September 19th, 2009

Akuma River

CBS vs Dan Rather

Erasing Dan Rather (September 16, 2009 - The Daily Beast - Lloyd Grove) <- I didn't add the links to the post, go to source for them

The epic legal battle between CBS and its estranged ex-anchorman has taken a nasty new turn. Rather's camp accuses the network of holding footage of him hostage.

The titanic legal struggle between Dan Rather and CBS seems to get pettier by the day.

The trouble started with Rather’s much-criticized, ultimately career-ending 60 Minutes II report on President George W. Bush’s military record, just before the 2004 election. It resulted in his 2007 breach-of-contract and fraud suit against the network and its parent company, Viacom. But as the $70 million suit heads for possible trial in January—with yet another preliminary hearing scheduled next Monday in New York State Supreme Court—the tone has grown increasingly bitter, and the shrapnel is flying thick and fast.
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It's late, I just finished the massive Iran update page in which I spent eight hours reading and adding code. So there's no bolding for the tl;dr crowd.
Akuma River

The ways in which to have a kid

10 Ways to Have a Baby (September 13, 2009 - The Daily Beast - Doree Shafrir) <- I didn't add links in the story to the post

From embryo adoption to sperm washing, making a baby is easier—and more complicated—than ever. Doree Shafrir on parenthood's new frontier.

Today's birth announcements come in all shapes and sizes. "Steve and Michael are Preggers!" "Sally, Maria, and Sebastian are Having Twins!" "It's an Adopted Frozen Embryo!"

We live in an age when the obsession with having a child has reached a fever pitch. Single men and women, and couples gay and straight, have more options than ever before—and they're taking advantage of every single one of them. The $4 billion fertility industry has couples going to untold lengths to conceive, and has pushed pregnancy toward the realm of science fiction. People are adopting embryos that would have otherwise been used for stem-cell research, and HIV-infected sperm is being washed clean so it can fertilize an egg. (Whose egg? Maybe the 50-something single lesbian's.) There are sperm banks offering discounts to soldiers who want to store their sperm for their wives to impregnate themselves with in case they die overseas. And more and more often, close family members are acting as surrogates.

With the art of baby-making going from surrealist to abstract, The Daily Beast talked to couples (and singles) whose paths to parenthood were circuitous, but perhaps all the more touching for the length of the journey.
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It's late, I just finished the massive Iran update page in which I spent eight hours reading and adding code. So there's no bolding for the tl;dr crowd.

What used to be only two ways adoption and being knocked up has now become 10. Which is your favorite? Or most unusual. I personally think Dan Savage FTW! But a snowflake (really? they are called that? why? because it's white??)
Akuma River

The intersex are having their stonewall moment

Don't Call Them Hermaphrodites (September 16, 2009 - The Daily Beast - Joseph Huff-Hannon) <- links in the article are found at the source page I was too lazy to add them

They prefer the term "intersex." And now that a South African track star has thrust them into the spotlight, this surprisingly large minority group thinks their Stonewall moment just may have arrived.

When Caitlin Childs first heard about South African track star Caster Semenya, who was asked to submit to a gender-verification test after her gold-medal win at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin last month, she braced herself for the deluge of ill-informed media analysis. She didn’t have to wait very long.

“There was a lot of dehumanizing language tossed around about Semenya,” Caitlin says. “The word hermaphrodite was used a lot, which is pretty offensive. It was upsetting to see all of these people pop up who seem to think they have the right to speculate about what somebody else’s body looks like.”
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It's late, I just finished the massive Iran update page in which I spent eight hours reading and adding code. So there's no bolding for the tl;dr crowd.
Akuma River

Iran's Animal Farm

Iran’s Animal Farm (September 10, 2009 - Tehran Bureau - HANA H. in Tehran)

Animal Farm meets 1984

Iranian politics is an unpredictable madhouse made up of all the crazies, majorly deluded and mentally deranged thrown in with a few sane and semi-rational beings.

It is a terrain where short-term memory loss is a common characteristic and some people are more equal and others are definitely above the law.
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1984 refers to a very bloody time in the Iran/Iraq war. The author is using it to signify how crazy things have gone since the election. The comment about the homosexuals is because in Iraq it is a crime (the act of sodomy) punishable by death and yet they are hearing more and more of rape of young boys and old men. The world as they have known it as Iran has been turned upside down and nothing is making sense anymore.

P.S. no matter how patronizing the piece is, I posted it because it is from a person in Tehran, Iran and it is their opinion on what is going on and how the people think and feel about the chaos that has come since the election.
Akuma River

Iran allows first Transexual Marriage

And now for the WTF news from Iran. It's a doozy, at least it was to me. I felt it was kinda...hypocritical to allow one thing and not the other Even though, I truly love that transexuals are accepted there it makes me wonder why not homosexuals as well?

Iran set to allow first transsexual marriage (September 11, 2009 - The Guardian - Robert Tait)

Woman wins court battle for father's approval to marry schoolfriend who has undergone sex-change operation

Iran is set to allow what is believed to be its first transsexual marriage after the would-be bride asked a court to override her father's opposition to the match.

The woman, named only as Shaghayegh, told Tehran's family court that she wanted to wed her best friend from school, who had recently undergone a sex-change operation to become a man, but was unable to obtain her father's blessing, as legally required.

Now her father has agreed to permit the union on condition that the male partner, Ardashir, who was previously a woman called Negar, undergoes a medical examination intended to prove it would be a proper male-female relationship.

The case comes against the backdrop of Iran's notoriously repressive policies on homosexuality, which is illegal under the country's strict theocratic code. Gay rights groups have accused the authorities of executing homosexuals, although officials deny the charge.

The father's change of heart came after he was summoned to court to explain his opposition. He told the judge, Alireza Sedaghati, that he had been driven by "fear of humiliation".

"During the last several years, Ardashir came to our house many times and all the neighbours and relatives know him as a girl," he said.

"Now she has changed gender and turned into a man, I can't sit and watch my daughter's friend turning into my son-in-law."

But he relented in the face of his daughter's insistence that she be allowed to wed Ardashir.

"Ardashir and I have been together since adolescence and know each other very well. This familiarity can make us happy," she told the court.

Etemaad newspaper reported that the two had been friends for 12 years after meeting at school and had later studied at the same university, where their close relationship had been well known to fellow students.

After graduating, Negar changed sex under Iran's Islamic laws which deem transsexuals religiously permissible, in contrast to the blanket ban on homosexuality, which is considered a sin.

Iran carries out more sex change operations than any other country apart from Thailand after the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution, issued a religious fatwa approving the practice, which has government funding. Critics have suggested that some of those changing sex are not true transsexuals but gays or lesbians who feel forced into the operation by social pressure.

Akuma River

Afghanistan if we pull out now

Afghanistan: a question of stamina (August 30, 2009 - The Guardian - Doug Beattie)

We must finish the job in Afghanistan – the geopolitical alternative is too terrible to consider

They say it is darkest just before dawn – in Afghanistan it is hard to imagine we are not close to that darkest hour. This has been the bloodiest year so far for Isaf forces, with July and August particularly bad for the British in Helmand.

But before those clamouring for us to leave the country to its fate get their way, perhaps we should consider exactly what that fate might be.
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How come we don't have a war tag?

Being a Cop, a Fireman or Pregnant is a Pre-Existing Condition Now...

Acne, Pregnancy Among Disqualifying Conditions

A proposal to make preexisting health conditions irrelevant in the sale of insurance policies could help not just the seriously ill but also people who might consider themselves healthy, documents released Friday by a California-based advocacy group illustrate.

Health insurers have issued guidelines saying they could deny coverage to people suffering from such conditions as acne, hemorrhoids and bunions.

One big insurer refused to issue individual policies to police officers and firefighters, along with people in other hazardous occupations.

Some treated pregnancy or the intention to adopt as a reason for rejection.

As Congress and President Obama work on legislation to overhaul the nation's health-care system, one of their main objectives is to stop insurers from denying coverage on the basis of health status. Proposed legislation would prohibit insurers from denying coverage to individuals with preexisting conditions or charging them higher premiums because of their medical history -- practices known as medical underwriting.

Even the insurance lobby has endorsed that goal as part of a larger reform package in which the government would extend coverage to the uninsured, greatly expanding the market for insurance.

Guidelines that insurance companies have written for professionals involved in selling policies offer a glimpse inside the underwriting process.

"What these documents show is the lengths to which insurance companies are willing to go to make a profit," said Jerry Flanagan, health-care policy director of the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, which distributed the documents Friday. "What it shows is that insurance companies want premiums without any risk."

Consumer Watchdog argues that consumers should be given the option of enrolling in a government-run health plan. It obtained the documents from a California insurance broker, Flanagan said.

A PacifiCare "Medical Underwriting Guidelines" document from 2003 lists under "Ineligible Occupations" such risk-takers as stunt people, test pilots and circus workers -- along with police officers, firefighters and migrant workers.

Uninsurable conditions included pregnancy, and being an "expectant father" was grounds for "automatic rejection." So was having received "therapy/counseling" within six months of the application. There was also this more general disqualifier: "currently experiencing/experienced within the last 12 months symptoms for which a physician has not been consulted."

The PacifiCare document "is completely outdated and predates the acquisition of PacifiCare by United Healthcare," Cheryl J. Randolph, a spokeswoman for the parent company, said by e-mail. She declined to provide current underwriting documents.

"Underwriting enables insurers to adequately assess risks, keeping premium costs lower for more consumers," she added.

Health Net guidelines for 2006 say that people could be denied coverage or charged higher premiums if they were taking certain medications, including Zyrtec, an allergy remedy, and Lamisil, which is widely advertised as a treatment for toenail fungus.

Pregnant women could be rejected, as could expectant fathers, the document said.

A Health Net spokeswoman did not respond to requests to comment.

Blue Cross of California guidelines for 2004 said potential disqualifiers included chronic tonsillitis and, under certain circumstances, varicose veins.

Kristin E. Binns, a spokeswoman for parent company WellPoint, said by e-mail that she could not comment on the guidelines because they are from years ago.
because of me- because of me

Oh Hey, How About a REAL Post about the Missile Shield this Time!!

September 18, 2009
White House Scraps Bush’s Approach to Missile Shield

WASHINGTON — President Obama scrapped his predecessor’s proposed antiballistic missile shield in Eastern Europe on Thursday and ordered instead the development of a reconfigured system designed to shoot down short- and medium-range Iranian missiles.

In one of the biggest national security reversals of his young presidency, Mr. Obama canceled former President George W. Bush’s plans to station a radar facility in the Czech Republic and 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland. Instead, he plans to deploy smaller SM-3 interceptors by 2011, first aboard ships and later in Europe, possibly even in Poland or the Czech Republic.

Mr. Obama said that the new system “will provide stronger, smarter and swifter defenses of American forces and America’s allies” to meet a changing threat from Iran Administration officials cited what they called accumulating evidence that Iran had made more progress than anticipated in building short- and medium-range missiles that could threaten Israel and Europe than it had in developing the intercontinental missiles that the Bush system was more suited to counter.

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The president of Athletics South Africa has admitted that he lied about gender tests on runner Caster Semenya before her gold-medal win at the World Athletics Championships last month.

The national sports body has always denied that it agreed to the tests before the race in Berlin, Germany -- an event that kicked off international controversy over the 18-year-old Semenya's gender.

But after South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper printed e-mails on Friday showing that ASA President Leonard Chuene was aware of the tests, he held a news conference to apologize.

"I now realize that it was an error of judgment and I would like to apologize unconditionally," Chuene said on Saturday, according to South Africa's SAPA news agency.

After receiving the results of the tests, the South Africa team doctor requested the 18-year-old Semenya be withdrawn from the 800-meter race she ended up winning, Chuene said.

But Chuene said he refused to do it because the sport's international governing body did not request withdrawal. He also said withdrawing Semenya might have looked bad.

"If we did not let her run, we would be confirming that she is not normal," Chuene told the news conference in the capital, Pretoria.

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The tabloids and right wing extremism

The relationship between tabloid reporting and the increase in the BNP's popularity is an interesting one to look at. We know tabloid nonsense gets churnalised over on the BNP's website, we know that the party advertises and sells Melanie Phillips' book via its website, and we know the policy of attacking Muslims rather than any other group is based on the prominence of negative stories in the news media, so it seems the tabloids are at least contributing to an environment where far right ideas may seem more attractive to some.

There is still a little bit of ambiguity between cause and effect here though. Does tabloid coverage cause people to vote for the BNP, or are the tabloids merely reflecting a rightward shift in public opinion? I know what I think, but you know what? I'm not going to bother arguing it right now. And that's because it's much much easier to show how the tabloids contribute to support for the campaign of new ball-'eds on the block, the English Defence League, to kick off violent confrontations with brown people Muslims. (More on the EDL at Bartholomew's Notes on Religion, and the BBC).

The EDL have produced a video to drum up support for their campaign to stir up violent trouble and drag the country back to the seventies and 40 odd years further back with their black shirts and stiff armed 'seig heils' march for freedom by supporting the restriction of religious, er, freedom. Or something. It's geared toward an upcoming event in Manchester.

The video's a bit rubbish, and amounts to a series of still images juxtaposed against each other to stirring music. Rumbold at Pickled Politics has pointed out the pisspoor crusader imagery, but there is a series of 22 images in the video that are of particular interest to this blog.

These 22 images are of headlines from the news media and around the internet - headlines to negative stories about Muslims. Only three of these stories are not from the mainstream media. Here's a league table of where the 19 that are left come from:

1. The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday (8)
2. The Daily/Sunday Express (4)
3. The Daily/Sunday Telegraph (3)
4. The BBC (1)
5. The (DMGT owned) Evening Standard (1)

Here's the surprising thing. Only six of those stories are about specific terrorist plots, and none are about 9/11 or 7/7. Rather than stories including emotive images of the twin towers exploding or the Russell Square bus with the roof blown off, the remaining 12 articles pictured are examples of scaremongering about sharia law, the number of schoolchildren speaking English as a second language and so on. It would probably be useful to go through them and give quick and dirty rundown of the 'ooga-booga look at the scary brown people mainstream articles' used for recruitment to the EDL cause.
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5CC (via Tabloid Watch)

Rick Perry: "Recession? What Recession? The Fundamentals of My Portfolio are Stronger Than Ever!"

Perry on Recession: "We're in one?"

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), facing a tough primary challenge from Sen. Kay Baily Hutchison (R), left many puzzled when he declared his state was recession proof.

Said Perry: "As a matter of fact ... someone had put a report out that the first state that's coming out of the recession is going to be the state of Texas ... I said, 'We're in one?'"

Paul Burka of the Texas Monthly: "This gaffe is going to stick. It is going to be national news. It will come back to haunt him in a campaign spot. If Hutchison can't make something of it, the Democrats can. You cannot be callous and cavalier when people are losing their jobs and their homes. I don't care how ideological the Republican base is. Unemployment in Texas just reached the 8% mark. Everybody knows someone who is suffering in these times. Everybody has lost part of their life savings. It could cost him the race."

Here's a video of Perry's remarks:

AP source: Yale suspect painted as 'control freak'

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A law enforcement official says the Yale lab assistant charged with murdering a graduate student is being described as a "control freak" who viewed the lab as his territory.

The official said Thursday that investigators don't know why Raymond Clark III might have killed 24-year-old Annie Le, because he won't talk to police. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing and many details remain sealed.

New Haven Police Chief James Lewis says Le's death was a case of workplace violence, and his comments mesh with the picture emerging of Clark. But authorities say it is still uncertain what may have sparked the killing.

Clark has been transferred to a state prison in New Haven.