September 23rd, 2009

Trains in Spain signal the future

The 0830 service from Madrid to Barcelona departs promptly and without fuss.

With no lengthy check-in queues, and a slick security control, many passengers had turned up at the Spanish capital's Atocha rail terminal at the last minute, safe in the knowledge that they would still catch their train.

On board, continental breakfast and the morning newspapers are digested, as the city suburbs whizz by. At this hour, the clientele are mostly business-types - people who would previously have made the trip by air, but now prefer the train.

"Door-to-door, I find the train is faster," explains Francisco Lopez, travelling to meet new work colleagues in the Catalan capital.

It's been a huge success, both commercially and in terms of public opinion

Abelardo Carrillo, Renfe
"With the plane you have to take taxis to and from airports outside the city, whereas the train stations are right in the centre."

The trip, of 600km (385 miles) used to take four-and-a-half hours. But starting in February 2008, the journey time was slashed to a little over two-and-a-half hours, with the opening of the Alta Velocidad Espanola (AVE) high-speed service.

Since then, custom has shifted at breakneck speed from air to rail, to the point where, in July 2009, more people made the journey between Madrid and Barcelona by AVE than by plane.

Good video on the BBC (of course, it won't embed)with the rest of the article.
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Support for Kenyan fugitives facing FGM

This is a case that came to media yesterday about two women who are facing deportation back to Kenya from Australia.

The women asked for asylum, saying they will be forced to have female genital mutiliation when they return. The Government has initially rejected them, but their story has won popular support.


Huge support for Kenyan fugitives

September 23, 2009

OUTRAGE at Australia's plan to deport two women possibly facing genital mutilation in Kenya has triggered an alliance between political adversaries, lawyers and refugee groups who want the Immigration Minister to intervene.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon joined the Opposition and the Greens in urging the minister, Chris Evans, to use his intervention powers to grant the women visas.
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You can find the initial story here.
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  • schmiss

So close to being a peen post. So close.

Senator Is the Centerfold

Long before he was a politician, the Republican candidate vying for Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat posed nude for the centerfold of Cosmo. Scott Brown won our “America’s Sexiest Man” contest and appeared in the June 1982 issue. In those days he was a 22-year-old law student at Boston College who was cramming for finals just days before stripping down for our photographer.

“Here at Cosmo we’ve had bachelors go on to be actors, models, and reality show stars, so we’re thrilled that one has gone on to become a politician,” says Kate White, Cosmo’s editor in chief. Obviously we know how to pick ’em. This particular bachelor has always had political ambitions and even admitted to being “a bit of a patriot” when we interviewed him.

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"Compared to some men in the GOP" is a pretty low bar, Cosmo.

Spineless GOP Bows to Obscure Blogger (He Could Be Rush Limbaugh in Disguise!)

Boehner, Cantor Reply To Obscure Blogger: We're "Proud" To Serve With Bachmann

In a little-noticed blog post, Republican leadership in the House said they were "proud" to serve with lightening-rod colleague Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), despite reports that her antics are causing great angst within the caucus.

On Tuesday, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his second in command, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), posted a letter on the GOP Leader Blog responding to accusations from an obscure Minnesota blogger that they had thrown Bachmann under the bus.

"We wanted to respond to your letter to us last week and to assure you that regardless of what inside-the-beltway media writes or what unnamed 'sources' it quotes, we are proud to serve with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann," read the Boehner/Cantor post.

The Boehner/Cantor blog post, which was inexplicably taken down from the site just minutes after it was posted, was passed along to the Huffington Post by the progressive group Media Matters Action Network. That Republican leadership felt compelled to address anonymous reports that they were distancing themselves from Bachmann -- even if just for a few minutes -- is a testament to the power that the GOP's most-colorful members continue to exercise over the tone and direction of the party.

Politico reported last week that Boehner, Cantor and others were concerned by the rhetoric and histrionics coming from the fringes of the GOP, and Bachmann in particular.

The story sparked immediate recriminations from supporters of the Minnesota Republican, who has, among other things, called for an investigation of un-Americanism in Congress and insisted that President Obama wanted to start "re-education" camps for America's youth.

One fan in particular -- Andy Aplikowski, a conservative Minnesota blogger -- suggested that GOP leaders were "spineless wimps" who had issued "stupid and moronic attacks on one of the best members of your caucus."

"A word of advice, issue an apology and retraction right now, or else. Or else you will see people like me bust their butt so hard that she raises millions, wins by a landslide, and takes your job and sends you to the back bench," Aplikowski wrote on his relatively obscure blog, ResidualForces.

The blog entry apparently resonated deep within the circles of GOP power. Addressing their reply personally to Aplikowski, both Boehner and Cantor dismissed the Politico piece and insisted that Bachmann remains a strong fixture within the party.
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Aviqdor Lieberman: "Mission Accomplished. We Won!"

Israel Summit A Victory For Settlement Stand, Says Avigdor Lieberman

Israel's foreign minister said Wednesday that the summit of Israeli, U.S. and Palestinian leaders proved Israel could successfully fend off international pressure to freeze West Bank settlement construction.

Palestinian officials expressed disappointment with Tuesday's meeting in New York. The U.S. appeared to back down from a demand, expressed forcefully in recent months, that Israel cease all construction in West Bank settlements.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in New York with President Barack Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It was Netanyahu's first meeting with Abbas since taking office in March. Beyond a cool handshake, there were no signs of progress toward the U.S. goal of restarting peace talks.

The Palestinians have said they will not resume negotiations until Israel halts all construction in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim both areas and the Gaza Strip, all captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as parts of a future independent state.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the fact that the meeting took place showed Israel's firm stand against a settlement freeze was effective.

"This government has shown that you don't always need to get flustered, to surrender and give in," Lieberman told Israel Radio. "What's important for me is that this government kept its promises to the voter ... and the fact is that this meeting happened."

Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had previously demanded a full halt to construction in the settlements.

But at Tuesday's meeting, Obama did not explicitly call for a settlement freeze, and George Mitchell, the White House Mideast envoy, said afterward that the administration does not see a resolution of the settlement showdown as a precondition for resuming negotiations.

Palestinian officials said they were disappointed Obama had softened his stance and urged him to reassess his position.

"This shows the negative intentions of the Israeli government," said Jibril Rajoub, a top official in Abbas' Fatah movement. "The Americans should review their policies toward cooperating with the Israeli government, because its actions pose a danger to regional stability, are against the American government's policies and contradict international law."

Israeli media largely portrayed the summit as a futile exercise, while acknowledging Netanyahu's success in rebuffing the Obama administration's previous pressure on settlements.

"There has never been such a hollow ceremony," Nahum Barnea, a prominent Israeli columnist, wrote in the Yediot Ahronot daily.

While Netanyahu might feel that he won, "he should remember the lesson that the Middle East gives all its winners: In this region, the short-term winner loses in the long term," Barnea wrote.

Seeking to simultaneously appease the U.S. and his hardline coalition government, Netanyahu has agreed to slow settlement construction for a limited time. He has said construction will continue on some 3,000 housing units, most of which are already being built.

Girl Rejects Gardasil, Loses Path to Citizenship

Born in Britain in 1992, Simone Davis got off to a rough start in life. Her biological mother abandoned her as a baby, and her father couldn't care for her.

At 3, her paternal grandmother Jean Davis got court orders giving her complete parental rights and responsibility to raise Simone until the age of 18.

Davis married an American in 2000 and moved them to Port St. Joe, Fla., but there was no equivalent guardianship in the United States. So for the last near decade, Davis has embarked on a quest to get Simone U.S. citizenship.

Now 17 and an aspiring elementary school teacher and devout Christian, Simone has only one thing standing in the way of her goal -- the controversial vaccine Gardasil.

Immigration law mandates that Simone get the vaccine to protect against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, which has been linked to cervical cancer.

But Simone, who has taken a virginity pledge and is not sexually active, doesn't see why she should have to take the vaccine, especially since it's been under fire recently regarding its safety .

And none of her American classmates is mandated by law to be vaccinated.

"I am only 17 years old and planning to go to college and not have sex anytime soon," said Simone. "There is no chance of getting cervical cancer, so there's no point in getting the shot."

Since 2008, the government has required that female immigrants between the ages of 11 through 26 applying for permanent resident or refugee status receive Gardasil, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006.

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Shirley Animated

Operation Rescue in money "crisis." Schadenfreude is delicious.

Operation Rescue may shut down
WICHITA | The anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue says it’s close to shutting down unless emergency financial help arrives soon.

Group president Troy Newman sent an e-mail Monday night to donors saying the organization is in a financial crisis.

Newman blames the economy. But the Wichita-based organization has also taken heavy criticism after the May 31 shooting death of abortion provider George Tiller — not only from abortion-rights supporters but also from anti-abortion militants.

Newman told The Associated Press that the group has only four paid employees left, compared with nine a year ago. Donations are down more than 30 percent, and Newman says he hasn’t been paid in two months.

Another anti-abortion group, Kansans for Life, says it hasn’t seen a noticeable drop in its donations.


It is my dearest ambition in life to throw a brimming Diva Cup in Randall Terry's face.


Shocker! Gladney 's "lawyer" may or may not be an opportunist. Authorities ask for calm.

Why I Quit the Gravy Train Tea Parties: Confessions of a Former Political Swag Seller
Kristen Hinman in Follow That Story
Thursday, Sep. 17 2009 @ 9:17AM

Errol Hosea King was shaking his head watching TV coverage of the Tea Party Express all last week. The 16-day, cross-country rally ended Saturday in Washington, D.C., with different news outlets suggesting wildly different attendance numbers for the final day.

Whether hundreds or thousands, a fired-up crowd equals easy money to a button-seller like King, who says that could have been him out there scooping up coin with fellow St. Louisans David Brown and Kenneth Gladney.

But King quit the political-swag-selling business just as the tea party tour got underway.

He contacted Daily RFT, he says, to air out a few frustrations with his former boss, Brown, and to set the record straight.

Brown, you might remember, is a white attorney who grabbed the headlines in August when Gladney, a black St. Louisan, was allegedly punched by SEIU members at a town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Congressman Russ Carnahan. (Video here.)

Brown has described his role in that brouhaha differently at different times. At first he was identified as Gladney's attorney and he said a lawsuit against SEIU was in the works. Later, he said he was not Gladney's lawyer.
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Redheads do it best.

Polling suggests Republicans could take back the House

Under the heading, "Republicans not in a position to retake the House (yet)," Chris Bowers estimates that the Democrats have a 41.2%-37.7% lead in recent generic House polling. Bowers writes, "Democrats are, after all, still winning."

But it's not so simple. In research published a couple years ago, Joe Bafumi, Bob Erikson, and Chris Wlezien found that, yes, generic party ballots are highly predictive of House voting--especially in the month or two before the election-but that early polling can be improved by adjusting for political conditions. In particular, the out-party consistently outperforms the generic polls.

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I would offer my sassy opinion of this, but right now it boils down to a lot of inarticulate noises.


(no subject)

Gay Student Receives Death Threat on North Carolina Campus:
'Death is Almost Too Good For You. Almost'


A student on the campus of Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina was threatened last week:

"On Monday, a student found a note on his door that had a death threat and called him a derogatory name. The note also said 'nobody wants your kind on campus.' On Thursday, someone dropped a rock with a letter attached in the same student's window. The note used the same derogatory name and also said: 'You don't deserve life like the rest of the world. It's bad enough with out all the gay crap pulling people down. It's sick, unnatural, and death is almost too good for you. Almost.' The dean of students who live in Bryan Hall informed students about the hate crimes during a meeting on Friday."

Students are reportedly organizing a march on campus for this Wednesday in response.

Watch MyFox8's news report on the incident

(no subject)

Speechwriter: Bush Didn't Want to Tell a Gay Kid He Couldn't Marry

The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim has published a trove of nuggets from the forthcoming book from former Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer, Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor. Two I've lifted for this crowd:


Bush, when told that Idaho Sen. Larry Craig had been the latest GOPer to be caught in a sex scandal involving boys or men: "What is up with all these Republicans?"

For a commencement address at Furman University in spring 2008, Ed Gillespie wanted to insert a few lines condemning gay marriage. Bush called the speech too "condemnatory" and said, "I'm not going to tell some gay kid in the audience that he can't get married." (Of course, Bush ran his 2004 campaign telling that kid just that.)
Here's the book's description, for those of you who haven't seen the TV pre-press: "As a young political geek, Matt Latimer dreamed of one day heading to Washington to work for a conservative president and usher in another Reagan Revolution. With the support of his slightly mortified liberal parents, he tried to do just that -- but his youthful exuberance began to cool as he moved up the rungs of power. On Capitol Hill he worked for a Congressman who “misremembered” basic facts, assisted a U.S. Senator who hid from his own staff, and met another who cowed her male aides into carrying her purse. Finally ensconced in the White House as one of George W. Bush’s chief speechwriters, he soon realized that the post wasn’t at all what he’d envisioned. Less like Aaron Sorkin’s 'The West Wing' and more like NBC’s 'The Office,' D.C.’s most prestigious address turned out to be a bizarro world in which the major players were in some ways mirror opposites of their public images. 


(no subject)

Will The "All Porn Makes You Gay" Guy Sink Bob McDonnell (R) In Virginia?

It turns out that the 2009 GOP candidate for Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell, cited Michael Schwartz (the "all porn makes you gay" guy) two times in his master's thesis at Liberty University. As has been noted here, McDonnell's thesis also rails against "cohabitators, homosexuals and fornicators" and says that women shouldn't work outside the home. Since Bob McDonnell thinks Schwartz is a genius, lets hope the Dems pick that up and run with it.


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wtaf is wrong with people

Census worker hanged with 'fed' on body

The FBI is investigating the hanging death of a U.S. Census worker near a Kentucky cemetery. A law enforcement official says the word "fed" was scrawled on his chest.

The body of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old Census field worker and occasional teacher, was found Sept. 12 in the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky.

Investigators have said little about the case. A law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, tells The Associated Press the word "fed" was written on the dead man's chest.

FBI spokesman David Beyer said the bureau is helping state police determine if Sparkman's death was the result of foul play, and if so, whether it was related to his census work.


More info about the killed man and his education work here. :( ngl I teared up reading it. I hope his death didn't have to do with his work for the census because idek if I can handle loathing Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck's fearmongering any more than I already do.

ETA: Further info. Lucindia Scurry-Johnson, assistant director of the Census Bureau's southern office in Charlotte, N.C., said law enforcement officers have told the agency the matter is "an apparent homicide" but nothing else.

ETA2: More about Sparkman on HuffPo. Mixed reports saying his body was found on 9/12 (!!) or the day after.

(no subject)

From Sky News, an unfortunate clash of timing by Nick Clegg, the leader of the UK's Liberal Democrats.

Nick Clegg's rousing conference speech to his Lib Dem party faithful (and not-so faithful) is due at 3.05pm this afternoon...

The exact same time as one Barack Obama is due to address the UN General Assembly in New York.

Such a catastrophic decision by President Obama. Who wants to hear some guy calling himself "President of the United States" at some insignificant think-tank like the "United Nations" or somesuch, when Nick Clegg is about to announce to the world how he intends to scrap the VAT cut?

GOP Loves Public Option... on Property... Those Poor Houses...

GOP Favors Public Option for Property, Not People

Atop the front page of the New York Times today is a color photo of Georgia homes flooded up to their rafters, an image that illustrates how when it comes to insurance our Congress applies two standards, separate and unequal, one for property and a lesser one for people.

Unlike people without health insurance, homeowners have access to public option flood insurance.

Even those who fail to take personal responsibility to buy insurance to protect their property can get benefits, thanks in good part to politicians who are leading opponents of public option healthcare.

Consider the example of Trent Lott of Mississippi, who was that state's senior senator when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, flooding his home looking out on the Gulf. Lott had not exercised personal responsibility by taking out flood insurance even though it was available from the federal government at low cost. He did have private insurance, but his insurer refused to pay much of the claim, saying it was not wind damage (which was covered by the policy), but water damage (which was excluded).

Weeks later Lott introduced Senate Bill 1936, which would have authorized retroactive flood insurance. The idea came from Representative Gene Taylor, a Democrat who represented the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which should remind us that when there is voter demand for reform, and campaign contributions are not the driving force, the parties have worked together.

Lott's bill would have let flood victims pay 10 years of flood insurance premiums after-the-fact plus a 5 percent late payment penalty. Since this storm was rated a once in 500 years occurrence, even 10 years of premiums would not come close to covering the real costs, meaning a taxpayer subsidy was built into the Lott bill.

Instead of being laughed at by his fellow Republicans for promoting socialism, the concept of retroactive relief was warmly embraced, although not the idea for retroactive insurance. Instead the government went with handouts.

Senator Thad Cochran, also a Mississippi Republican and at the time chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was key to getting taxpayer benefits for flooded property, according to Taylor's staff.
The benefits were issued and expanded twice, a total of about $18 billion in all, Taylor's staff estimated.

Contrast the two Mississippi Republican senators' determined action to get welfare for flooded buildings with their votes against expanding SCHIP health insurance for poor children.

Cochran opposes a public option in health care; Lott, now a lobbyist, says Obama should just declare victory after some minor tweaks, a way to oppose without quite saying so.
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Small-town SC explosion just a "prank"

NEWBERRY, S.C. Authorities are questioning persons of interest this afternoon after an explosion forced the evacuation of a dormitory at Newberry College near downtown Newberry this morning.

Authorities called the explosion a "prank" and no terrorist connection in the apparent bomb detonation is suspected, authorities said.

There were no injuries, Newberry city manager Eric Budds said just before 3 p.m. today.

However, SLED said there were reports of some structural damage but did not give details.

SLED confirmed the reports of an explosion on campus and issued this statement:

"SLED’s Bomb Team is on the scene and has a few devices safe. The devices are described as over pressure devices in plastic soda bottles The devices are still being analyzed by experts There are no reported injuries...There are people being questioned at this time.”

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pressured plastic bottles what? someone used enough to cause an evacuation and structural damage? wtf kind of prank was this



The next realm of Birthers:

It had to happen sometime, right? This was mentioned on tonight's O'Reilly Factor alongside the Will Ferrell/Jon Hamm funnyordie spot for healthcare, as well as being circulated on several blogs in the last few days. Enjoy it, ya'll.

It's personally been amazing to watch this go viral, because I know the guys who put it together randomly one night. Hope you all enjoy it as much as I do, every single time I watch it.

EDIT: Still no O'Reilly video, but apparently the video was spoken of by Bill as being made by "individual Americans, just like the people who exposed ACORN." Wow.


Al Franken Schools David Kris on the "Mythical" 4th Amendment.

Al Franken Reads the 4th Amendment to Justice Department Official

Just in case he wasn’t familiar with it, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) decided to read the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution to David Kris, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, who was testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee today to urge reauthorization of expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act.

Franken, who opened by acknowledging that unlike most of his colleagues in the Senate, he’s not a lawyer, but according to his research “most Americans aren’t lawyers” either, said he’d also done research on the Patriot Act and in particular, the “roving wiretap” provision that allows the FBI to get a warrant to wiretap a an unnamed target and his or her various and changing cell phones, computers and other communication devices.

Noting that he received a copy of the Constitution when he was sworn in as a senator, he proceeded to read it to Kris, emphasizing this part: “no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

“That’s pretty explicit language,” noted Franken, asking Kris how the “roving wiretap” provision of the Patriot Act can meet that requirement if it doesn’t require the government to name its target.

Kris looked flustered and mumbled that “this is surreal,” apparently referring to having to respond to Franken’s question. “I would defer to the other branch of government,” he said, referring to the courts, prompting Franken to interject: “I know what that is.”

Kris explained that the courts have held that the law’s requirements that the person be described, though not named, is sufficient to meet the demands of the Constitution. That did not appear to completely satisfy Franken’s concerns.

Today’s Judiciary Committee hearing has so far proceeded much the way yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing did, with Democrats (except the Justice Department witness) expressing skepticism that the current law adequately protects Americans’ civil liberties and Republicans emphasizing the need to have all possible tools for law enforcement available because another major terrorist attack could occur at any time.