November 3rd, 2009

Bree Gun

(no subject)


U.S. Medical Prices Highest In the World

Posted by: Cathy Arnst on November 02

There is a set of charts flying around the policy blogosphere today that starkly illustrates why the U.S. devotes almost 18% of its gross domestic product to health care spending, while other wealthy nations spend no more than 10% or 11%: Because we pay far, far more per unit of care than any other country.

The 36-page document was put together in September by the International Federation of Health Plans, which represents 100 insurers in 31 countries. It consists of a number of charts that show the difference between what the U.S. pays for any number of medical services, and what other industrialized countries pay.

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To Veil or Not to Veil

Battle over face veil brewing in Egypt

By Mariam Karouny

CAIRO (Reuters) – Rokaya Mohamed, an elementary school teacher, would rather die than take off her face veil, or niqab, thrusting her to the forefront of a battle by government-backed clerics to limit Islamism in Egypt.

Egypt's state-run religious establishment wants teachers like Mohamed to remove their veils in front of female students, sparking a backlash by Islamists who say women should be able to choose to cover their faces in line with their Islamic faith.

"I have put on the niqab because it is a Sunna (a tradition of the Muslim prophet Muhammad). It is something that brings me closer to religion and closer to the wives of the Prophet who used to wear it," she said.

"I know what makes God and his prophet love me, and no sheikh is going to convince me otherwise. I would rather die than take it off, even inside class," she added.

Egypt, the birthplace of al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri, fought a low-level Islamist insurgency in the 1990s, has faced sporadic militant attacks targeting tourists since then, and is keen to quell Islamist opposition ahead of parliamentary elections next year and a 2011 presidential vote.

The spread of the niqab, associated with the strictest interpretations of Islam, is a potent reminder to the government of the political threat posed by any Islamist resurgence emanating from the Gulf, where many young Egyptians go to work.

Controversy over the niqab flared last month after the state-appointed head of Egypt's al-Azhar mosque asked a young student to remove her face veil during a visit to her school.

Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar Mohamed Sayed Tantawi later issued a religious edict or fatwa barring women and girls from wearing the niqab in all-girl Azhari schools, saying there was no reason for girls to cover their faces amongst themselves.

An Azhari research center later backed the ruling, saying the face veil should be removed when a girl is in an all-female class with women teachers, in all-female exam rooms, and in all-female dormitories.

Egyptian state-run media have also called for women to show their faces, citing the "damaging" effects of niqab on society.


While a majority of Egyptian women and girls consider it an Islamic religious obligation to cover their hair and neck with a scarf, few Muslim scholars say the full face veil is mandatory.

Yet growing numbers of Egyptian women are abandoning the simple headscarf in favor of the niqab, analysts say, reflecting the growing sway of strict Saudi-based Wahhabi ideology on an already conservative and Islamized society.

"It increased mainly because of the major influence from the Gulf. This habit is not from the heart of Egyptian society. It is imported from the Gulf," political analyst Hala Mustafa said.

"(Extremism) has been increasing in Egyptian society for the past 30 years and therefore Egyptians are accepting more extremism and becoming more closed off," she said.

Egypt, unlike other Muslim states Saudi Arabia and Iran, does not require women to cover their heads with a scarf. But the millions of Egyptians who have lived or worked in Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia are believed to be a source for the spread of Wahhabi ideology.

Just 30 years ago, women attended Egypt's flagship Cairo University wearing miniskirts and sleeveless tops. They strolled along the beaches of Alexandria in skimpy swimsuits at a time when society was seemingly more liberal and tolerant.

Analysts say the headscarf, or hijab, was seen as a status indicator and was prevalent among lower-income classes. Women from upper and middle classes rarely veiled at a young age and those who did usually followed fashionable interpretations of hijab. The niqab was uncommon at that time.


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OMG. That last sentence makes me want to choke someone. How's about teaching your sons not to oogle women, asshole? Still, I think that the face veil is a religious right, but it should not be allowed in government buildings and public places. I think women should be allowed to choose, but if many are being indoctrinated at a young age to thing that wearing the veil somehow makes them closer to the prophet and his wives...I don't know about that. I feel the same way with any other religious dogma and doctrine, as well.
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franklin sherman

Federal judge rules that police can search your e-mail without telling you

If the po-po suspect that your e-mail reveals evidence of criminal activity, they can get a search warrant and start word-searching your archives without your ever being told. So says Oregon judge Michael Mosman.

In a decision this month, Mosman ruled that the Fourth Amendment — protection from unreasonable search and seizures — does not guard us from this kind of search. Given that I often exchange e-mails with sources who would prefer to stay anonymous, this ruling alarms me. Though hopefully my writing would never expose me to a criminal investigation. Legal blogs are buzzing about the ruling. (See the Volokh Conspiracy and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.)

The problem with this is that you would never even know that the search happened. It would all take place without any notification to prevent you from deleting e-mails or refraining from continuing your illegal activity. In explaining his ruling, Mosman writes that the Fourth Amendment protects our homes from unreasonable searches and seizures, but that when we use the Internet, our actions are no longer in our homes and we are no longer “acting in private space at all.”

Mosman isn’t even some old, antiquated, “I-don’t-understand-the-Internetz” dude. Born in 1956, he’s a former U.S. Attorney of Oregon, who was appointed to the bench by George Bush in 2003. Here’s his bio and photo.

Mosman reasons that when we send e-mails and instant messages, they travel from computer to computer and are “held” along the way by third parties: ISP providers. Thus, the police can serve the ISP providers with a search warrant and get the information turned over without notifying an e-mail account holder. Mosman explains in his decision posted by the WSJ Law Blog

Much of the reluctance to apply traditional notions of third party disclosure to the e-mail context seems to stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of the lack of privacy we all have in our e-mails. Some people seem to think that they are as private as letters, phone calls, or journal entries. The blunt fact is, they are not.

But aren’t ISPs acting like the Postal Service here? We also put our written communication into the hands of postal workers, but we don’t see that as invalidating its private nature. Just because mail is electronic shouldn’t change its right to privacy. And with email, there’s a far greater mass of content to be seized. Whereas police might seize one package from FedEx — an example cited by Mosman — we send out tons of emails each day.

Mosman argues that the electronic communications are “stored” by the third party ISPs, and that material can be seized from third parties without notifying the first party sender and second party receiver. I think this is a rather unfortunate ruling.

PDFs of actual ruling available:


November 3, 2009
To Some, Winner Is Not American Enough

As soon as Mebrahtom Keflezighi, better known as Meb, won the New York City Marathon on Sunday, an uncommon sports dispute erupted online, fraught with racial and nationalistic components: Should Keflezighi’s triumph count as an American victory?

He was widely celebrated as the first American to win the New York race since 1982. Having immigrated to the United States at age 12, he is an American citizen and a product of American distance running programs at the youth, college and professional levels.

But, some said, because he was born in Eritrea, he is not really an American runner.

The debate reveals what some academics say are common assumptions and stereotypes about race and sports and athletic achievement in the United States. Its dimensions, they add, go beyond the particulars of Keflezighi and bear on undercurrents of nationalism and racism that are not often voiced.

“Race is still extremely important when you think about athletics,” said David Wiggins, a professor at George Mason University who studies African-Americans and sports. “There is this notion about innate physiological gifts that certain races presumably possess. Quite frankly, I think it feeds into deep-seated stereotypes. The more blatant forms of racial discrimination and illegal forms have been eliminated, but more subtle forms of discrimination still exist.”

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Rep. Joe Wilson Blames Obama For Vaccine Shortage -- After Voting Against Vaccine Funding

Rep. Joe Wilson Blames Obama For Vaccine Shortage -- After Voting Against Vaccine Funding

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) says President Obama has endangered American lives by not doing more to alleviate the nation's short supply of H1N1 vaccine. In a new interview with the conservative-leaning, Wilson says Obama's administration is "solely responsible" for the vaccine shortage, which he said are related to promises America made to donate vaccine to some foreign allies.

From the interview:

"The current administration is solely responsible. They can't blame this on any prior administration," said Wilson. "This is the responsibility of the current administration. They've put the lives of Americans at risk."

Last week, some Democrats predicted that H1N1 could become a line of new line attack of attack on Obama from Republicans. In a release issued on Thursday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee claimed that any criticism of H1N1 policy by the GOP would amount to hypocrisy.

The DCCC pointed to a June vote on a supplementary appropriations bill as evidence. Wilson joined 95% of Republicans and voted against the bill, which contained special funding to combat H1N1 both domestically and internationally. But the bill also contained other much more money for other plans and programs Republicans at the time viewed as wasteful, including the Cash-For-Clunkers car purchase incentive program.

Still, the DCCC says that a vote against the bill essentially equaled a vote against combating H1N1 and means Republicans who voted against it like Wilson favored a public health program that would have resulted in even less vaccine than is available now.

"The families, schools, and businesses fighting against the H1N1 flu pandemic deserve better than House Republicans' reckless, knee jerk partisanship and just-say-no approach to helping prepare for this national emergency," DCCC spokesperson Ryan Rudominer said in a statement released Oct. 27.

Wilson has been personally touched by the H1N1 virus. Last week, he sent an email to his district announcing his wife, Roxanne, had been diagnosed with the swine flu and urging his constituents to get vaccinated.

Wilson says he plans to get vaccinated himself, but "only after the majority of Americans" have received the inoculation, he told CNN last week.

Solution To Health Care Crisis: Prayer!

Healthcare provision seeks to embrace prayer treatments
little-noticed measure would put Christian Science healing sessions on the same footing as clinical medicine. Critics say it violates the separation of church and state.

Reporting from Washington - Backed by some of the most powerful members of the Senate, a little-noticed provision in the healthcare overhaul bill would require insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.

The provision was inserted by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) with the support of Democratic Sens. John F. Kerry and the late Edward M. Kennedy, both of Massachusetts, home to the headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist.

The measure would put Christian Science prayer treatments -- which substitute for or supplement medical treatments -- on the same footing as clinical medicine. While not mentioning the church by name, it would prohibit discrimination against "religious and spiritual healthcare."

It would have a minor effect on the overall cost of the bill -- Christian Science is a small church, and the prayer treatments can cost as little as $20 a day. But it has nevertheless stirred an intense controversy over the constitutional separation of church and state, and the possibility that other churches might seek reimbursements for so-called spiritual healing.

Phil Davis, a senior Christian Science Church official, said prayer treatment was an effective alternative to conventional healthcare.
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Akuma River

Giant Crack in Africa Will Create a New Ocean!!

Giant Crack in Africa Will Create a New Ocean (November 2, 2009 - Live Science - Staff)


A 35-mile rift in the desert of Ethiopia will likely become a new ocean eventually, researchers now confirm.

The crack, 20 feet wide in spots, opened in 2005 and some geologists believed then that it would spawn a new ocean. But that view was controversial, and the rift had not been well studied.
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I think this will have some political connotations. I do wonder that since the crack appeared within days in 2005 if this indicative of other major changes taking place. I am curious when the volcano eruption took place in 2005 because the Giant Tsunami that reshaped the oblong shape of the planet into a more spherical one took place in the later part of 2004.

And since then we have had how many earthquakes and tsunamis?

Maybe I'm paranoid...but I'm seeing an uptick in wacky weather and mother nature habits since 2004.

GOP: No way that this has anything to do or can effect global warming and/or political powers of surrounding countries. No way at all.
Lucy  - Durnk n Pitsy

The View Discusses Abortion... ohhh, lawd.

Yes, Elizabeth, showing women who are considering abortions videos of the procedure and images of disfigured, aborted fetuses is a great idea! How could anyone dare think that that would be a cruel thing to do?


I hate that the pro-life side uses photos of late-term abortions as their ~proof of suffering~, especially considering that most of the images that they're using are pictures of fetuses with extreme genetic deformations or fetuses that were already dead before the procedure.

homophobia in sports

It's time to end the use of gay slurs in hockey
By Justin Bourne, Special for USA TODAY

In my days as a hockey player, I did nothing but contribute to hockey's culture of homophobia and prejudice against gays. I used gay slurs more times than I'd like to admit. Six months after I left my last professional locker room, I felt a twinge of regret, followed by a full-out, stomach punch of regret. And by the time I finished the first draft of this column, I was disgusted with myself.

At the time, it seemed harmless. After all – when you think about the NHL, AHL, ECHL and more, can you call to memory a single open homosexual among them? There was nobody in my team's dressing room to offend, right?

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Another story but I figured I'd put it in the same post since they're related:

Danish club fires footballer for 'I hate gays' comment

Polish goalkeeper Arek Onyszko has been fired by FC Midtjylland, a Danish football club, for making homophobic comments in his autobiography.

The player's book, titled F**king Polack, was released yesterday. In it, he detailed his hate of homosexuality.

Onyszko wrote: "I hate gays, I really do. I think it’s f**king disgusting to hear them talk to each other as if they are girls. I can’t be in the same room as someone who’s gay. Look at them kissing each other – it’s sickening."

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franklin sherman

Court rules victim of ‘extraordinary rendition’ can’t sue

Lawyer: Ruling places executive officials 'above the law'

A Canadian citizen who was wrongly identified as a terrorist suspect and reportedly tortured in a Syrian prison for nearly a year after US authorities sent him there has lost his bid to sue the US government.

In a 7 to 4 decision, judges on the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian engineer, cannot sue the Justice Department because the lawsuit would “offend the separation of powers and inhibit this country's foreign policy,” the judges stated.

In September, 2002, as he headed home to Canada from a vacation, Arar was detained by US authorities at New York's JFK Airport on suspicion of links to terrorism. After 12 days in US custody, Arar was put on a plane to Syria, the country of his birth, where he says he spent a more than ten months in a "grave-like" cell being interrogated and tortured before being sent home at Canada's request.

Subsequent investigations found Arar had been wrongly flagged as a terrorist suspect by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, because he had acted as a reference on an apartment rental application for another individual who was under surveillance in Canada. It also emerged that Canada's spy agency suspected the US would likely send him to abroad to be tortured.

In 2004, Arar was the first person to sue the US over the practice of "extraordinary rendition," a program that sent terrorist suspects to countries where they could be tortured within the confines of the local law. Arar named the Justice Department and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in his lawsuit.

The Circuit Court's decision "leaves the federal officials involved free of any legal accountability for what they did," the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement released Monday. The CCR is representing Arar in his legal actions against the US government.

“This decision says that US officials can intentionally send a man to be tortured abroad, bar him from any access to the courts while doing so, and then avoid any legal accountability thereafter," said attorney David Cole, who argued the case before the court. "It effectively places executive officials above the law, even when accused of a conscious conspiracy to torture."

In 2006, a Canadian commission of inquiry issued a report (PDF) stating that "there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada."

Arar has had better luck extracting justice from the Canadian government than he has from the US government. In 2006, Canada agreed to pay him $10 million for his suffering, and issued a formal apology. The US has not followed suit, and the Justice Department continued to claim that Arar was a risk to the US, despite being cleared by the very authorities who alerted them.

The Justice Department has since argued that Arar was sent to Syria based on an "internal threat assessment," and not on the faulty information handed them by Canada.

Arar released the following statement on Monday: “Unfortunately, this recent decision and decisions taken on other similar cases prove that the court system in the United States has become more or less a tool that the executive branch can easily manipulate through unfounded allegations and fear mongering. If anything, this decision is a loss to all Americans and to the rule of law.”

The Associated Press reported:

At stake in the lawsuit was the court's role in reviewing the practice of “extraordinary rendition” in which someone suspected of supporting terrorism is transferred to a foreign nation for imprisonment and interrogation without formal charges, trial or court approval.

The appeals court said it was hesitant to create “a new damages remedy that Congress has not seen fit to authorize.”

It added: “Even the probing of these matters entails the risk that other countries will become less willing to co-operate with the United States in sharing intelligence resources to counter terrorism.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights noted that not all judges agreed with the ruling. In a dissenting opinion, Judge Guido Calabresi wrote, “I believe that when the history of this distinguished court is written, today’s majority decision will be viewed with dismay.”
iamamiwhoami idle talk
  • danibel

But tell us how you really feel

"Hitchens Manages to Top Richard Dawkins, Assails Mother Theresa"

    Catholics and other Christians probably don't care what anyone says about them anymore, given the relative lack of outrage over Richard Dawkins' comments in The Washington Post this week. (See blog post below). So who will notice what Christopher Hitchens just unloaded on the Dennis Miller show this morning? Miller, let it be said, was not buying it at all--merely letting Hitchens spout this about abortion and Mother Theresa:

    "Mother Theresa spent her whole life saying (that what Calcutta needs) is a huge campaign against family planning. I mean, who comes to that conclusion who isn't a complete fanatic? She took - and I would directly say stole...millions and millions of dollars and spent all the money not on the poor, but on the building of nearly 200 convents in her own name around the world to glorify herself and to continue to spread the doctrine that, as she put it -- when she got her absurd Nobel Peace Prize -- that the main threat to world peace is abortion and contraception. The woman was a fanatic and a fundamentalist and a fraud, and millions of people are much worse off because of her life, and it's a shame there is no hell for your bitch to go to."

    Christopher Hitchens is a regular contributor to The New Republic, The Atlantic and Vanity Fair.

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED for "managing to top" Richard Dawkins?


*insert Blazing Saddles reference here*

Boney D and Rabbit come from rough parts of Brooklyn, places that could be unfavorably compared to the Wild West.

You wouldn't expect that they'd escape their environments at a rugged 25-acre ranch in nearby Queens, riding horses and hanging out with cowboys.

"I've seen a guy get shot dead, point [blank] range, right in front of me -- dropped him, boom," D'vonte "Boney D" Jemmott, 15, said of the neighborhood where he grew up. "I've seen dudes get beat up, chased home, all sorts of things. I've seen all sorts of different drugs being ran around.

"If I wasn't down here," he said, "I'd probably be involved with things like that -- robbing people, probably hurting people -- because I've seen a lot of that stuff done around my way."

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franklin sherman

Politicians demand to be treated as a superior class,CST-NWS-searchme31.article

Don't search me, aldermen warn
Hearings chief told to cut it out or face possible budget cut

Chicago aldermen with their noses out of joint Friday demanded to know why they are searched along with the masses at the city's central headquarters for administrative hearings.

Scott Bruner, director of Administrative Hearings --the department Chicagoans love to hate -- was put through the wringer again during City Council budget hearings, but for different reasons.

Normally, Bruner gets pummeled for presiding over a "kangaroo court" of rude, cavalier and predominantly white hearing officers who don't give the accused a fair shake, critics say.

This time, he was ambushed by aldermen, some of them attorneys, who show up at 400 W. Superior and are searched and put through metal detectors like everyone else.

Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) noted that aldermen are shown far more courtesy at the Daley Center and the State of Illinois building.

"If I present my attorney identification card and the sheriff's ID, I don't get searched [in those buildings] as an officer of the court. I am offended that you would think that this administrative hearing process is superior to or has a greater security risk than the Circuit Court of Cook County or the Appellate Court of the state of Illinois," Lyle said.

Budget Committee Chair Carrie Austin (34th) was so "offended," she warned Bruner what might happen if he fails to "take another look at your policy."

"It's not a matter of giving anybody any preference. But us that are aldermen -- we are the ones who set your budget. If we're the ones setting your budget maybe we'll take an adjustment" downward, if the policy is not rescinded, Austin warned.

Bruner initially defended the policy, telling aldermen, "It's not my intention to offend anyone. It's only our intention to make sure that people coming through are searched. . . . We're trying to treat everyone equally."

But by the time the hearing ended, he had clearly gotten the message.

"We will go back and look at the policy. We'll talk to the vendor about what they are comfortable with, and we'll see what, if anything, we can do to address it," Bruner said.

(no subject)

Czech court endorses Lisbon treaty

President Vaclav Klaus is last obstacle to full ratification of EU reform treaty after court rules it is in line with constitution

The Czech Republic's constitutional court has endorsed the Lisbon treaty on European Union reform, ruling that it is in line with the country's constitution.

Today's decision has removed the last legal hurdle for the treaty and intensifies pressure on the Eurosceptic president, Vaclav Klaus, to sign the document. Klaus is now the final obstacle to the full ratification of the treaty, designed to increase the EU's global influence.

The court was asked to rule by a group of senators who filed a motion arguing that the treaty was not in line with the constitution.

In his ruling, Pavel Rychetsky, the court's chief judge, said the treaty "does not violate the constitution".

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(Editing to update: President Klaus promptly signed the treaty.)
franklin sherman

Police Officer Caught Masturbating To Child Porn In Police Station

Officer arrested in child porn case
By Ryan Hutton, New England Newspapers
Updated: 11/03/2009 06:12:08 AM EST

Tuesday, Nov. 03
ADAMS -- Veteran Adams Police Officer Alan C. Vigiard, 45, was arrested last week and charged with possession of child pornography. He has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation, authorities said Monday.

According to state police reports, Vigiard, who is married with two children, allegedly downloaded and viewed child pornography in the Adams Police Department evidence room. He pleaded not guilty to the child pornography charge Friday in Northern Berkshire District Court.

Police Chief Donald Poirot and the State Police Berkshire Detective Unit began investigating after a folder containing 153 images of child pornography was copied onto CDs with evidence for a larceny case and sent to the Berkshire County district attorney's office, according to court documents.

The images included both male and female children "clearly under age 18" in various states of undress and in sexually explicit situations, according to state police reports. Mixed in with the pornographic images were pictures of clothed teenage girls who have been identified as being from the Adams area.

Also on the CDs were images and a video clip of a male masturbating in front of a computer monitor, the reports state -- the male's head is never in view, but the background was clearly identified as the Police Department's evidence room. According to police, the man in the video had a distinctive scar on his left hand that matched one a state trooper noticed on Vigiard's hand when he was arrested.

Vigiard is one of only four people with access to the Police Department evidence room, Poirot told state police.

According to court documents, the State Police Digital Evidence Unit was called in to investigate the department's computers, and Poirot contacted the town's network administrator to track Vigiard's account. The administrator said all computer accounts are protected by passwords, so it is not possible for someone to access an account other than his or her own. The digital evidence unit found that time stamps reporting access to the pornographic files matched the times Vigiard had been logged into the system.

The digital evidence unit also found that "Lime Wire" -- a peer-to-peer file sharing program -- had been installed on the evidence room computer. Lime Wire is a program used to download both pirated and legitimate music and videos, as well as more illicit materials such as child pornography. In the Lime Wire searches, police found numerous words and phrases common with searching for child pornography, court documents state.

Poirot told state police the Adams Police Department is not properly equipped or trained to handle cases of child pornography so none should be located anywhere on the department's computers or network.

On Thursday, Poirot confiscated Vigiard's key to the evidence room, court reports state, adding that while state police were meeting with the chief in his office, network time stamps showed that Vigiard tried to delete additional files from the department's network from another computer. State police were able to recover all the files.

According to court documents, Vigiard, after being confronted with the charges, agreed to cooperate with state police: He asked that they not respond to his home and arranged a meeting with troopers at the Adams Police Department later Thursday afternoon. Before that meeting, however, Vigiard called Poirot to cancel, and at 6:40 p.m., state police arrested him outside his home.

While he was being booked at the Cheshire State Police barracks, a trooper observed that Vigiard had a scar that matched the one in the masturbation video and documented it, reports state.

Poirot said he could not comment on an open investigation. He said the department was taking the case very seriously and cooperating with state police. The district attorney's office would not comment beyond confirming the charges against Vigiard.

Vigiard has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Dec. 21 in Northern Berkshire District Court. If convicted, he could face up to five years in state prison or two and a half years in county jail, as well as fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

To reach Ryan Hutton, e-mail

Johnson saves woman from 'oiks'

London mayor Boris Johnson has rescued a woman who was being attacked by an armed group of young girls, chasing them down the road on his bicycle.

Franny Armstrong called for help as she was surrounded and pushed by the girls, one of whom had an iron bar, in Camden, north London, on Monday night.

The mayor, who was cycling past, stopped and chased the girls down the street, calling them: "Oiks".


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I know a lot of people hate the dude, but I liked it last year when he said the London snowstorms were "no excuse for a mass skive." Also he was my sole VIP sighting in London.


Bear kills militants in Kashmir

A bear killed two militants after discovering them in its den in Indian-administered Kashmir, police say.


Two other militants escaped, one of them badly wounded, after the attack in Kulgam district, south of Srinagar.
The militants had assault rifles but were taken by surprise - police found the remains of pudding they had made to eat when the bear attacked.

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Hospital bill stuns slain student's parents

On Saturday, 10 days after Scott Hawkins was beaten to death inside his dormitory at California State University, Sacramento, his parents got a letter in the mail.

It contained a bill from the UC Davis Medical Center for $29,186.50 along with a form letter addressed "Dear Patient" that implied they were indigent and stated that the hospital no longer could provide them services.

"UC Davis can no longer provide follow-up care or any other non-emergency care to you," it read. "Please go to a County clinic for all non-emergency care or to get a referral to another doctor."

For Gerald and Elizabeth Hawkins, it was just too much to bear.

"It was just devastating and insulting," Gerald Hawkins said Monday. "It's just hard to grasp for words. My wife and I were near collapse."

The couple said the mailing tore at the wounds opened by the loss of their 23-year-old son.

"We were just very upset on Saturday, it just all spiraled downward," Elizabeth Hawkins said. "We called a crisis counselor and he came over and spent several hours over here."

As a means of coping, the family made a copy of the letter, took it into the backyard of their Santa Clara home and burned it.

Monday morning, they picked up the phone to straighten things out.

Gerald Hawkins said he first called the UC Davis billing department, but was so distraught he lost his voice and handed the phone to his wife.

"It was just one more unpleasant process," she said. "I was crying through the whole thing."

The parents also sent a note to the billing department noting that their son was not indigent and that he carried full medical coverage through a Kaiser Permanente plan.

Contacted by The Bee on Monday, Carole Gan, a hospital spokeswoman, called the mailing "a mistake."

She said she was limited in what information she could provide about the medical care provided to Scott Hawkins, but said he arrived at the emergency room at 3:11 p.m. and was pronounced dead five minutes later.

"The trauma team did everything they could," Gan said.

She said the bill accurately reflects the services provided but that the hospital regrets that the bill and letter were mailed to the family. She said the matter would be resolved through Hawkins' insurance company.

The suspect in Hawkins' beating death, 19-year-old Quran Jones, remained hospitalized at UC Davis on Monday in fair condition.

Officers responding to reports of a disturbance in a CSUS dormitory on the afternoon of Oct. 21 shot Jones after he allegedly lunged at them with a knife.

Jones is expected to be booked on charges of murder and attempted murder when he recovers.

Authorities have not said what they believe might have sparked the attack. Hawkins and Jones shared a suite in the dorm, and a detailed timeline compiled by campus authorities indicates Hawkins may have walked in on Jones several minutes into his rampage. Police say Jones beat Hawkins to death using the baseball bat of another suite mate.

Hawkins, who had Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, had been attending CSUS since August, when his parents drove up to Sacramento with him and helped him move into his dorm. His parents describe him as a gentle, quiet son with a love of learning and fascination for history.

Gerald Hawkins said he was shaken by the description of services that, according to the billing, the hospital provided his son.

He said he was told by CSUS President Alexander Gonzales that his son died inside the dormitory suite.

But the billing indicates that his son lived longer than initially thought, Hawkins said. In addition to the emergency room services, the bill seeks payment for a "patient monitor," trauma rescue services, intubation and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Gloria Moraga, a spokeswoman for CSUS, said she could not comment on the case because it is under investigation.

"The conversation the president and the family had was a private conversation and we cannot share it with you," she added.

The hospital bill is dated Thursday. Gerald Hawkins said he was confident his insurance company would handle the matter.

But that did nothing to allay how disturbing he finds it that the hospital sent the mailing at all.

"I can't believe this can happen in a civilized country," Hawkins said.

  • Current Mood

"What If My Mother Had Aborted Me?"

Kathleen Reeves turned her eyes to the way the recent and immediately notorious anti-choice episode of “Law and Order” employed the “born alive” myth that’s so near and dear the anti-choice heart. I would like to tackle another hoary myth of the anti-choice pantheon that made it onto the show, the “How would you like to be aborted?” ruse. On “Law and Order”, it shows up in the form of one of the detectives suggesting he was nearly aborted by his mother throwing herself down the stairs at 7 months---but instead, he was just prematurely delivered. Like most of the episode---including an exchange a few moments before when the same detective suggests that forcing an 11-year-old to give birth is nothing short of a the most wonderful thing you can do---the exchange only works if you share the writers’ assumption that once penetrated, a woman can be assumed to have no feelings or thoughts worth respecting, and should be regarded as nothing more than a womb, and abortion is a frustrating misfire, much like when the clutch goes out on your car.

But let’s deal with the attempt to get around women’s basic human rights by appealing to the egotistical assumption that your own birth was inevitable, and that the only thing that could have threatened this inevitable trot to you existing was the legality of abortion. “How would you like it if your mother had an abortion?” ask the anti-choicers, without realizing that’s like asking, “How would you like it if the night you were conceived, your dad decided to go to bed early while your mom stayed up to watch Johnny Carson?” The answer is, you wouldn’t be here to regret their selfish actions in the abortion or late show department.

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Whaddaya Mean Obama Hasn't Done Anything?

A blow-by-blow breakdown of the young president's first year reveals that today's frustration stems not from a lack of policy so much as a lack of common ground. The myth of the American center looms in this, the second part of a week-long series on our country since the 2008 election.

By John H. Richardson

I have figured out The Problem With America Today. My inspiration was the recent one-year-later cover of Newsweek, which encapsulates the current conventional wisdom about President Obama in a single headline: YES HE CAN (BUT HE SURE HASN'T YET). Or, as Saturday Night Live put it, President Obama's two biggest accomplishments thus far are "Jack and Squat." You can find other versions of this perspective from Matt Lauer and David Gregory on NBC, from thousands of obnoxious bloggers, even from the hapless governor of New York.

These days, the argument that Obama hasn't accomplished anything may be the only example of real bipartisanship in America.

Here's the conventional wisdom in a single paragraph: Three hundred and sixty-four days after he was elected president, Obama is still stuck in Iraq, hasn't closed Guantánamo, is getting deeper into Afghanistan, hasn't accomplished health-care reform or slowed the rise in unemployment. His promises of bipartisanship are a punch line (see above). And there's still no peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. What a failure! What a splash of cold water in the face of all our bold hopes!

But the conventional wisdom is insane. Collapse )


Happy anniversary, Mr President! ILU

EDIT: A nice big wall of nostalgic election headlines can be found at BoingBoing:

7th person arrested in school gang rape

A seventh person has been arrested in a gang rape on a high school campus in northern California, police said Tuesday.

Richmond Police Lt. Mark Gagan did not identify the suspect. Of those arrested so far, one was released for lack of evidence.

Police say as many as 10 people were involved in the rape October 24 in a dimly lit alley outside Richmond High School, where a homecoming dance was taking place.

Another 10 people watched the attack without calling 911, police say.

Authorities say the attack lasted for more than two hours. The victim was taken to the hospital in critical condition, and was released Wednesday.

The victim's parents issued a statement that urged those in the community to work to ensure that such an attack never happens again.

"If you need to express your outrage, please channel your anger through positive action," they said, according to the Rev. Jim Wheeler, who said he was the family's pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Richmond.


White House: No H1N1 vaccine going to Guantanamo detainees

At least for now, detainees at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay will not be getting any H1N1 vaccine, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

"There is no vaccine in Guantanamo and there is no vaccine on the way to Guantanamo," :Gibbs said in the daily White House news briefing when asked about reports that the Pentagon would offer detainees the vaccine for the virus, also known as swine flu.

A spokeswoman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, which is responsible for the detainees, said last week that the decision to inoculate them was based on a U.S. government assessments that people held in detention facilities are at high risk in the pandemic.

"Detainees at JTF Guantanamo are considered to be at higher risk and therefore they will be offered the H1N1 vaccination," Maj. Diana R. Haynie said Friday. She said then she didn't know when the vaccine would arrive at the facility.

News of the planned vaccinations of Guantanamo detainees prompted criticism from congressional Republicans and Democrats. Noting vaccine shortages across the country, they argued that no Guantanamo detainees should be inoculated ahead of Americans waiting for the vaccine.


Anti-interracial-marriage judge resigns!

ROCK. I hope I did this right; it's my first post here!

A Louisiana justice of the peace who drew criticism for refusing to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple has resigned, the secretary of state's office said Tuesday.

Keith Bardwell, a justice of the peace for Tangipahoa Parish's 8th Ward, was widely criticized after he refused to grant a marriage license to Beth McKay and Terence McKay, an interracial couple who ultimately got a marriage license from another justice of the peace in the same parish.

The McKays hired an attorney and protested the justice's actions.

Despite a national uproar and a call by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for him to lose his license, Bardwell, 56, said in October that he had no regrets. "It's kind of hard to apologize for something that you really and truly feel down in your heart you haven't done wrong," he told CNN affiliate WAFB.

He said he is not racist and does not treat black people differently. He said he does not perform mixed-race marriages because he is concerned about the children of such marriages.

At that time, Bardwell did not return calls from CNN.

Beth McKay, 30, said she was speaking with Bardwell's wife by phone about getting a marriage license and was shocked to be asked whether they were an interracial couple.

"She said, 'Well, what's the deal? Is he black, or are you black?' And so I answered her question, and then she just said, 'Well, we don't do interracial marriages.'"

Terence McKay, 32, said, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but he's absolutely wrong on all aspects of his stance." McKay added, "If it wasn't for interracial couples today, we wouldn't have our president. So for him to take that outlook, that's still like 1800s or something."

"A lot of people have come up to us and said, 'You know, we're in interracial relationships as well,' not just black and white, and just encouraged us to stand up for our rights and to speak out against things like this," Beth McKay said.

The incident "caught us completely off guard," said Terence McKay, "and we're just trying to live our lives."

The National Urban League called for an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, saying in a statement that Bardwell's actions were "a huge step backward in social justice."

The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out race-based limitations on marriage in the landmark 1967 Loving v. Virginia case. In the unanimous decision, the court said that "Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."

Lucy  - Durnk n Pitsy

China's black pop idol exposes her nation's racism


She is attractive, effervescent and has an appealing voice. But these qualities alone would not have made Lou Jing the most famous television talent show contestant in China and the subject of national debate in the world's most populous country. The reason they are talking about Lou is because she is black.

The 20-year-old daughter of a Chinese mother and an African-American father who left the country before she was born, Lou was a highly unusual entrant to Shanghai-based Dragon TV's Go Oriental Angel. Her appearances – she became one of five finalists – have provoked a storm of abuse on the internet, a rare debate on racism in the media, and a bout of self-examination in a country where skin colour is a notoriously sensitive subject.

Dragon TV initially had doubts about allowing Lou to perform, but then realised that her presence would do much to attract publicity for the show. But few executives can have expected the fury contained in many of the blogs and online posts that accompanied her performances. The internet is the only place in China where the public can express views with near-freedom – although they are rapidly cut off by an army of state censors if they stray into territory that attracts official disapproval. The huge online interest in Lou clearly does not fall into this category.

"Ugh. Yellow people and black people mixed together is very gross," was one representative post. And Lou's critics are incensed not only by her colour but also because she is apparently the product of an extramarital relationship. Another blogger wrote: "Numb! This bitch still has the audacity to appear on television! I don't know what to say! One cannot be shameless to this kind of level!"

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This was posted over in the mothership and I figured it'd be more productive to discuss here.

Millions worldwide would like to switch countries: study

Some 700 million people worldwide, or more than all the adults of North and South America combined, think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and want to permanently move to another country, a poll showed Tuesday.

Residents of sub-Saharan African countries were the most likely to want to move abroad permanently, the polls conducted in 135 countries between 2007 and this year by Gallup showed.

On average, 38 percent of the adult population in sub-Saharan Africa, or around 165 million people, said they would up stakes and head for another country if they had the chance.

The most popular destination was the United States, where nearly a quarter of the 700 million -- around 165 million people -- said they would like to settle.

In joint second were Britain, Canada and France, each being named as the preferred destination of around 45 million people.

Thirty-five million said they would go to Spain, 30 million to Saudi Arabia, and 25 million each to Australia or Germany.

The least likely to want to emigrate were Asians -- only one in 10 Asian adults said they would move to another country.

Nearly 260,000 people aged 15 years and older were surveyed, either by phone or face-to-face, for the poll, which has a margin of error of around five percent.


Six bodies found in rapists home

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- For the past few years, neighbors assumed the foul smell enveloping their street corner had been coming from a brick building where workers churned out sausage and head cheese.

It got so bad that the owners of Ray's Sausage replaced their sewer line and grease traps.

Now they know the odor was coming from a three-story house next door where the decomposing bodies of six women were found.

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Hoffman: "ACORN Stole My Election!! Help Me Crazy People!"

NY-23: [UPDATE] Hoffman Accuses Democrats of ‘Stealing the Election’

At a short press availability in his campaign office here, NY-23 Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman said that a GOTV volunteer’s tires had been slashed, and all but blamed Democrats for the dirty trick.

“There are reports that they’re bringing in the troops and they’re bringing in ACORN,”
said Hoffman. “I think the Democrats are doing anything they possibly can to steal this election away from the 23rd district.”

The campaign gave reporters the name and phone number of Jeremy Kain, the volunteer who claimed to have his tires slashed, but asked to confirm whether he was accusing the Democrats of supressing the vote, Hoffman started to backtrack: ‘We’ve called in the police and the police will be investigating.”

The campaign is pushing this story hard after a wave of morning reports that Hoffman’s grassroots supporters were misbehaving.
Attacks on ACORN, and allegations that Democrats are trying to steal this election, have been striking components Hoffman’s hard-edged late-game messaging.

Update: Anton Troianovski of the Wall Street Journal followed up with the Plattsburgh police on this, and was told that the volunteer actually damaged his tire on a broken bottle. I asked Hoffman campaign manager Dan Tripp about this–he said he had no comment because the campaign had not heard this yet.

It’s not unheard of for a candidate to make an accusation like this without having all the facts, but it’s a strange sideshow in the final hours.
movies | Impish Fräulein2

"Obama's half brother recalls their abusive father".

Mark Ndesandjo, the intensely private half-brother of President-elect Barack Obama, plays piano after an interview with The Associated Press in Guangzhou, southern China. Ndesandjo has penned a semi-autobiographical novel describing a physically abusive father patterned on Barack Obama Sr., the half-brothers' late father. The novel, which goes on sale Wednesday by the self-publishing company Aventine Press, is one of several books in the works by relatives of the president.

GUANGZHOU, China — President Barack Obama's half brother has broken his media silence to discuss his new novel — the semi-autobiographical story of an abusive parent patterned on their late father, the mostly absent figure Obama wrote about in his own memoir.

In his first interview, Mark Ndesandjo told The Associated Press that he wrote "Nairobi to Shenzhen" in part to raise awareness of domestic violence.

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I feel sheepish that my first reaction--upon seeing pictures of Ndesandjo ad noting how much he and Obama look alike--was to go "DUN-DUN-DUNNNN".
oliver wood, angry

US puts climate debate on hold for five weeks

• Senate delay means no bill likely before Copenhagen
• German leader makes historic Congress address

International negotiators lost one of the key elements to a successful deal on global warming today after Democratic leaders in the US Congress ruled out passing a climate change law before 2010. In the latest obstacle on the road to the UN summit in Copenhagen next month, Senate leaders ordered a five-week pause to review the costs of the legislation.

The delay, which would push a Senate vote on a climate change bill into next year, frustrates a last-minute push by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, to get America to commit itself at home to cut greenhouse gas emissions before the Copenhagen meeting. World leaders – and US officials – have repeatedly said US legislation is crucial to a deal on global warming.

Merkel used a historic address to a joint session of Congress today to urge America to act on climate change, stating that success at Copenhagen rested on the willingness of all countries to accept binding reductions in carbon emissions.

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Boehner Promises Tax Cuts for Health Care Reform, But Asks What is This "Pre-existing Condition"...

Boehner's Health Care Bill At Odds With Pre-Existing GOP Positions

The health legislation authored by House Republicans and set to be unveiled in the next few days reportedly would not prevent health insurance companies from discriminating against patients with pre-existing conditions.

That's not just a stark contrast to Democratic-produced legislation; it puts Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his co-authors at odds with many members of their own party.

Many of the most respected health care voices in the GOP have historically treated the idea of eliminating pre-existing condition exclusions as an obvious plank in any reform effort. A Democratic opposition researcher provided the Huffington Post with several examples.

Even deeply conservative figures like Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okl) insisted as recently as August that "everyone agrees" that legislation should "eliminate pre-existing conditions" as an excuse for denying coverage.

Coburn's colleague in the Senate, John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), explained in July that after listening to people in his home state, he understood that Congress needed "to take care of things like pre-existing conditions so that that doesn't stop them from getting insurance."

Another Senate Republican who was heavily involved in negotiating health care reform, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, has unequivocally declared that the government has "to prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting medical conditions and charging higher premiums to people who are sick."

Even the Republican Whip in the Senate, Jon Kyl of Arizona, has stressed the need to make sure that patients "cannot be denied care because [they] have a pre-existing condition..."

On the House side as well, many Republicans will find themselves at odds with the legislation that their leadership is about to introduce.
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It Is Open Season For Moderate Republicans! Guyz, Get Yer Guns!

Club for Growth Is on Hunt for Republicans Who ‘Don’t Fit the Bill’

After pumping more than $1 million into an upstate New York House race to elect the Conservative Party’s Doug Hoffman, the Club for Growth is on the hunt again.

Chris Chocola, president of the conservative political action committee, made it clear the PAC is looking for more GOP targets who don’t embrace the Club’s limited-government approach.

Priority No. 1 is likely to be the Senate contest in Florida, where Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who embraced President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, is being challenged by former State House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Chocola said the Club will jump in “where there is a viable candidate and a stark contrast.”

“It’s no secret we like Rubio a lot and we have great concerns about Crist,” he said, adding that a decision will come in “no more than weeks.”

Beyond Florida, other establishment Republicans may be looking over their shoulders. Chocola, a former House Republican from Indiana, noted that he served with Rep. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and former Rep. Rob Simmons (R., Conn.), both running for the Senate.

“They’re both good guys, but they don’t fit the bill as Club for Growth candidates,”
he said.

Before his organization decides to jump in, however, he said the group has to see how those races develop, and whether a clear “Club” alternative surfaces.

“The best Kirk and Simmons can expect is that we leave them alone,” Chocola said.

GOP to Unemployed: "Bootstraps Mother F@#kers!!!"

As GOP Holds Up Unemployment Extension, Nearly 200,000 Lose Their Benefits

In the world outside the Senate, time is money; inside it, time is everything. Senate Republicans are taking full advantage of that reality, using every parliamentary device at their disposal to slow down an extension of unemployment insurance benefits -- even after Democrats added billions for big business to sweeten the pot.

The saga is a cast study both in the difficulty of passing even popular legislation in the Senate and the lengths to which the GOP is going to slow down the process.

The extension overwhelmingly passed the House 331-83 in late September. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made a motion to pass it by unanimous consent in early October;
it was blocked by GOP objections.

After negotiations, Reid filed for cloture on Oct. 21 to break a GOP filibuster. On October 27, the Senate voted 87-13 on a motion to proceed to consider the bill, breaking the filibuster.

But under Senate rules, the GOP is still allowed 30 hours of "debate."
There actually isn't much debate, but the clock is ticking while senators take to the floor to make speeches about whatever they like.

To get things moving, Democrats sweetened the pot, adding in billions in tax breaks for business -- a net operating loss carry-back provision that the GOP has long favored -- and an extension of the homebuyer tax credit.
Reid introduced the goodies in a substitute amendment with Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), a champion of the business tax break.

"The two were put together as a means of greasing the skids. You know how things work around here," Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) told HuffPost. "Could we have gotten UI through otherwise? Yes, we could have, but it would have taken us several days. And we don't have that kind of time. And the minority is then able to, because of the time, demand certain things."

The skids properly greased, Reid filed for cloture again on Oct. 29th. It came to a vote Monday night, Nov. 2nd, where it passed 85-2.
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