September 3rd, 2009

Murasaki Shikibu
  • homasse

Yeah, that sadly sounds about right...

Freed reporters say they were dragged into NKorea

SAN FRANCISCO – Two American television reporters imprisoned in North Korea for months say communist soldiers "violently dragged" them back when they returned to Chinese soil after briefly crossing into the reclusive country.

In an article posted Tuesday on Current TV's Web site, Laura Ling and Euna Lee said they hesitantly followed their guide when he beckoned them across a frozen river into the North and were "firmly back" on the Chinese side when North Korean border guards grabbed them on March 17.

"We tried with all our might to cling to bushes, ground, anything that would keep us on Chinese soil, but we were no match for the determined soldiers," the journalists wrote in their most thorough account of the circumstances of their arrest. "They violently dragged us back across the ice to North Korea and marched us to a nearby army base, where we were detained."

At the time of their arrest, the two were reporting a story for San Francisco-based Current TV about North Korean women who were forced into the sex trade or arranged marriages when they defected to China. After their capture, Lee and Ling were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for trespassing and "hostile acts" against North Korea.

The women were moved to a Pyongyang guesthouse and held there until the North pardoned them in early August after a landmark trip to Pyongyang by former President Bill Clinton.

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South Africa Objects to a White Citizen’s Refugee Status in Canada



OTTAWA — The South African government is protesting a Canadian decision granting refugee status to a white South African who said he was attacked by blacks because of his race.

A tribunal of the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled that the South African, Brandon Huntley, could remain in Canada because he had provided “clear and convincing proof of the state’s inability or unwillingness to protect him,” according to a copy of the ruling, dated Aug. 27, provided by Mr. Huntley’s lawyer.

The chairman of the tribunal, William Davis, added in the written decision provided by the lawyer, “I find that the claimant would stand out like a ‘sore thumb’ due to his color in any part of the country.”

While Canada does not release details of its refugee claim decisions, this appears to be the first time a white South African has been granted protection for race-related reasons, according to Mr. Huntley’s lawyer, Russell L. Kaplan.

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The Globe and Mail also has an article here.
i want joe biden i need joe biden

Finger Bitten Off In Fight At Health Care Rally



A 65-year-old man's finger bitten was off at a health care rally Wednesday night in Thousand Oaks, California. KTLA reports that the man was part of an anti-reform crowd:

About 100 protesters sponsored by MoveOn.org were having a rally supporting health care reform. A group of anti-health care reform protesters formed across the street.

A witness from the scene says a man was walking through the anti-reform group to get to the pro-reform side when he got into an altercation with the 65-year-old, who opposes health care reform.

The injured man walked to Los Robles hospital. Sheriff's investigators were investigating. Neither party was identified by midnight Pacific time.

A blogger who witnessed the fight from the pro-reform side says that the finger-biter was provoked:

The man in the orange shirt hit the pro-reform guy (I'm going to call him PR Guy just to keep the players straight). Hard. ... He punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and into that thruway. ... He got up, tried to get back up on the curb, but Orange Shirt guy was in his face. Finger in his face, PR Guy standing, steps up to the curb, and there's a scuffle. Orange shirt seemed to have PR Guy in a hold, but again, I was across the street, so won't state that as absolute fact. Next thing I see is PR Guy's hat being tossed into the street, both yelling at one another, then Orange shirt walks away, PR Guy picks up hat and crosses to our side.

When he gets to our side, he tells a story in one sentence: "He punched me hard, straight in the face, so I bit his finger off."


omfg

Moscow Subway station commemorates the Stalin era...






MOSCOW - Russian liberals voiced outrage on Thursday at a "scandalous" restoration in which an inscription praising Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was returned to a Moscow subway (metro) station.


The outcry came after officials unveiled a restored entry hall to Kurskaya metro station in central Moscow featuring all the details of the structure's original 1950 appearance — including the slogan lauding Stalin.


"Stalin raised us to be loyal to the nation, inspired us to labour and great deeds," says the inscription, which is taken from an early version of the Soviet national anthem.


Liberal politicians and human rights activists say the inscription glorifies a dictator responsible for the death and imprisonment of millions in the Soviet Union's notorious gulag prison system.


"This is scandalous . . . Stalinism meant a monstrous genocide committed against the people of the USSR," Moscow city lawmaker Sergei Mitrokhin, a leader of the liberal Yabloko party, told AFP.


Mitrokhin also linked the restoration to what he described as a sinister campaign by the current Russian government to improve Stalin's image and downplay his crimes in a bid to boost patriotic feelings.






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  • Current Music
    NKVDemon " on the bones of our ememies"
Kissing Parts

Obama speech to students: Not all parents want their kids to see it

The speech, to be shown in many schools, will praise education.

Some Utah parents have already made up their minds about a speech President Barack Obama plans to give to students about the importance of education: They don't want their children watching it.
In the speech, which will be broadcast live online at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Obama will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning, according to the U.S. Department of Education, which has urged schools to join in the "historic" event, even providing age-appropriate classroom activities.

But in Utah and nationwide, conservative voices are saying they don't want their kids "forced" to watch the speech, fearing it will eat up precious class time with political or policy messages. Officials from the Alpine, Jordan, Canyons and Granite school districts say they have fielded complaints from concerned parents.
Nationally, the Virginia State Superintendent is urging schools "to make reasonable accommodations for students whose parents may object." In Texas, parents are threatening to boycott schools, according to The Houston Chronicle . And in Florida, the head of the state Republican Party labeled the address an inappropriate "indoctrination" to the President's "socialist" agenda.

Granite, Jordan, Salt Lake City and Davis districts are sending letters to principals saying that if they plan to broadcast the speech, they should warn parents and provide alternate activities for students who don't want to watch it. Canyons is sending home letters to parents today along with waivers they can sign if they don't want their children to watch the speech. Canyons only plans to show the live speech to secondary students because of district-wide testing in the elementary schools, said Jennifer Toomer-Cook, district spokeswoman.
Majestic Elementary PTA president Jennifer Walters doesn't see what all the fuss is about. She said she's pleased and surprised that the president would take time out of his busy schedule to address kids.
"Anytime a president gives a speech, kids should probably hear it, at least the older ones," said the West Jordan mom. "I'm all for anything that makes kids feel good about school."

Utah districts, however, are taking special care, partly because of controversy that arose this week after a Farmington school showed students a video, unrelated to Obama's upcoming speech, that featured celebrities making pledges to Obama and the world. Some parents at that school were offended, saying the video contained liberal, inappropriate or disagreeable messages. School districts are trying to make sure educators and parents know Obama's Tuesday speech has nothing to do with the "I Pledge" video.

It's uncertain how many Utah schools will telecast Tuesday's speech. But "many parents and media members may be paying close attention," warned Salt Lake district spokesman Jason Olsen Wednesday in a letter to principals. If parents have complained, Olsen says he isn't aware of it. That's true for Davis district, too, said spokesman Christopher Williams. Granite, however, has received at least a dozen complaints from parents, said district spokesman Ben Horsley. "We don't believe that's a political message. It's a positive message our students need to hear."

The Alpine district has also received more than a dozen complaints, said district spokeswoman Rhonda Bromley.
"Parents, of course, at any time can excuse their kids from school for any reason," Bromley said. "Certainly, though, as part of social studies curriculum we talk about the role of the federal government, talk about the role of the president and we talk about the fact that we respect the role of the president."
Gayle Ruzicka, president of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, said she's heard from more than 20 upset parents. Ruzicka said she doesn't see a problem with the speech if it really is just about education, but if it carries other messages, that's a problem.

"I do believe whoever the president is that's speaking to school children, parents do need to find out what the speech is about," Ruzicka said. "Is it going to be political speech or is it going to be a patriotic speech? We have an obligation to our children to find out what they're being taught."
One remedy for worried parents, said Ruzicka, would be to go to their children's schools and watch the speech with them. She said the Utah Eagle Forum will also likely send out a letter letting parents know about the speech.

Suzanne Walker, Midvale Elementary PTA president, said Obama's address doesn't worry her. But she says last week's "I Pledge" video exemplifies why parents should be involved in schools.
"I agree with a lot of what Obama has planned. But asking my kids to pledge and do things that I don't support, I have a problem with that," Walker said.

President Barack Obama will give a speech about the importance of education that federal education officials would like American students to watch while they are at school. The speech will be broadcast live Tuesday, 10 a.m. at www.whitehouse.gov/live/ . For more information, visit http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/academic/bts.html .

Source

Fucking FAIL. He's trying to encourage kids about education, and you're going to freak out? Really? REALLY? There is not enough /headdesk in the world for this. And boycotting schools, and calling it "indoctrination into a socialist agenda"? I kind of feel like I should point out that an ignorant populace is a more easily controlled populace, but I don't want to give your game away, right-wing crazies.
hay / steve

Public Scolding Infuriates Breastfeeding Mother



Lauren Trost Is Planning A Public Lincoln Square Nurse-In

CHICAGO (CBS) ― Many mothers believe breastfeeding is as natural as giving birth. But what about doing it public? One mother is now taking a stand after she was criticized for doing just that. CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot reports the incident is triggering a vocal response.

Lauren Trost answers the hunger cries of her son Hank by breastfeeding him.

"He benefits from it completely," Trost said. "He's never been sick. He's super healthy."

Trost says she always nurses her 7-month-old son discreetly in Lincoln Square. That's why she says she was stunned when a woman recently threatened her by saying:

"'I'm going to call the police, and then I said, 'please call the police,'" Trost said. "She said, 'what you're doing is indecent, there are children here.' And I said, 'I'm just feeding my baby.'"

Nursing a child in public is not against the law in Illinois. Trost says she's telling her story to reinforce that fact. She also plans to hold a public nurse-in with other mothers to get her point across.

"I don't want other moms to feel the way I felt when that woman approached me," Trost said.

Some parents in Lincoln Square were taken aback by what happened to Trost.

"I think it's totally fine. You have to feed your baby," said mother Tracey Buckley.

"It's sort of unrealistic and wrong, and I'd probably be inclined to come to the breastfeeding mother's defense in that situation," said father Jeremy McMillan.

Others see things differently.

"In public, people look, other people look, guys look, little kids look, older kids look, you know, it's not right," said Abra Finkelstein.

"I think that other people should consider what they say to other women about what they're doing with their children," Trost said. "In no way was I doing anything that was inappropriate."

Trost is planning a nurse-in on Friday in Lincoln Square. She plans to have about 20 to 30 mothers breastfeeding their babies in public.

Pop-out(!) video at source
kirk/spock choking

Am I the only one that thought the title was a Trek reference?

Should Children Redshirt Kindergarten?
Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman



Every September, the class of incoming American kindergartners is ever slightly older.

In the U.S.,kids who start kindergarten must be at least five years-old. In theory, that seems like a clear-cut, easy enough rule – like the "You must be this tall to go on this ride" sign at an amusement park. But what’s driving the trend toward an older kindergarten class is the increasing number of 6-year-old “redshirted” kids, whose parents have delayed their entry.
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Muslims in Europe: they don't melt in your mouth or in your hand.

Europe and Islam: A treacherous path?

Aug 27th 2009
From The Economist print edition
A pessimist’s view of what Islamic immigration may be doing to Europe


muslims

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Euro-Sauce

thoughts? comments? feelings? attitudes? emotions?

I'm not European or muslim so I have little opinion on this matter, but I thought it was interesting and I wanted to see what you guys all thought.
JL: Annoyed J. Law

Obama’s Sept. 9 Address Could Boost Glee, America’s Next Top Model Premieres

President Obama is now scheduled to address a joint session of Congress during prime-time on September 9. Exactly when hasn’t been set, but it’s likely to be 9pm Eastern (although the last Obama prime-time address/press conference was quickly rescheduled from 9pm to 8pm after some of the broadcasters balked, and Fox Broadcasting didn’t carry the address, but Fox News did).

But the fall premieres of Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance and Glee are both currently scheduled for September 9. Whether the address is at 8pm or 9pm, it completely screws up Fox’s night since those shows are scheduled for synergy.

For that reason, and the fact that Fox Broadcasting declined to carry the last address, I’d expect them to decline this time as well. The CW has the season premiere of America’s Next Top Model, but they never carry news conferences, so they will benefit regardless.

Since the address will likely happen at 9pm, I’d expect Glee, and to a lesser extent America’s Next Top Model to benefit in the ratings. Primarily because if NBC carries the address (which I’d expect them to), they’ll have to move the 9pm results episode of America’s Got Talent to either 8pm or 10pm, getting it out of Glee’s way. (if the address is at 8pm, So You Think You Can Dance will be the beneficiary, but much less so, since it would only have faced a repeat AGT). America’s Next Top Model is going to face the new AGT for an hour either way, so its boost would likely be much less.

http://tvbythenumbers.com/2009/09/02/obamas-sept-9-address-could-boost-glee-americas-top-model-premieres/26113
normal

GOP Latest Idea: Fraud

The GOP's Fake Doctor Council
How Obamacare opponents scam physicians and the public.

Can the Republican Party draft a doctor, entirely against his will and political inclination, into the Kill Obamacare movement? Well, it can try. Here is what happened to a high-school acquaintance of mine, a physician and medical school professor, who prefers that I not use his name. I'll call him Fred.

Fred received by fax a draft press release from Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who is an orthopedist, head of the Republican Study Committee, and chairman of something called the Physicians' Council for Responsible Reform. According to its Web site, this group seeks "to defeat Members of Congress who support 'ObamaCare' in the upcoming 2010 elections." The PCRR is a front for the National Republican Congressional Committee. The draft press release listed Fred's name along with 32 others as members of the council, "comprised of physicians who are respected by their peers." These worthies, it said, "will be receiving special briefings and providing input to Republican members of Congress," including House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, "during their deliberations of the Obama administration's efforts to reform health care." On the draft press release, Fred's name was circled and connected by a line to the margin note, "Your name here."

A handwritten note on the cover sheet explained:

Because of your invaluable experience, we are asking you to represent California as a consultant on the Physicians' Council.

We're running a press release to honor the achievements of you and other concerned physicians like you. Please call me with your approval at 1-877-416-7188.


Fred phoned the number and was connected to an employee at an InfoCision call center in Austintown, Ohio. The employee pretended to work for the Physicians' Council. This person played Fred a prerecorded message from Rep. Price:

There's a very real threat of Washington interfering even more with doctors' efforts to provide the best possible care for their patients. And I'm afraid that declining reimbursements, frivolous lawsuits, and total governmental control of health care could be just the beginning of our worries. … Please stay on the line for my assistant, who will explain how I'd like for you to get involved. Your input is vital to our efforts.

But Rep. Price's "assistant," Fred says, assured him that his "input" would consist entirely of having his name listed on the press release. This agrees with the testimony of another M.D. on the Daily Kos, who said he was told "it would require absolutely no time commitment."

The NRCC's "physicians' council" is dishonest in two ways.

1. Quite obviously there is no Physicians' Council for Responsible Reform. Serving on a real council requires some commitment of time. You can't receive "special briefings" and provide "input to Republican members of Congress" if you're just a name on a page. The real purpose is to identify doctors riled up enough about Obamacare that they'll give money to the NRCC. (Good luck getting that face time with Minority Leader Boehner if you don't write a check.) Since June, the NRCC has raised more than $1.2 million this way.

2. Fred believes that had he never phoned back and requested his name be removed, it would have remained there. When I asked a call center employee whether that was true, I was told it was not. But the draft press release did imply, falsely, that the other physicians listed had already agreed to be on the council. Yet when I phoned another name on the list—an oncologist in Missouri whom I'll call Dr. Blank because, like Fred, he never asked to be included—I was told that Dr. Blank had not agreed to join. The NRCC is employing a variation on the old Georgetown dinner-party trick of leveraging Henry Kissinger by saying Alice Roosevelt Longworth is coming, then leveraging Alice Roosevelt Longworth by saying Henry Kissinger is coming. When committed on a large scale for a purpose weightier than social climbing, we call this fraud.

Another PCRR solicitation faxed to yet another doctor has been posted on the liberal Web site Think Progress. This draft press release contains an entirely different set of names from the one with Fred's name. That suggests assembling members for the Physician's Council requires quite a lot of energetic prospecting, as fundraising typically does
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God Stopped Talking to Michele bachmann... so New Voices Are Telling Her What to Do Now...

Bachmann ‘hearing voices’ other than God’s, says top Dem

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s talk of stopping health care reform by fasting, praying and wrist-slitting has prompted not only lefty pundits but a top Democratic colleague to question what’s going on between her ears. Jim Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, remarked Tuesday: “I don’t think God’s talking to her anymore. I think she’s hearing other voices.”

Bachmann said in 2006 that she was running for Congress on God’s recommendation (video), and last month said she would run for president if she “felt that’s what the Lord was calling me to do.”

It wasn’t a one-off gag line for Oberstar, who earlier called Bachmann “a sweet woman” but had this advice for elderly health care reform advocates in Duluth who were planning to visit her: ”Tell her that there are voices other than God that are informing her.” [Via Tom Elko]

It wasn’t immediately clear whether one of those voices is that of Rep. Ron Paul, who has Bachmann’s ear on financial policy and will appear with her at a town hall in her district this month.
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Michael Steele: Why The Hate?

Michael Steele: Meet Amanda Duzak

Tuesday night at Howard University, RNC chair Michael Steele did an impression of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz: he was absolutely heartless. Not everyday do we see the head of a major political party insult a 23 year old whose mother just died of cancer
.

But first let's set the scene:

Steele spoke at Howard in front of roughly 150 students as part of his outreach program to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. His effort to connect with young black students got off to a rather cringe-worthy start when right before the billed "student dialogue" two dozen white members of area young Republican groups arrived to sit in the reserved first two rows of the packed room. One wondered, as students grumbled, if Steele hired John Ashcroft to be his event manager.

But the discomfort turned to boredom as Steele's "dialogue" turned quickly into a monologue. The RNC chair went on a long rambling speech about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, while the texting audience strained to stay awake. There was no impassioned argument or defense of the Republican Party and any questions in the "dialogue" had to be submitted in writing while Steele spoke. The only thing that caused even a raised eyebrow was Steele's occasional effort at slang. When a student told Steele she was going into business law he said, "Business law! Mo money!"

But when challenged, Steele exposed himself, and it was awful to see the Tin Man's tin ear. When the RNC chair took a written question on health care, he blasted the public option, saying that "every time the government gets involved in something it doesn't work."


Then came Amanda Duzak, and Steele's evening just got a whole lot worse.


Duzak, a 23 year old Towson University grad, stood up, against the rules and out of turn.

"My mother died of cancer 6 months ago because she could only afford three of her six prescription chemotherapy medications," she projected. "There are 50 million people in this country who could end up like my mom, suffering or dying because they do not have adequate health care. Everyone in this room and everyone in this country should have access to good health care."

The room woke up and other than those glaring from the front, the applause was wall to wall. But it's Steele's response that makes this moment both newsworthy and a terrible comment on his character. After saying that he believed in a mature, honest discussion and not in shouting, Steele said, "People are coming to these town meetings and they're like [he then shakes]." He then looked and gestured right at Ms. Duzak and said, "It makes for great TV. You'll probably make it tonight, enjoy it." He then turned his back to her, as the crowd clapped.
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Akuma River

bring out the pitchforks, Station Fire was ARSON!

Photobucket
Photo: Operations Section Chiefs Don Will, left, and Roy Dull give firefighters the latest information before they head out to the fire during a 6 a.m. briefing at the Station fire inter-agency command center at Hansen Dam Park. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

fire
Morris and Station Fires

Station fire was arson; homicide investigation begins (Sept 03, 2009 - LA Times - Ari B. Bloomekatz)

The Station fire has been classified as an arson fire, and authorities have launched a homicide investigation.

The massive blaze, which killed two firefighters, has been under investigation for days, with the focus being on a road turnout along Angeles Crest Highway north of La Cañada Flintridge.

“Forensic examination has led this team effort to conclude … that it was an act of arson," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore.

The Station fire, which has burned about 144,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest, is the largest fire in L.A. County history. Two firefighters died Sunday during a rescue effort, when their vehicle plunged down a mountain.

On Wednesday, investigators hunched under a scorched, 20-foot-tall oak tree off Angeles Crest Highway, using wire mesh sifters to search through the ash in an attempt to determine whether the Station fire was deliberately set.


Near Mile Marker 29, authorities were treating the fire's suspected ignition site as a crime scene. Yellow tape cordoned off the area and authorities blocked the highway, turning away even Caltrans workers and earthmovers. Members of the bomb squad also arrived at the scene but officials declined to say what their role was in the probe.

"We believe it is the point of origin," Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Mike McCormick said Wednesday. "They are doing a finely detailed, serious, serious search and investigation. We lost two firefighters in this."

—Ari B. Bloomekatz

On ABC World News it mentioned that they were unsure if it was arson or a Parks Employee who did it. So are they referring to arson as in it was an employee or it was some unknown who set it?


New fire erupts on Palos Verdes Peninsula, but aggressive response saves homes (Sept 03, 2009 - LA Times - Jeff Gottlieb)
Firefighters are warned to lay off energy drinks [Updated] (Sept 03, 2009 - LA Times - Robert Gauthier)
Huge swath of Angeles National Forest is closed to the public because of Station fire (Sept 03, 2009 - LA Times - Ari B. Bloomekatz at Hansen Dam)
Firefighters holding back flames on both western and eastern flanks of fire (Sept 03, 2009 - LA Times - Irfan Khan)
Gold Creek Road residents who refused to evacuate survive Station fire (Sept 03, 2009 - LA Times - Ari B. Bloomekatz at Hansen Dam)
For now, Station fire spares Stony Ridge Observatory (Sept 03, 2009 - LA Times - Corina Knoll)
Firefighters battle to save homes near Pacoima Canyon (Sept 03, 2009 - LA Times - Louis Sahagun)
Amid progress, firefighters make stand on Station fire's western and eastern flanks (Sept 03, 2009 - LA Times - Ari B. Bloomekatz and Louis Sahagun at Hansen Dam and Ann M. Simmons in Santa Anita Canyon)

~
2nd Sept 01, 2009 Fire post | 1st Sept 01, 2009 Fire post | August 31, 2009 Fire post


Wildfire mapping: Times' photos mapped, new icons and good news from the front (Sept 03, 2009 - LA Times - Rong-Gong Lin II)
Interactive Map of the Fires
Air Quality Maps of Califoria
Residents return to see burned homes in Big Tujunga Canyon (Sepetember 01, 2009 - LA Times - Alexandra Zavis in Big Tujunga Canyon)
Supervisor says county's emergency notification system failed during fires (Sept 01, 2009 - LA Times - Garrett Therolf)
Make your home more fire-ready (Sept 02, 2009 - LA Times - David Lazarus)
As hills near L.A. burned, TV was -- where? (Sept 02, 2009 - LA Times - MARY McNAMARA
Television Critic)
trapdoor

Teen not guilty of murdering mother's boyfriend.


A 15-YEAR-OLD boy who killed his mother's violent criminal boyfriend by stabbing him in the face has been found not guilty of his murder in Brisbane.

The slightly built boy - one of the youngest Queenslanders to stand trial for murder - wept openly as a Brisbane Supreme Court jury found him not guilty of the stabbing murder of the 39-year-old man at the family's Kingston unit, 25km southeast of Brisbane, on November 24, 2007.

Members looked sympathetically at the boy as he sat, with a look of emptiness, as their spokesman said they found him not guilty of both the boyfriend's murder and his manslaughter.

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[bwhishaw] cool whip

Won't someone please think of the children?

Local schools won't show Obama speech

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- President Barack Obama will talk to the nation's school children in a special address next Tuesday, but many local districts will not show the speech in their classrooms.

Administrators say they need to review the talk first, to see how it could fit into lesson plans. And some parents say they don't want the President's speech shown to their children.

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[the colbert report] :D
  • imti

Coveted Ambassadorships Go To Obama Fundraisers

by Michele Kelemen

Japan's recent elections have ushered in a period of political change, and the new government is likely to revise its relationship with the United States. The Obama administration's new ambassador to Japan is not an expert on the region, but rather a Silicon Valley lawyer and political fundraiser.

This is just one sign of how President Obama is continuing a time-honored tradition of rewarding donors with plum assignments abroad.

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