October 12th, 2009

*boing boing*
  • lechaco

China praised for African links

Paul Kagame is liked in the West because of achievements in Rwanda

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has praised the way China does business in Africa, criticising the West for basing relations with the continent on aid.

Huge Chinese investment in African companies and infrastructure is helping Africa develop, Mr Kagame said.

Annual trade between China and Africa is now worth more than $100bn (£63bn).

Chinese companies are active across Africa, but have been criticised by some in the West, who accuse Beijing of failing to promote good governance.

Chinese firms, many of them state-owned, regularly bid for major construction projects at costs which Western firms cannot match.

In addition, Beijing also operates a policy of non-interference in domestic affairs.

That has allowed China to do business in areas of Africa, such as Sudan, where Western firms are constrained by human rights concerns.

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Source: BBC

I thought this was a good follow-up to volksjager's post on China's involvement in Africa which was a critique on the negative effects. This article shows a more positive pov/side to China's involvement in Africa through the eyes of an African leader. I find this article by the BBC: China in Africa to be a good background on what China is doing in African development.

Zero Common Sense Policy

October 12, 2009
It’s a Fork, It’s a Spoon, It’s a ... Weapon?

NEWARK, Del. — Finding character witnesses when you are 6 years old is not easy. But there was Zachary Christie last week at a school disciplinary committee hearing with his karate instructor and his mother’s fiancé by his side to vouch for him.

Zachary’s offense? Taking a camping utensil that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon to school. He was so excited about recently joining the Cub Scouts that he wanted to use it at lunch. School officials concluded that he had violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and Zachary now faces 45 days in the district’s reform school.

“It just seems unfair,” Zachary said, pausing as he practiced writing lower-case letters with his mother, who is home-schooling him while the family tries to overturn his punishment.

Spurred in part by the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, many school districts around the country adopted zero-tolerance policies on the possession of weapons on school grounds. More recently, there has been growing debate over whether the policies have gone too far.

But, based on the code of conduct for the Christina School District, where Zachary is a first grader, school officials had no choice. They had to suspend him because, “regardless of possessor’s intent,” knives are banned.

But the question on the minds of residents here is: Why do school officials not have more discretion in such cases?

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Not the best week for Australia and racism controversy....

Builder James Anthony Dean-Willcocks charged held over race-hate killing

Distressed ... a couple believed to be the alleged killer's parents outside court yesterday and (inset) Dean-Willcocks. Picture: Adam Ward Source: The Daily Telegraph

A BUILDER celebrating his 23rd birthday allegedly bashed an elderly man to death in a drunken race-hate crime.

James Anthony Dean-Willcocks, of Illawong, was yesterday charged with the murder of Magno Alvarado, 67.

Residents of Elouera Rd, Cronulla, told police of being woken about 5.30am on Saturday by a male yelling: "F ... off back to Japan". According to a statement tendered by police to Parramatta Bail Court, a man was heard to cry: "Help, help". One witness said he went to his balcony and allegedly saw a man "fling the victim on to the footpath, pick up the victim, shake him and throw him to the ground". The accused then allegedly punched Mr Alvarado in the head and body as many as 10 times. Another witness said he saw the victim thrown to the road, and Dean-Willcocks on top of him, punching him.

Police will allege Dean-Willcocks was heard yelling "Ya Jap". Another described seeing Mr Alvarado tackled, "body-slammed" and punched many times.

One witness told police he yelled at Dean-Willcocks to stop and asked what he was doing. "Mate, he's Japanese and he deserves it," the accused allegedly answered. It is understood Mr Alvarado was Filipino.

Stunned onlookers prevented Dean-Willcocks leaving the scene until police arrived. Mr Alvarado was taken to hospital but died about 2.30pm on Saturday. After Dean-Willcocks - wearing no shoes, and only one sock - was arrested, police noted he was intoxicated.

He has since told police he has "no recollection" of the incident and his last memory was "some time in the early hours of the morning" while he was at the Mercure Hotel in the city. Dean-Willcocks said he did not know how he got to Cronulla.

He made no application for bail and will appear in Central Local Court tomorrow.


Even aside from the racism (all asians are "Japs" now? Are we in 1945 or did I miss something??), how much of a fucking needle-dick coward do you have to be to attack a completely defenseless 67 year old man? I don't even have the words.
Bert 2008 B&W

Alan Grayson is my New Hero

If you've been following US political news in the past week, you are probably already familiar with this story...

Last week, US Representative Alan Grayson (D, Orlando, Florida) responded to the "bitch slap" theory of politics as effectively as I have yet seen it done in the health care debate in Congress--with a one-two punch not only to Republicans, but to Conservative Democrats as well. And A-fucking-men, man. It's about damn time someone did.

The bitch-slap theory of politics (technically the Republican Bitch Slap Theory of Politics) by the by is a theory first written about by Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo in 2004, describing what's come to be known as the "Swift-Boating" of Sen. John Kerry's presidential election bid, and it goes something like this--you attack your political opponent, and if they do not defend themselves (and I mean come out swinging), then they look weak in the eyes of both supporters and non-supporters, and you gain political advantage. Historically, the Republican party has done this more effectively than Democrats, as a rule. The attack itself does not even have to be accurate, and often is not--it is the willingness or unwillingness to defend oneself that seems to stand out in the electorate's mind.

This past August and into this fall we have watched (yet again) as the Republican machine has bitch-slapped proponets of health care reform right and left, and many a progressive has watched in frustration as Democrats have taken licks and offered up compromise after compromise on this issue. Last week, instead of compromise, Grayson offered up some fight.

Exhibit A:

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Short version:

"The Republican health care plan for America: Don't get sick. That's right, don't get sick. If you have insurance, don't get sick. If you don't have insurance, don't get sick. If you're sick, don't get sick....but it's not quite a foolproof plan so the backup plan in case you do get sick, If you do get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: die quickly. "

This lead to predictable hand wringing and calls for him to apologize by some members of the Republican party, to which Grayson responded with even more fire, this time targeting not just Republicans but those in his own party who seem to be missing the point.

Exhibit B:

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To wrap up, here's some context on the fellow speaking.  From Wikipedia: Grayson was born in the Bronx, NY, and grew up in tenements.  He graduated from Bronx High School of Science and worked his way through Harvard University, graduating in three years, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He then began graduate studies and simultaneously, in the next four years, earned a law degree with honors from Harvard Law School, a masters in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government and completed the course work and passed the general exams for a Ph.D in government...

Grayson was employed as a law clerk at the Colorado Supreme Court in 1983, and at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals from 1984 to 1985, where he worked with such judges as Abner Mikva, Robert Bork, and two judges who later joined the U.S. Supreme Court: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia....

In recent years, Grayson specialized in war profiteer and whistleblower cases aimed at Iraq war contractors that had overbilled the U.S. government by tens of millions of dollars...

He is only the 2nd Democrat to represent his district since it's creation; Orlando and this area of Southern Florida is historically conservative, and Grayson ran as an openly progressive candidate in the last election.

Ah, it's nice to see some real progressive politics in the House once more.

franklin sherman

Okay, which one of you was it?

VERNON, Conn. (AP) -- Vernon police say they arrested a man who was dressed as a ninja and waving nunchucks while yelling about wanting to beat up U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Thirty-year-old Garland Eastman of Vernon was charged Sunday with breach of peace. Police say he was brought to Rockville General Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and later released.

Authorities say they received several emergency calls about Eastman, who witnesses say was standing at the corner of Route 83 and Regan Road at about 11:00 a.m.

Officers say they pulled out bean bag and taser guns, and Eastman became polite and cooperative.

Eastman couldn't be reached Monday. He has no public phone listing, and it's not clear whether he has a lawyer.

Public records show Eastman used to live in Memphis, Tenn.



Heavy infant in Grand Junction denied health insurance

GRAND JUNCTION — Alex Lange is a chubby, dimpled, healthy and happy 4-month-old.
But in the cold, calculating numbered charts of insurance companies, he is fat. That's why he is being turned down for health insurance. And that's why he is a weighty symbol of a problem in the health care reform debate.

Insurance companies can turn down people with pre-existing conditions who aren't covered in a group health care plan.

Alex's pre-existing condition — "obesity" — makes him a financial risk. Health insurance reform measures are trying to do away with such denials that come from a process called "underwriting."

"If health care reform occurs, underwriting will go away. We do it because everybody else in the industry does it," said Dr. Doug Speedie, medical director at Rocky Mountain Health Plans, the company that turned down Alex.

By the numbers, Alex is in the 99th percentile for height and weight for babies his age. Insurers don't take babies above the 95th percentile, no matter how healthy they are otherwise.

"I could understand if we could control what he's eating. But he's 4 months old. He's breast-feeding. We can't put him on the Atkins diet or on a treadmill," joked his frustrated father, Bernie Lange, a part-time news anchor at KKCO-TV in Grand Junction. "There is just something absurd about denying an infant."

Bernie and Kelli Lange tried to get insurance for their growing family with Rocky Mountain Health Plans when their current insurer raised their rates 40 percent after Alex was born. They filled out the paperwork and awaited approval, figuring their family is young and healthy. But the broker who was helping them find new insurance called Thursday with news that shocked them.

" 'Your baby is too fat,' she told me," Bernie said.

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"I'm not going to withhold food to get him down below that number of 95," Kelli Lange said. "I'm not going to have him screaming because he's hungry."

Not to mention the fact that withholding food like could bring child neglect charges with it.

ETA:  Here's a link to a video news story on this from MSNBC

UPDATE: Rocky Mountain Health Plans has now said it will cover Alex Lange, a baby they previously refused to give health insurance because of his weight.

"A recent situation in which we denied coverage to a heavy, yet healthy, infant brought to our
attention a flaw in our underwriting system for approving infants," says Steve ErkenBrack, president and CEO, Rocky Mountain Health Plans. "Because we are a small company dedicated to the people of Colorado, we are pleased to be in a position to act quickly. We have changed our policy, corrected our underwriting guidelines and are working to notify the parents of the infant who we earlier denied."

Read the whole press release.

Well, that didn't take long.....

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/12/alex-lange-denied-health_n_317337.html#

'Ironic German Fashion Designer' to female populace: "Suck it up, Fatty."

Berlin -- Curvy women have no place on the catwalk, iconic German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld was quoted as saying Sunday, after a magazine said it was banning skinny models in favour of "real women."

"No one wants to see curvy women," Lagerfeld was quoted as saying on the website of news magazine Focus.

"You've got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly," he added.

The world of fashion is about "dreams and illusions," he said, dismissing as "absurd" the debate prompted by Brigitte magazine which said it would no longer feature professional models on its pages.

Brigitte, one of Germany's top women's magazines, said last week it would only publish photographs of "real women" after readers complained they could not identify with the models depicted.

  • Current Mood

Women in COIN (II)

I've been reading a recent internal summary of how Marine "Female Engagement Teams," or FETs, have worked in Afghanistan. The bottom line is that done right, this approach works surprisingly well, with benefits among the population that can't be achieved by males. The findings run directly contrary to several assertions made in the comments reacting to my previous post on this subject.

First, Afghans don't seem to mind the female teams. Paradoxically, "Female Marines are extended the respect shown to men, but granted the access reserved for women," the report finds. "In other words, the culture is more flexible than we've conditioned ourselves to think."

Second, the teams have been successful in reaching the other half of the population, one that carries disproportionate influence with the prime Taliban recruiting pool. "Local women wield more influence than many of us imagined-influence on their husbands, brothers, and especially their adolescent sons."

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New Jersey's largest newspaper endorses independent for governor


The Star-Ledger today endorses independent candidate Chris Daggett and recommends his election as the next governor of New Jersey.

The newspaper’s decision is less a rejection of Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican Chris Christie than a repudiation of the parties they represent, both of which have forfeited any claim to the trust and confidence of the people of New Jersey. They share responsibility for the state’s current plight.

Only by breaking the hold of the Democratic and Republican mandarins on the governor’s office and putting a rein on their power will the state have any hope for the kind of change needed to halt its downward economic, political and ethical spiral.

New Jersey needs radical change in Trenton. Neither of the major parties is likely to provide it. Daggett’s election would send shock waves through New Jersey’s ossified political system and, we believe, provide a start in a new direction.

It would signal the entrenched leadership of both parties — and the interest groups they regularly represent — that an ill-served and angry electorate demands something better.

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I don't know whether to be impressed or scared. Both parties over the years have contributed to my weird, wonderful state's financial clusterfuck. The Star-Ledger raises some great points, and it's a very ballsy move. But while Corzine and Christie both disgust me, Christie downright scares me. I just don't think Daggett could win, and I fear a vote for him would be a vote for Christie (damn those memories of the 2000 election!)

Tea Party Continues to Attack GOP for Not Being Real American Enough

Tea partiers turn on GOP leadership

While the energy of the anti-tax and anti-Big Government tea party movement may yet haunt Democrats in 2010, the first order of business appears to be remaking the Republican Party.

Whether it’s the loose confederation of Washington-oriented groups that have played an organizational role or the state-level activists who are channeling grass-roots anger into action back home, tea party forces are confronting the Republican establishment by backing insurgent conservatives and generating their own candidates — even if it means taking on GOP incumbents.

“We will be a headache for anyone who believes the Constitution of the United States … isn’t to be protected,” said Dick Armey, chairman of the anti-tax and limited government advocacy group FreedomWorks, which helped plan and promote the tea parties, town hall protests and the September ‘Taxpayer March’ in Washington. “If you can’t take it seriously, we will look for places of other employment for you.”

“We’re not a partisan organization, and I think many Republicans are disappointed we are not,” added Armey, a former GOP congressman.

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When Nobel Prize rewarded failure

Did President Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? That debate will likely continue for weeks to come. But the more interesting question may be about what impact the prize will have on President Obama himself and the key decisions he must make about national security.

The case of Woodrow Wilson, the last sitting president to be awarded the prize, offers some useful lessons.

On December 10, 1920, Albert Schmedeman, the American Minister to Norway, accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of President Wilson, who was being honored for his work in creating the League of Nations. The president had first been nominated in 1918, but strong internal disagreement within the committee delayed his receiving the prize. It was his actual campaign to gain ratification for the League of Nations agreement in 1919 that persuaded the committee he had earned the recognition.

Schmedeman read a statement from Wilson, who was in poor health after suffering a stroke, that said: "In accepting the honor of your award, I am moved by the recognition of my sincere and earnest efforts in the cause of peace, but also by the very poignant humility before the vastness of the work still called for by this cause."

Wilson realized that the award came toward the end of a presidency where he had failed to achieve many of his goals. There was a certain irony that the prize was awarded right at the time that President Wilson had failed to persuade the U.S. Senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, the agreement signed at the end of World War I.

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comics, hug

Pakistan Bombing Kills at Least 41 People

A suicide car bombing aimed at Pakistani soldiers in the country's volatile northwest killed at least 41 people Monday, the fourth terror attack in eight days and, said the Taliban, a sign of more to come.

Pakistan is reeling under a wave of suicide attacks that has in just over a week hit the country's military headquarters, a U.N. office in Islamabad, a crowded urban market and now a rural military patrol, killing nearly 120 people since Oct. 5. The attacks come after a relatively quiet summer and have served as a stark reminder of the threat still posed by Islamist militants, despite recent military efforts to beat them back.

Pakistani officials say the attacks are likely to hasten the start of a long-planned ground offensive against a major Taliban stronghold in the South Waziristan tribal area, which lies on the Afghan border. The area has been under heavy air and artillery bombardment from the military for months.

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This story has disappeared, but I can't stop thinking about it.

I don't think this has been posted... Story itself is a week old but I haven't seen it up. So apologies if it's a re-post. It's a great read and it's a story I think a lot of us are interested in.

Mysterious death leaves son seeking truth in Clay Co.


LONDON, Ky. — He was called home by his father's death and now sits in an empty house, weary and alone.

Josh Sparkman is tired of the media asking him about his father, Bill Sparkman, who was found naked, tied to a tree in Eastern Kentucky last month, bound and gagged with the word “fed” scrawled on his chest. He is frustrated with police. And he feels that his family hasn't been there for him.

“This story has been used for people's amusement,” Sparkman said softly, looking down as he smoked several cigarettes to the nub during a wide-ranging interview outside his father's single-story white home in London, Ky. “That's not right. … It's like a real-life drama series and it's not. It's real life.”

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  • Current Music
    Kenny Rogers - Coward of the County

Rachel Maddow, voice of America

Rachel Maddow first came on my radar in the spring of 2004, when she, along with Lizz Winstead and Chuck D of Public Enemy hosted an early morning radio show called Unfiltered on the newly minted Air America, an attempt to counter rightwing talk radio with liberal programming.

Radio has this ability to make the listener feel like they share a secret with the hosts and the few, hard-to-know listeners out there. I hoped people tuned in to listen to the hosts trade jokes and talk about politics and music, and mostly I wanted other people to learn about this Maddow character, who brought to every episode a dynamic mix of sparkling good humour, intelligent analysis and a broad view of what issues should matter.

Unfiltered didn't make the first round of reshuffling at Air America, but Maddow hung in, hosting her own eponymous radio show and eventually moving to television, first as a guest pundit and now as a host of her own night time political talkshow on MSNBC.

Before it happened, most American liberals would have never imagined that Maddow could have her own programme on any cable network, much less the same network that had, just a few years before, tried to pull in a rightwing audience by giving hard right nut Michael Savage his own show (before pulling it after he told a gay caller to die from Aids).

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Source thinks she should wear the glasses more, UNFFF.
franklin sherman

A Nobel first: economics prize goes to a woman

A U.S. academic who proved that communities can trump state control and corporations became the first woman to win the Nobel prize in economics on Monday, sharing it with an expert on conflict resolution.

Elinor Ostrom defied conventional wisdom with studies that showed that user-managed properties -- such as community fish stocks or woodland areas -- more often than not were better run than standard theories predicted.


Fox’s Volley With Obama Intensifying

Fox’s Volley With Obama Intensifying

Attacking the news media is a time-honored White House tactic but to an unusual degree, the Obama administration has narrowed its sights to one specific organization, the Fox News Channel, calling it, in essence, part of the political opposition.

“We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent,” said Anita Dunn, the White House communications director, in a telephone interview on Sunday. “As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”


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Thoughts? While part of me does love the open contempt Obama has for Fox, the last thing I want for that network is for it to feel like the underdog, fighting against the big bullies in charge, they do not need an ego boost like that. Fox is sadly far too influential to go into full out war mode, as fun as that would be. Also, I really hope that Lou Dobbs is moving to the Fox No-Business Network. Nobody watches it so he can just fade away, and Fox can hand Shep Smith over to CNN. Everybody's happy!

(no subject)

Schwarzenegger signs gay rights bills

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed two gay rights bills, one honoring late activist Harvey Milk and another recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.

In the last of hundreds of bill actions taken before midnight Sunday, Schwarzenegger approved the two bills by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.

The governor last year vetoed the measure declaring May 22 a state day of recognition for Milk, suggesting that the former San Francisco supervisor be honored locally. But he subsequently named him to the California Hall of Fame.

Leno's SB 54, meanwhile, requires California to recognize marriages performed in other states where same sex marriage is legal.

In a signing message, Schwarzenegger said California will not recognize the couples as married but will "provide the same legal protections that would otherwise be available to couples that enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships out-of-state. In short, this measure honors the will of the People in enacting Proposition 8 while providing important protections to those unions legally entered into in other states."


(no subject)

Weiner: AHIP Report Makes Strongest Case In Weeks For Public Option

One of the most high-profile progressives in the House of Representatives argued on Monday that a new insurance lobby report disparaging the Senate's main reform effort gives an unexpected and strong boost to hopes for passing a public option.

Appearing on MSNBC, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) was asked about the hot news of the day on the health care front: a new report commissioned by America's Health Insurance Plans, which concluded that, under the Senate Finance Committee's legislation, family premiums would rise more than $4,000.

While dismissing the report's findings as typical of an industry that seeks to protect its profits, the New York Democrat also made a fairly salient point. The analysis basically assumes that insurers will raise their rates because the finance committee won't make the pool of consumers more desirable for them. All of which lays out the logical case for providing consumers with a cheap and available alternative, set up and administered by the federal government.

"I think in a strange way and obviously they didn't mean this, the health insurance lobby fired the most important salvo in weeks for the option," said Weiner. "Because they have said clear as day... they'll raise rates 111%."

"Here is a tell," Weiner offered earlier. "If you have the health care industry complaining that we're going to raise costs because of these changes, it is then putting us on notice that we haven't put enough cost containment in the bill. You know if the health care industry themselves is putting out a whole report saying that, that should be a tell to the Baucus team that, you know what, maybe it is time to go back and revisit the public option.

"But the other thing that is interesting here is the deal was always good for the health care guys. Look, you'll get all these new customers coming in and that is going to be the reason that you're going to take a hair cut here. But make no mistake about it, if the health care industry keeps raising costs, and I think this is what's going to happen with the Baucus bill, we'll put new requirements on them, they raise costs. And whatever subsidies we are giving people to buy their own insurance, they won't be able to afford it And we'll keep on losing people. This is the whole argument for the public option. It is right here laid out by the health care industry right now."

The congressman's argument seems eminently logical. Indeed, champions of the public option essential make the case that the provision is necessary because private insurers won't simply bring costs down on their own. The report commissioned by AHIP and put together by PricewaterhouseCoopers hints as much -- making the case that the finance committee's bill can't and won't reduce long term costs because it does not require enough young, healthy consumers to buy insurance.


Between Congressmen Weiner & Grayson, I'm so beside myself with how much ballsy common sense is coming out of the House of Representatives right now, I may just pee myself.

Sarkozy's son, 23, ignites uproar over job bid

PARIS – President Nicolas Sarkozy's 23-year-old son is angling for a key job overseeing billions of euros in commerce at France's top business district — a job critics say he does not deserve.

Jean Sarkozy's conservative backers insisted Monday that he's qualified to chair EPAD, the quasi-governmental agency that manages the La Defense financial district on the western outskirts of Paris. The sprawling complex of skyscrapers houses the headquarters of some of Europe's biggest companies, such as oil giant Total and bank Societe Generale.

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Akuma River

Student Loans = Indentured Servitude

Student Loans are the New Indentured Servitude (October 12, 2009 - The Atlantic - Mike Konczal)

The Wall Street Journal ran a post over the weekend about a new credit crunch among low income borrowers, noting it is now 'payback time.' What they didn't go into is that their primary interviewee is drowning not on expensive cars loans but student loans. This former student's debt is far from extraordinary. It is, in fact, tragically ordinary, as student loans have become the 21st century version of indentured servitude.

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How does it feel to be an indentured servant? I know that I feel trapped with an inescapable debt that will hang over my head until the day I die and that it was the only recourse available to me to be able to afford to go to college. And college is now the only way to get a good paying job. We are trapped in a vicious viscous cycle.
' jules
  • schmiss

This story has it all: Obiden, Bagel... Blinton. No Bamtrak though.

An Inconvenient Truth Teller
From health-care reform to Afghanistan, Joe Biden has bucked Obama—as only a good Veep can.

Joe Biden had a question. During a long Sunday meeting with President Obama and top national-security advisers on Sept. 13, the VP interjected, "Can I just clarify a factual point? How much will we spend this year on Afghanistan?" Someone provided the figure: $65 billion. "And how much will we spend on Pakistan?" Another figure was supplied: $2.25 billion. "Well, by my calculations that's a 30-to-1 ratio in favor of Afghanistan. So I have a question. Al Qaeda is almost all in Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And yet for every dollar we're spending in Pakistan, we're spending $30 in Afghanistan. Does that make strategic sense?" The White House Situation Room fell silent. But the questions had their desired effect: those gathered began putting more thought into Pakistan as the key theater in the region.

Back in March, Biden stood alone. When Obama announced that he was launching a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan—to develop the country and make its civilians safe from the Taliban—Biden was the only one of the president's top advisers to seriously question the wisdom of this course. The vice president even authored a short paper, called "Counterterrorism-Plus," outlining his case for a better-defined, more limited mission. The president listened but promised to review his policy again only after the Afghan election in August. Biden "didn't get a lot of traction internally," says a White House staffer familiar with the debate who did not want to be named discussing internal deliberations.

In the early days of the administration, Biden was a bit of a joke in some quarters of the White House. He was never the buffoonish character portrayed by late-night comics, but his off-message blurts were the source of eye-rolling and some irritation among the president's men and women. None of the gaffes was particularly damaging, but aides who'd been with Obama through the campaign knew that the president valued very tight control. Biden himself seemed wounded by the sniggering. Asked about his gaffes by a NEWSWEEK reporter last spring, he responded a little defensively, "A gaffe in Washington is someone telling the truth, and telling the truth has never hurt me."

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Feel-Good Story of the Day: NM school goes from worst to among best in 3 years

TOHATCHI, N.M. – Fifth grader Darius Yazzie's after-school chores include hauling water for horses and feeding chickens, while his classmate, Shanika Begay, rides a bus 15 miles each way through the rolling hills of this impoverished corner of the Navajo Nation.

Some students travel a much greater distance, as far as 45 miles on dirt roads that become impassable in bad weather. Some of their homes lack electricity and running water. About 83 percent of Shanika's and Darius' classmates are poor, according to state data, with about 80 percent designated as English language learners.

While Tohatchi Elementary School is a new building this year, with walls decorated with Navajo language posters and student artwork, the demographics of poverty and language have added up in the past to some of the worst test scores in New Mexico.

But about four years ago, Shanika, Darius and other students noticed a change.

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It advises President Obama and other prominent people (“Our Dear Leader and co.”) to “leave now and give us our country back” and to do so by next week.

“If you stay,” the silent video message continues, “ ‘We, The People’ will systematically dismantle you, destroy you and reclaim what is rightfully ours. …

“We are angry and we are ready to take back the rights of the people. We will fight and We will win. …

“Dead line [sic] for your national response: October 15, 2009

“Thank you to all patriots who support our cause. … Be prepared for when the fateful day of the declaration of war is nationally announced.”

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I can't wait til I grow up and feel ways

Your touching/heartbreaking news of the day.

The 'youngest headmaster in the world'

Around the world millions of children are not getting a proper education because their families are too poor to afford to send them to school. In India, one schoolboy is trying change that. In the first report in our Hunger to Learn series, Damian Grammaticas meets Babar Ali, whose remarkable education project is transforming the lives of hundreds of poor children.

At 16 years old, Babar Ali must be the youngest headmaster in the world. He's a teenager who is in charge of teaching hundreds of students in his family's backyard, where he runs classes for poor children from his village.

The story of this young man from Murshidabad in West Bengal is a remarkable tale of the desire to learn amid the direst poverty.

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I won't lie, I totally bawled my eyes out while reading this.


(no subject)

Insurers Mount Attack Against Health Reform

Insurance companies aren't playing nice any more. Their dire message that health care legislation will drive up premiums for people who already have coverage comes as a warning shot at a crucial point in the debate, and threatens President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.

Democrats and their allies scrambled on Monday to knock down a new industry-funded study forecasting that Senate legislation, over time, will add thousands of dollars to the cost of a typical policy. "Distorted and flawed," said White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass. "Fundamentally dishonest," said AARP's senior policy strategist, John Rother. "A hatchet job," said a spokesman for Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.

But the health insurance industry's top lobbyist in Washington stood her ground. In a call with reporters, Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, pointedly refused to rule out attack ads on TV featuring the study, though she said she believed the industry's concerns could be amicably addressed.

At the heart of the industry's complaint is a decision by lawmakers to weaken the requirement that millions more Americans get coverage. Since the legislation would ban insurance companies from denying coverage on account of poor health, many people will wait to sign up until they get sick, the industry says. And that will drive up costs for everybody else.

Insurers are now raising possibilities such as higher premiums for people who postpone getting coverage, or waiting periods for those who ignore a proposed government requirement to get insurance and later have a change of heart.

The drama threatened to overshadow Tuesday's scheduled vote by the Senate Finance Committee on a 10-year, $829-billion plan that Baucus has touted as the sensible solution to America's problems of high medical costs and too many uninsured.

The Baucus bill is still expected to win Finance Committee approval. The insurance industry is trying to influence what happens beyond the vote, when legislation goes to the floor of the House and Senate, and, if passed, to a conference committee that would reconcile differences in the bills.

It's at that final stage where many expect the real deal will be cut.

"We've got ourselves a real health care shooting war now," said Robert Laszewski, a former health insurance executive turned consultant. "The industry has come to the conclusion that the way things are going in Congress, we'll have a ... formula that will be disastrous for their business, so they can't stand on the sidelines any longer."

Questions about the technical soundness of the industry analysis by the PricewaterhouseCoopers firm was a big part of the discussion Monday. The release of the study late Sunday on the eve of the federal Columbus Day holiday had Democrats crying foul.

"The misleading and harmful claims made by the profit-driven insurance companies are politicking for corporate gain at its worst," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

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Fine.  Can we now say fuck the health care insurance companies, and let's get single payer? 

Meghan McCain On Obama's Speech


"Stop rewarding the president’s speeches. Because for me, that’s all it is -- pretty words delivered by a beautiful orator."

-- Daily Beast columnist and gay rights activist Meghan McCain (above in an exclusive video interview with Out) reacting to Obama's speech on gay equality in Washington D.C. this past weekend.


(no subject)


In one of the eye-opening studies cited in Lise Eliot's masterful new book on gender and the brain, mothers brought their 11-month-olds to a lab so the babies could crawl down a carpeted slope. The moms pushed a button to change the slope's angle based on what they thought their children could handle. And then the babies were tested to see how steep a slope they could navigate.

The results?

Girls and boys proved equally adept at crawling and risk-taking: On their own, they tried and conquered the same slopes. But the mothers of the girls -- unlike the mothers of the boys -- underestimated their daughters' aptitude by a significant margin.

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Equality March picspam of awesome



Me + my bitching eye makeup

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The crowd was EPIC.

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There were tons of great speakers, but the most memorable for me personally is when the NAACP guy spoke as well as this Jamaican poet. She was powerful as HELL. AND DID YOU KNOW THAT DAVE KOZ WAS GAY? I sure didn't, I gotta tell my mom, I know that for sure. The English woman who was singing with him botched half of America the beautiful. I cringed about 10 times. God, it's not THAT hard to learn!

ANYWAY, it was a great day, great speakers, great everything, and I did a lot of walking which never hurts. :)

MISC - moustache

Student Refuses to Say Pledge

"When I heard from the principal, I was not happy," said Jay Phillips.

Jay and Laura Phillips were shocked to hear their 10-year-old talked back to a teacher at West Fork Middle school Thursday - but were less surprised when they found out why.

"Don't push him - four days of hassle, hassle, hassle and raise your voice," said Laura Phillips. "He's going to lose his temper."

Their son told them last weekend he had decided to no longer stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance at school because he didn't believe there is liberty and justice for all, especially when it comes to gay rights.

"To say them (words) and not mean them would be a lie," Jay said.

This week their son says a substitute teacher prodded him every day to stand up and say the pledge after he had refused. He then says he got angry, and talked back. The Phillips said that they reprimanded him for that, but they don't want him to be pushed to do something he doesn't feel comfortable doing.

"We would like to have the school make sure the teachers know the kids do have the right to sit down and make their own choices, even if he is only 10 and in 5th grade," Laura said.

She chooses not to say the Pledge of Allegiance, but Jay does. They said that they respect each other's choices - and their son's - and they don't see it as an insult to the country.

"He is not anti-American," Laura said. "He is very proud to live here, but he knows even at 10 he can make changes."

The West Fork School District responded by saying that they don't require students to say the pledge.


Awesome dude is awesome.

A waiter given a £10,000 reward for helping to convict a rapist has donated the money to the victim.

Lloyd Gardner, 22, of Ottery St Mary, Devon, contacted police in 2006 after seeing CCTV footage of a man wanted in connection with the rape in Exeter.

He spotted two women he knew on the film - and they led police to rapist Jakub Tomczak.

Mr Gardner said he did not deserve the reward and hoped the cash would help the woman rebuild her life.

He said: "I was told I was entitled to a reward because I gave police the lead they needed as I recognised the two girls and through them detectives were able to track the man down.

"It was a difficult decision to make because it is a lot of money and it would have been very helpful but I didn't feel like a deserved it at all.

"With the state that the girl was in after the incident, I really felt that it would go towards making her life a lot better over the next couple of years."

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Nagasaki, Hiroshima, we want to host your team-a!

TOKYO (AP) -- Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- site of atomic bombings in World War II -- are teaming up to bid for the 2020 summer Olympics, the cities' mayors said Sunday.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba and Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said at a press conference that they will establish a joint committee for a bid that will emphasize world peace.

"The Olympics symbolize the abolition of nuclear arms and world peace, and we want to work to realize our plan to host the games," Akiba said.

Taude added: "It will be a new challenge for the atomic-bombed cities."

The announcement comes a little more than a week after Tokyo lost its bid to host the 2016 Olympics. Tokyo organizers have not indicated whether they will bid again.

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara made headlines last week when he blamed his city's failure on Japanese sports officials' shortcomings in maneuvering the inner workings of the International Olympic Committee. Officials from Rio's bid described Ishihara's comments as "inappropriate.
Tokyo spent 15 billion yen ($166 million) promoting itself for the games.

A number of cities have already expressed interest in vying for the 2020 Olympics, including Istanbul, Budapest and Delhi. A host city is expected to be named in 2013, and only one city per country is allowed to submit a bid.

Both mayors are founding members of the Mayors for Peace 2020 Vision Campaign, which advocates for a global ban on nuclear arms. In a speech last month in Mexico City, Akiba said he "firmly" believed the world could abolish nuclear weapons by 2020 and suggested holding the Olympics that year in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to celebrate.

Hiroshima, the site of the world's first atom bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, is located in western Japan about 640-kilometers from Tokyo. The city was instantly flattened and an estimated 140,000 people were killed or died within months when the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the bomb in the waning days of World War II.

Three days later, the U.S. dropped a plutonium bomb on the port city of Nagasaki, killing about 80,000 people. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, ending World War II. A total of about 260,000 victims of the attack are officially recognized by the government, including those that have died of related injuries or sickness in the decades since.

Nagasaki sits about 320 kilometers west of Hiroshima on the island of Kyushu.

In 1994 Hiroshima held the Asian Games, which brought about 7,300 athletes from 42 countries and regions to the city.

The Japanese Olympic Committee praised the two cities for their enthusiasm but noted that a successful bid would requires more than just a message of world peace.

"The concept to host the Olympics is wonderful," JOC Secretary General Noriyuki Ichihara said, according to Kyodo news agency. "But I believe it would be difficult for the IOC to accept it just on the basis of abolishing nuclear weapons."

Soy Sauce

Yeah, it's gonna be about toning that xenophobia down from 9 to about 1, Japan.
wild things

Protests in Moscow at 'rigged' polls

Opposition activists in Russia are up in arms as tens of millions of Russians prepare to go to the polls across the country in local elections this weekend.

Opposition groups have been particularly angry in the capital Moscow, openly accusing authorities of rigging the election for the city assembly to ensure the ruling party maintains its tight grip on power. The vote is the first test of the government's popularity since the economic crisis hit the country hard a year ago. In the run-up to the elections, a small group of protesters took to the streets of Moscow, calling for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Yuri Luzhkov, the Mayor of Moscow, to be removed from office. They were venting their frustration after the election commission blocked all serious opponents of the government from running as independent candidates in Sunday's crucial vote for the Moscow assembly.

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SOURCE: news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8297885.stm

Guardian gagged from reporting parliament

Via @bengoldacre:

Guardian gagged from reporting parliament

The Guardian has been prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds which appear to call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.

Today's published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

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Related links (mods, if you're iffy about the below, please remove them, but please let through the post above, which is both on topic and important imho):

This is the question that Carter-Ruck (mentioned above) and Trafigura don't want you to see. Also here.

This is why they're so libel happy ("How UK oil company Trafigura tried to cover up African pollution disaster").
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