October 10th, 2009

Space - lol models

people who don't understand science get butthurt over the moon; science geeks are annoyed

Moon Survives Unprovoked Attack!
by Ray Villard
October 09, 2009

Meles2 Internet traffic on blogs, YouTube, and discussion boards
was nearly predicting the end of the world today.

It didn’t happen.

People warned that a missile launched by evil government
scientists was going to plow into the virgin Moon and explode. The effects on
Earth from disrupting the celestial harmony would be unpredictable but
devastating: tsunamis, meteorite showers, volcanoes – and even more global

What happened instead? Early morning news anchors were
speechless at the NASA live TV feed. That’s because absolutely nothing was seen
happening at the ground zero moment.

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CDC: 76 Children Dead Of Swine Flu As Cases Rise

CDC: 76 Children Dead Of Swine Flu As Cases Rise

Health officials said Friday that 76 U.S. children have died of swine flu, including 19 new reports in the past week – more evidence the new virus is unusually dangerous for the young.

The regular flu kills between 46 and 88 children a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That suggests deaths from the new H1N1 virus could dramatically outpace children's deaths from seasonal flu, if swine flu continues to spread as it has.

CDC officials say 10 more states, a total of 37, now have widespread swine flu. A week ago, reports suggested that cases might be leveling off and even falling in some areas of the country, but that did not turn out to be an enduring national trend.

"We are seeing more illness, more hospitalizations, and more deaths," the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat said at a press conference Friday.

The new virus, first identified in April, is a global epidemic. The CDC doesn't have an exact count of all swine flu deaths and hospitalizations, but existing reports suggest more than 600 have died and more than 9,000 have been hospitalized. Health officials believe millions of Americans have caught the virus.

The virus is hitting young people harder. Experts believe older people are suffering from it less, perhaps because they have a bit of immunity from exposure over the years to somewhat similar viruses.

Most healthy children recover and often suffer only mild symptoms. But some have died from it, often from a second infection that moves in while the body is weakened from the flu.

Kids with asthma or chronic heart or respiratory conditions also are at greater risk for serious complications.

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Health Care "Opt-Out": Brilliant Maneuver or Terrible Idea?

Health 'Opt-Out': Brilliant Maneuver or Crippling Compromise?

Democrats on the left and right are expressing interest in a new compromise that would provide a public option in the health bill but allow individual states to opt out of it. People may well be right when they say this is a deft way to pass a bill with 60 votes, but policymakers and observers should be clear about the potential downsides. It could disable the already-hamstrung public option, create new political liabilities, and be castigated by critics as the "Blue Cross of Alabama Enrichment Act of 2009."

A simple thought experiment might clarify the issues at hand: What if Medicare had been passed with this 'opt-out' provision? To make the thought experiment more appropriate to the situation at hand, we must imagine that the 1965 law creating Medicare had already been subject to the same compromises that the public option has been: that its ability to negotiate with certain suppliers and providers has been negotiated away, and that instead of being available to all older Americans, access has been restricted so that only an estimated 5% of them are expected to join.

A plausible answer is that a number of states, especially in the South, would have chosen not to participate.

What happens next in our thought experiment? Our hypothetical Medicare program, which was already likely to enroll only a few million elderly people, is now likely to enroll even less, reducing it by 20-30% or even more. That means it has even less operational efficiencies, even fewer economies of scale, and less leverage with those suppliers with whom it is permitted to bargain.

The end result would probably have been a pretty weak Medicare - one that's unable to report significant savings when compared to the private sector. Those weak results, the product of political compromise, would probably then have been used by political opponents as evidence that "government-run healthcare" doesn't work.
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Keith Olbermann's Special Comment on Healthcare Reform.

Seriously, has no-one else posted this?

Keith Olbermann delivered an hour-long "Special Comment" tonight on the urgent need for health care reform. Drawing on his personal experiences with the system, especially the ordeal of his father falling gravely ill and being hospitalized, Olbermann describes a decaying system that is failing to fulfill one of the most important priorities we have as a nation: taking care of our citizens.

Olbermann particularly targets the insurance companies, illustrating how their business models are more focused on making money than helping people, which leads to very perverse incentives. The insurance companies are concerned about profit, which is why they're fighting against health reform. Olbermann concludes, "The insurance companies are at war with America."

At the end of the show, Olbermann states that he is going to demonstrate his support for reform by donating money to help the establishment of free clinics in the capital cities of each of the states of the six senators who are blocking reform. He will offer further information on how other can participate.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Thoughts? I cried a lot watching this. A link to donate to the National Association of Free Clinics is on the Countdown Website.

misc - microphone


Gunmen attack Pakistan’s army headquarters
4 militants, several soldiers killed in brazen assualt on compound

breaking news
NBC News and news services
updated 31 minutes ago

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A team of gunmen wielding assault rifles and grenades tried to break into Pakistan's army headquarters Saturday, sparking a ferocious 45-minute gunbattle outside the capital that ended when all the assailants were killed, authorities said.

The audacious assault, which killed and injured several troops, was the third major militant attack in Pakistan in a week and came as the government said it was planning an imminent offensive against Islamist militants in their strongholds in the rugged mountains along the border with Afghanistan.

It showed that the militants retain the ability to strike at the very heart of Pakistan's security apparatus despite recent military operations against their forces and the killing of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in a CIA drone attack in August.
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But what about Bono?

Nobel Peace Prize Also-Rans

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Mahatma Gandhi

Achievements: Mohandas K. Gandhi was the spiritual and political leader of the Indian independence movement and an advocate of nonviolent resistance as a means to effect social change. Gandhi assumed a leading role in the Indian National Congress in 1921 and transformed the party into a mass movement dedicated to ending social and economic discrimination against Indians and achieving India's complete independence. He was also a vocal advocate for the emancipation of the Hindu "untouchable" class, as well as unity between the Hindu and Muslim communities. Following India's declaration of independence, he opposed the partition of India and Pakistan. Gandhi was shot and killed by a radical Hindu nationalist on Jan. 30, 1948.

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So, ontd_p, who do you think has been overlooked for a Nobel Peace Prize? My vote is Raphael Lemkin.

Detroit: Too broke to bury their dead

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Money to bury Detroit's poor has dried up, forcing struggling families to abandon their loved ones in the morgue freezer.

DETROIT (CNNMoney.com) -- At 1300 E. Warren St., you can smell the plight of Detroit.

Inside the Wayne County morgue in midtown Detroit, 67 bodies are piled up, unclaimed, in the freezing temperatures. Neither the families nor the county can afford to bury the corpses. So they stack up inside the freezer.

Albert Samuels, chief investigator for the morgue, said he has never seen anything like it during his 13 years on the job. "Some people don't come forward even though they know the people are here," said the former Detroit cop. "They don't have the money."

Lifelong Detroit residents Darrell and Cheryl Vickers understand this firsthand. On a chilly September morning they had to visit the freezer to identify the body of Darrell's aunt, Nancy Graham -- and say their goodbyes.

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franklin sherman

33 Banks miss TARP payments

Thirty-three TARP recipients missed a scheduled dividend payment to taxpayers last month, according to the Treasury Department, including 18 banks that missed a payment for the first time. It’s a powerful indication that the U.S. banking system remains troubled. And it throws cold water on talk that taxpayers are “making money” on the bailout.

“It’s too early to tell if we’re making money on TARP,” according to Eric Fitzwater, an associate director at SNL Financial in Virginia. “Certainly the vast majority of the bailout money is still outstanding. While a lot of larger recipients say they plan to pay it back, we’re still waiting.”

The 33 banks that missed dividend payments in August have received $4.5 billion of TARP money. The biggest is CIT. Previously it paid $44 million of dividends, but with a bankruptcy filing looking likely, Treasury’s $2.3 billion investment seems headed toward zero.

A few of the banks may ultimately be able to pay what they owe, according to Fitzwater. These newer banks — “de novo” in regulator parlance — actually are not allowed to pay dividends.

Still, the bigger issue is the ultimate cost of the bank bailout, which we may not know for years.

When stronger banks including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and American Express repurchased warrants at modest premiums after paying back TARP, most news reports suggested that taxpayers were profiting from the bailout. But those reports didn’t tell the whole story.

For one, they ignored adverse selection, the propensity for the best borrowers to exit the program first, leaving Treasury holding the poorest performing investments. According to the latest data from Treasury, 42 banks have paid back some or all of the cash they got from TARP’s Capital Purchase Program, $70.7 billion in total. But more than 600 banks remain in the CPP program. Together, they still owe $134 billion.

And this excludes other TARP bailout programs that are likely to cost billions. The automotive industry owes TARP $80 billion. And AIG owes TARP $69.8 billion. Much of that isn’t coming back.

It’s also myopic to view TARP in isolation. Take Citigroup. After converting its preferred equity investment to 7.7 billion common shares at $3.25, Treasury is showing a paper profit of $11 billion. Sounds great, right?

But Citigroup’s common equity would long ago have fallen to zero if other bailouts, in particular FDIC’s debt guarantee program, weren’t insulating shareholders from losses.

Citigroup is the only large bank still using the FDIC’s program. Two weeks ago, the bank sold another $5 billion worth of guaranteed debt, bringing its total issued under the program to $49.6 billion.

The bottom line is that the government still stands behind the banking sector. While the cost of this “no more Lehmans” policy may not be known for years, our experience with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac tells us that such implicit guarantees ultimately prove very expensive. The fact that more banks are falling behind on dividend payments reminds us the tab is growing.

franklin sherman

Senators Vote to Renew Patriot Act Spy Powers

A deeply divided Senate committee on Thursday forwarded legislation to the full Senate that reauthorizes three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act hastily adopted in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks.

The measures greatly expanded the government’s ability to spy on Americans in the name of national security.

Thursday’s 11-8 vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee came as lawmakers struggled to beat a looming deadline. The three provisions expire at year’s end, unless renewed.

During more than two hours of sometimes-heated debate in the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, some lawmakers accused one another of caving to intelligence officials who wanted to expand their powers, while other senators said the renewal was necessary to protect against looming — and classified — terror threats.

But when the hearing was over, the committee approved renewing measures that include allowing broad warrants to be issued by a secretive court for any type of record, from financial to medical, without the government having to declare that the information sought is connected to a terrorism or espionage investigation. A proposal that would put limits on such requests was defeated.

Many senators said they’d been privately briefed by intelligence officials who were worried that adding constitutional protections for Americans could place them in harm’s way and jeopardize ongoing investigations. Lawmakers said they could not discuss the private briefing publicly because it was classified. “That’s the very nature of dealing with some of the laws dealing with the collection of highly classified material. It’s regrettable,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) who approved the renewals.

Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said he wished “the American public could have seen” the classified briefing. Leahy voted to forward the measure to the Senate.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) countered there was no evidence that adding limited privacy protections for Americans would hinder any investigation. Instead, he said, his colleagues were sanctioning “fishing expeditions.”

“I don’t buy it,” said the senator, who voted against sending the measure to the full Senate, where it meets an uncertain fate. The bill must also be approved by the House and signed by the president for the renewals to take effect.

No vote date for either body has been set.

Members also renewed the so-called “roving wiretap” provision, allowing the FBI to obtain wiretaps from the secret court, known as the FISA court, without identifying the target or what method of communication is to be tapped. Finally, the committee renewed the so-called “lone wolf” measure that allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of a person for whatever reason — even without showing that the suspect is an agent of a foreign power or a terrorist. The government has said it has never invoked that provision, but said it wanted to retain the authority to do so.

A Feingold measure (.pdf) to allow that provision to expire was defeated.

Feingold did not submit a much-discussed amendment to withdraw the immunity Congress granted to the nation’s telecommunications companies last year, one that shields the companies from lawsuits accusing them of funneling Americans’ electronic communications to the National Security Agency without warrants. Feingold announced the proposal two weeks ago and had said he would submit it to the committee for consideration during the Patriot Act renewal negotiations.

  • zenlari

Accusing Obama critics of "standing with the terrorists"

Accusing Obama critics of "standing with the terrorists"

Yesterday, I noted that the DNC accused the GOP of having "thrown in its lot with the terrorists" and putting "politics above patriotism" because -- just like the Taliban and Hamas -- some Republicans objected to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama. Salon's Alex Koppleman described how some progressive groups, including Media Matters and some blogs, embraced the same theme, even producing videos "suggesting that the right has aligned itself with terrorists." Media Matters' Chris Harris wrote a piece entitled "RNC agrees with the Taliban," and actually labelled the mere act of questioning whether Obama's Prize was warranted to be "unseemly and downright unpatriotic."

I'm all in favor of applying disgusting political rhetoric and twisted political arguments to the purveyors of such tactics in order to demonstrate their hypocrisy and/or to neutralize those tactics. If that's all that were going on here -- if it were made clear that these tactics are unacceptable and dumb but that the Rovians on the Right who have spent the last eight years wielding them should be hoisted on their own petard -- I wouldn't have any objections to it. But, plainly, that's not all that is going on. Instead, the DNC and these groups are clearly arguing that it's improper and unpatriotic to object to or even question Obama's award. After comparing the Taliban's statements to the RNC's statement (which was actually quite innocuous and tame), this is what Harris argued:

"That the domestic political opposition party would echo the sentiments of one of our nation's fiercest enemies is truly striking. The global community honoring the American President with one of the world's top awards should be a cause for national celebration, not cheap political games.

One could expect this reaction from our nation's enemies, but it is unseemly and downright unpatriotic coming from American political leaders."

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Akuma River

Iran starts their death panels

Iran Sentences 3 To Death In Post-Election Mass Opposition Trial (October 10, 2009 - HuffPo - ALI AKBAR DAREINI)

TEHRAN, Iran — Three defendants in Iran's mass trial of opposition figures accused of fueling the country's postelection unrest have been sentenced to death, an Iranian news agency reported Saturday.
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I'm sorry that I haven't been keeping up with things happening in Iran, but it's depressing and I'm busy with schoolwork. Midterms are taking place right now. Why can't Iran have any good news?

Obama says he will end "Don't ask, don't tell" policy

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says he will end the "don't ask, don't tell" military policy.

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they don't disclose their sexual orientation or act on it.

Obama said this country cannot afford to cut from the military's ranks people with needed skills for fighting. He made the comments to thousands of gays and lesbians at a fundraising dinner Saturday night for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights group.

Since Obama took office in January, some advocates have complained Obama has not followed through on promises to push top gay rights issues.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama says he knows gay rights activists get impatient but he says this country has made progress and will make more in defending those rights.

He says he is committed to their goals and he will achieve them

On the eve of a major gay-rights rally, Obama addressed thousands of gays and lesbians at a fundraising dinner Saturday night for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights group.

Since Obama took office in January, some advocates have complained Obama has not followed through on promises to push top gay rights issues. They are looking for firm commitments on such issues as ending the ban on gays serving openly in the military and pushing tough nondiscrimination policies.


Get Off Obama's Back: Second Thoughts From Michael Moore


Last night my wife asked me if I thought I was a little too hard on Obama in my letter yesterday congratulating him on his Nobel Prize. "No, I don't think so," I replied. I thought it was important to remind him he's now conducting the two wars he's inherited. "Yeah," she said, "but to tell him, 'Now earn it!'? Give the guy a break -- this is a great day for him and for all of us."

I went back and re-read what I had written. And I listened for far too long yesterday to the right wing hate machine who did what they could to crap all over Barack's big day. Did I -- and others on the left -- do the same?

We are weary, weary of war. The trillions that will have gone to these two wars have helped to bankrupt us as a nation -- financially and morally. To think of all the good we could have done with all that money! Two months of the War in Iraq would pay for all the wells that need to be dug in the Third World for drinking water! Obama is moving too slow for most of us -- but he needs to know we are with him and we stand beside him as he attempts to turn eight years of sheer madness around. Who could do that in nine months? Superman? Thor? Mitch McConnell?

Instead of waiting to see what the president is going to do, we all need to be pro-active and push the agenda that we want to see enacted. What keeps us from forming the same local groups we put together to get out the vote last November? C'mon! We're the majority now -- the majority by a significant margin! We call the shots -- and we need to tell this wimpy Congress to get busy and do what we say -- or else.

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I think Michael Moore did an outstanding job of articulating what I've been trying to express over the last day or so.  I've been frustrated that he hasn't been able to accomplish more, but that means he needs us to stand behind them even more, not less.  I also have to admit that I've gained a tremendous amount of respect for this man since seeing his movie, Sicko, which did an amazing job of making the best arguments for why we so desperately need health care reform and a public health care insurance option.