered suing in the past. But the fact that Franks was within 72 hours of filing this before the election is more of a shock than he seems to think it is. At that point, even a frivolous lawsuit, if filed by a member of Congress, could have become a national story.
tw: mumspiration

Read about the Harlem Children's Zone and have faith in humanity restored.

Harlem Program Singled Out as Model
Obama Administration to Replicate Plan in Other Cities to Boost Poor Children

By Robin Shulman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 2, 2009

NEW YORK -- On a recent Saturday morning in Harlem, a few dozen pregnant women in a parenting class made resolutions for life after the baby's birth. Avoid cursing. Provide healthy foods. Develop a sleeping routine for the infant.
"I want my son to be perfect," said Naquell Williams, 22, who is unemployed and pregnant with a child whose father is in prison.

This is the starting point for the Harlem Children's Zone: the womb. Geoffrey Canada's nonprofit has created a web of programs that begin before birth, end with college graduation and reach almost every child growing up in 97 blocks carved out of the struggling central Harlem neighborhood.
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  • de_wood

Italian Women Rise Up

MANY outside Italy seem to assume that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gets away with his sexist behavior because Italian men condone it and the women at least tolerate it. But this is no longer true. Today there are two Italys: one Italy has soaked up Mr. Berlusconi’s ideology either out of self-interest or an inability to resist his enormous powers of persuasion; the other is fighting back.

It’s about time. Mr. Berlusconi’s behavior has been outrageous. When a female student asked him for advice about her financial troubles, he suggested that she marry a man who was rich like his son. (Mr. Berlusconi claimed he was joking.) He has bragged about the beauty of his party’s female parliamentary candidates, and raised eyebrows by putting former starlets into the government. He designated a former model with whom he had publicly flirted to be Minister of Equal Opportunities. This spring, his wife accused him of cavorting with young women and declared that she wanted a divorce.

Why have Italians put up with all this? Compared to those in other European countries, conservative ideas in Italy die hard, in part because of our famously patriarchal culture but also because of the huge influence of the Roman Catholic Church, whose political and social interference in public affairs seems to have become even stronger since Mr. Berlusconi first became prime minister in 1994. (The church, for example, has threatened to excommunicate doctors who prescribe the abortion pill as well as patients who use it.)

Furthermore, Italy’s glass ceiling has proved to be more resistant than it is elsewhere in Europe. Italy ranks 67th out of 130 countries considered in a recent report of the World Economic Forum on the Global Gender Gap Index, ranking lower than Uganda, Namibia, Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, just under half of Italy’s women have jobs, compared with an average of nearly two out of three. At the same time, Italian men have 80 more minutes of leisure time per day — the greatest difference in the 18 countries compared. This is probably explained by the additional time that women devote to unpaid work, like cleaning the house. It is no surprise, then, that many Italian women are unwilling to take on an additional burden of raising children. As a result, the country has an extraordinarily low birthrate.

The Italian media only exacerbate this bleak reality by presenting a picture of women that is incomprehensible to the rest of Europe. Private TV channels have started to broadcast images of women who are typically lightly dressed and silent beauties serving as decoration while older, fully dressed men are running the show. (It is worth noting here that Mr. Berlusconi owns the leading private television networks.)

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Euthanasia is Not Illegal During Natural Disaster or State of Emergency

Doc: I Drugged Patient To "Get Rid Of Her Faster" After Katrina

Louisiana's top prosecutor said Friday he will not reopen a probe into allegations of euthanasia at a hospital crippled by Hurricane Katrina, despite new statements from a doctor that he drugged a terminal patient to "get rid of her faster."

Dr. Ewing Cook said that as staff at Memorial Medical Center desperately tried to care for and evacuate patients, making spot assessments of which ones might survive, he scribbled "pronounced dead at" on the patient's chart, intending to fill in time and other details later.

"I gave her medicine so I could get rid of her faster, get the nurses off the floor," Cook told ProPublica, an independent nonprofit investigative organization, in a report to be published Sunday in The New York Times Magazine.

"There's no question I hastened her demise," he said.

Cook, who was a senior physician at the hospital when the storm hit, said state investigators who previously looked into the Memorial deaths never interviewed him.

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said Friday he would not reopen a probe launched by his predecessor, Charles Foti, in which another doctor and two nurses were arrested on charges of second-degree homicide. A grand jury declined to indict them.

Any new charges, Caldwell said, would be up to New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, who said Friday he had not seen Cook's statements.

"If new evidence comes forward we would consider it," Cannizzaro said. "But the crux of the matter is intent. To prove murder we must be able to prove intent."
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By Law Profit Corporations Puts Shareholders Interest First. Patients Are Just Exploitable Resources

How The Profit-Hungry "Medical-IndustrIal Complex" Hurts Health Care (VIDEO)

"Bill Moyers Journal" aired a new documentary on its show Friday about how the "medical-industrial complex" affects America's health care.
Based on the book "Money-Driven Medicine" by Maggie Mahar, the film looks at why our health care costs are so high and yet the care is so often lacking.

Mahar, who has reported on health care for years, explains the situation as follows:
What I learned, during those years, is that in our health care system, profits often trump patients. A great many people are selling and selling hard. By law, for-profit corporations are supposed to put their shareholders' interests first: this means that they must strive to maximize profits. And this goes a long way toward explaining why U.S. healthcare is so expensive.
Watch a clip from the film below. See the whole thing at Bill Moyers Journal.


S.C. GOP "Disappointed," "Angry," And "Disgusted" WIth Gov. Sanford. Wants Him OUT Soon.

South Carolina GOP "Disappointed," "Angry," And "Disgusted" WIth Gov. Sanford

Republican legislators fumed Saturday over Gov. Mark Sanford's affair and questionable travel, though they stopped short of trying to force his resignation or impeachment before they return to the Statehouse in January.

Still, the House GOP Caucus that dominates the lower chamber with 73 of the body's 124 members made two things clear – they want Sanford gone and they want to act soon. However, lawmakers are waiting to make any decisions until the state ethics commission finishes its investigation. And starting impeachment proceedings now could require a costly and special session.

In all, 56 members were on hand and not one raised a word to defend Sanford, who shocked state residents by disappearing for five days in June to rendezvous with his Argentine lover. Since then, investigations by The Associated Press and a state senator have prompted state Attorney General Henry McMaster to call for an ethics investigation. The probe has been under way for about a week.

State Rep. Rita Allison was an education adviser to Sanford, and he supported her 2008 bid to return to a House seat she had held for years before running for lieutenant governor in 2002. Even Allison was mum when House President Pro Tem Harry Cato said Sanford supporters needed to raise their voices now.

"That's because we want him to resign," Allison said afterward. "He made a choice. It wasn't our choice."

Since news of his affair broke, three Associated Press investigations found Sanford used state aircraft for personal travel, violated state requirements by using high-priced air fare and didn't report use of private aircraft.

Sanford has said the news reports reflect "cherry-picking" of his records and that he only followed the practices set by other governors. He's also brushed aside other criticism and investigations as politically motivated.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said he's been telling Sanford for weeks legislators and the public are angry. On Saturday, he urged the GOP caucus to hold off on any action involving an impeachment resolution until the state Ethics Commission wrapped up its probe.
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Blackwater Founder Accused in Court of Intent to Kill: "I am Innocent! It is a Libural Conspiracy!!"

Blackwater Founder Accused in Court of Intent to Kill

The founder of Blackwater USA deliberately caused the deaths of innocent civilians in a series of shootings in Iraq, attorneys for Iraqis suing the security contractor told a federal judge Friday.

The attorneys singled out Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL who is the company's owner, for blame in the deaths of more than 20 Iraqis between 2005 and 2007. Six former Blackwater guards were criminally charged in 14 of the shootings, and family members and victims' estates sued Prince, Blackwater (now called Xe Services LLC) and a group of related companies.

"The person responsible for these deaths is Mr. Prince,'' Susan L. Burke, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. "He had the intent, he provided the weapons, he provided the instructions, and they were done by his agents and they were war crimes.''

Judge T.S. Ellis III expressed deep skepticism about the claims. "Are you accusing Mr. Prince of saying 'I want our boys to go out and shoot innocent civilians?' '' he asked the attorneys."These are certainly allegations of not engaging in very nice conduct, but where are the elements that meet the elements of murder? I don't have any doubt that you can infer malice. What you can't infer, as far as I can tell, is intent to kill these people.''

Attorneysfor the former Blackwater company denied the allegations at the hearing, which was called to consider their motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Ellis said he would issue a ruling "promptly.''
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yes i do

Some Good News?

A Bipartisan Healthcare Bill in Both Chambers?

It’s sounding likely. The Democrats think they have a Republican in the Senate they can work with to vote “yes” on healthcare reform. No surprises here – it’s Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME]. The New York Times reports:

Ms. Snowe says she wants the public to understand that there is a serious problem, that the health care system is in crisis and that even people who are happy with their current coverage will not stay content for long, given rapidly rising costs and steadily shrinking benefits.

“They may say they are satisfied now,” the senator said in an interview, “but it is going to get worse, given the skyrocketing increases that are only going to persist. Something needs to be done to remove the deep anxiety that people find themselves in because of the lack of health insurance.”

As for the details, Ms. Snowe has been the rare Republican willing to show any interest in a public health insurance plan as an option, though she favors a trigger to institute such a government-operated program only if private health insurers do not make coverage more affordable.

She said Maine’s experience with insurance exchanges to create more flexibility for consumers had persuaded her that for less-populated states, the exchanges had to extend beyond state borders. She also thinks the idea of a reinsurance program to have the federal government absorb the risks of some catastrophic health care costs in an effort to lower private premiums is worth exploring.

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Source here:

First post so hopefully the format's ok

MLP Rainbow Dash nahnah

Godless pet care in the End of Days

Atheists offer to care for Christians' pets after the Rapture

By Matthew Moore

It's a question that all animal-loving Christian evangelicals must address: who will look after their pets on Earth when the Rapture comes and they are taken up to heaven?

Now a group of atheists in the US have come up with a tongue-in-cheek solution, offering to take in the cats and dogs of "saved" believers in return for a small fee.

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I'm not sure if this counts as a con or not, or if I'm a bad person since it amuses me.

ETA: Found the group's website. Sadly can't find any information on signing up to be one of the atheist pet care providers.

Iraqi who threw shoes at Bush to be released early

BAGHDAD – An Iraqi journalist imprisoned for hurling his shoes at former President George W. Bush will be released next month after his sentence was reduced for good behavior, his lawyer said Saturday.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi's act of protest during Bush's last visit to Iraq as president turned the 30-year-old reporter into a folk hero across the Arab world, as his case became a rallying point for critics who resented the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation.

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i want joe biden i need joe biden

(no subject)

Have any of you gone to health care rallies/town hall meetings lately? Tell about your experience!

I went to one in Austin today (with my roommate villainism) with Lloyd Doggett. I was hoping to shake his hand and tell he's my faaavorite, but I only just barely saw him while he was in a rush to get inside. We had a chance to cut in line and get inside to see him speak, but we ended up deciding to stay outside and counter-protest the protesters. Our signs were amazing, even if the backs of them both would have only been funny to people in this community.

(Mine on the left, villainism's on the right)


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Right-wing bias and the BBC

by David Semple

Sunny highlights an interesting article in the recent New Statesman, by Mehdi Hasan, which argues that far from being biased towards the Left, the BBC is pro-Establishment.

What Sunny doesn’t highlight is the ‘twin’ of this article, written by Peter Hitchens, which attempts to refute the contentions of Hassan, asserting instead that of course the BBC is left-wing, though BBC bigwigs are unlikely to notice it, having never questioned their own assumptions in their journey from Oxbridge junior common rooms to White City.

Because the Oxbridge universities are such a bastion of socialism. Beyond such absurdities, however, I think the Hitchens article is much more instructive than its Hasan counterpart. The Hitchens article is mostly waffle, rarely reaching for examples which can be said to encompass the whole of BBC political, social and cultural coverage – whereas the previous allegiances of people like Andrew Neil and Nick Robinson probably do have an effect on coverage – but to dismiss Hitchens is to miss an incisive and important point.

“What troubles the BBC is not a party bias. (…) It is a set of potent cultural, moral, social, sexual and religious assumptions, which touch on all topics from cannabis to the EU, and which affect everything from the plot-lines of The Archers to the use of the metric system on nature programmes.”

A set of potent cultural, moral, social, sexual and religious assumptions. Hitchens is absolutely correct – but then the same is true about every individual and every organisation. It’s not a big deal that Hitchens is correct; it is his choice of words to describe the nature of BBC assumptions. I can feel the hairs on my neck rise as I wonder what he means by ’sexual assumptions’. I can almost see the accumulated and vengeful anger of social conservatism reaching out from dead years gone by to strangle all the social change feared and resented by white, Anglican, men.

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Source: Liberal Conspiracy