December 26th, 2009

Akuma River

The 'Christmas' Spirit

Mich. Muslims join Jews for Christmas Day Mitzvah

DETROIT — Many Jews consider Christmas Day an opportunity to serve their community while Christian neighbors celebrate their holiday. This year, what's also known as Mitzvah Day in southeast Michigan is getting an added boost from Muslims.

For the first time, about 40 Muslims are expected to join 900 Jews for what they call their largest annual day of volunteering. Leaders say it's a small but significant step in defusing tensions and promoting good will between the religions – particularly on a day that is sacred to Christianity, the third Abrahamic faith.

Mitzvah Day, a nearly 20-year tradition in the Detroit area also practiced in other communities, is so named because Mitzvah means "commandment" in Hebrew and is generally translated as a good deed.
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Considering the news we got yesterday about that flight from Amsterdam I thought this would bring a little cheer back into the holidays. I think it's great idea for the two faiths to come together during the season and do charity work. I just wonder if there is a day all three of the faiths can come together on.


'Avatar' is part of important discussion about race

By Courtland Milloy
Wednesday, December 23, 2009; B01

If you thought James Cameron's "Avatar" was just a 3-D fantasy flick about nice cat people vs. mechanized mad men, think again. There's a fourth dimension, a shadowy back story about race that has the sci-fi blogosphere engaged in its own war of the worlds.

Annalee Newitz, writing last week on her science blog io9, criticized "Avatar" for depicting yet another white man as a hero in the liberation struggles of oppressed people of color.

As happens in movies such as "District 9," "Dances With Wolves" and "The Last Samurai," Newitz wrote, "a white guy manages to get himself accepted into a closed society of people of color and eventually becomes its most awesome member."
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franklin sherman

Obama admin promises unlimited financial assistance to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac

The Obama administration pledged Thursday to provide unlimited financial assistance to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, an eleventh-hour move that allows the government to exceed the current $400 billion cap on emergency aid without seeking permission from a bailout-weary Congress.

The Christmas Eve announcement by the Treasury Department means that it can continue to run the companies, which were seized last year, as arms of the government for the rest of President Obama's current term.

But even as the administration was making this open-ended financial commitment, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac disclosed that they had received approval from their federal regulator to pay $42 million in Wall Street-style compensation packages to 12 top executives for 2009.

The compensation packages, including up to $6 million each to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's chief executives, come amid an ongoing public debate about lavish payments to executives at banks and other financial firms that have received taxpayer aid. But while many firms on Wall Street have repaid the assistance, there is no prospect that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will do so.

Thanks to obama for further rewarding these crooked companies who made poor business decisions with our tax dollars. They will never change, because they have no reason to.
  • synesis

Tories enjoy animals being torn to shreds; nobody surprised

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn is launching a campaign to boost support for the fox hunting ban.

Mr Benn is urging people to sign up on a website backing the ban.

He claims the Tories plan to make repeal of the Hunting Act "a priority". Party leader David Cameron has promised MPs a free vote on the issue.

The pro-hunting Countryside Alliance has said Saturday's meets could be the last traditional Boxing Day hunts before the ban is repealed.

Jill Grieve, a spokeswoman for the campaign group, said more than than 200 hunts are being held across the UK on Boxing Day.

She said these events range in size and involve between 200 and 8,000 people.

'Barbaric' act

Hunting foxes with dogs was outlawed in 2005, although hounds are still allowed to follow a scent or flush out a fox, but not kill it.

Mr Benn's campaign is being launched to coincide with the Boxing Day hunts and is backed by the actors Patrick Stewart, Jenny Seagrove and Tony Robinson.

The environment secretary said: "For David Cameron, getting the act repealed is a priority.

"He used to hunt foxes; he talked about fox hunting in his first ever speech to Parliament; and he has said that if he becomes prime minister he will get rid of the fox hunting ban.

"But, like the vast majority of people, I think that the barbaric act of letting dogs tear foxes to pieces shouldn't return to our countryside."

In October, shadow environment secretary Nick Herbert described the hunting ban as "an affront to civil liberties" and "completely unworkable".

He said a Conservative government would consider creating a regulatory body for fox hunting which could work towards "minimising animal suffering".

But Mr Benn insisted Mr Herbert and Mr Cameron's views were indicative of wider Conservative attitudes.

"If you think the Tories have changed, their views on fox hunting with dogs make it absolutely clear that their priorities haven't," he added.

Only a small number of prosecutions under the Hunting Act have reached court since 2005, but the League Against Cruel Sports says the arguments in favour of repeal "don't stack up".

The League Against Cruel Sports has released graphic footage which it says reinforces the need for a ban.

It says the footage, filmed before the act came into force, shows "the horrific cruelty" of hunting.

Chief executive Douglas Batchelor said: "The arguments in favour of repeal simply don't stack up and we believe the public has a right to see what the hunting lobby, and some politicians want to bring back.

"The truth of the matter is that hunting is barbaric and cruel and the only purpose it serves is to appease the sick minds of a very small minority who enjoy torturing animals for their own entertainment."

But the Countryside Alliance says the ban is "fundamentally illiberal, based not on principle and evidence but prejudice. Such laws should have no place in a modern, tolerant and free society."

It also insists: "The hunting community stands united and determined to secure repeal and huge support is anticipated this year."


Source. Benn's article on the ban in the Independent here; Independent talks about the class implications of the hunting ban here and here. The Telegraph, noted paper of the encrusted, ancient right, frothing xenophobes, and retired colonels with handlebar moustaches, thinks repealing the law is a bally good idea.

I went protesting against the local hunt this morning, I *actually* got called an 'oik' by a man with nicotine-stained hair and a million broken capillaries on his face. I'm genuinely curious to know what people, British or otherwise, think about this issue.
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    Erykah Badu - Master Teacher
franklin sherman

New 'do not move' policy for flight passengers.

Restrictions Rise After Terrorism Attempt

Transportation authorities began imposing tighter security measures at airports on Saturday and ordered new restrictions governing the activities of passengers during flights as investigators conducted searches to learn more about the Nigerian engineering student accused of igniting an incendiary device aboard a Northwest Airlines jet as it landed in Detroit on Friday.

The White House declared the incident “an attempted act of terrorism.” The plane, an Airbus A330 wide-body jet with 278 passengers coming from Amsterdam, landed safely around noon on Christmas Day after passengers helped subdue the suspect.

Less than 24 hours after the terrorist attempt, travelers at airports around the world, from Frankfurt to Rochester, N.Y., began experiencing heightened screening in security lines. Even as airlines began limiting United States-bound passengers to just one carry-on bag, travelers will feel the most significant changes during the actual flights.

According to a statement posted Saturday morning on Air Canada’s Web site, the Transportation Security Administration will severely limit the behavior of both passengers and crew during flights in United States airspace — restricting movement in the final hour of flight. Late Saturday morning, the T.S.A. had not yet included this new information on its own Web site.

“Among other things,” the statement in Air Canada’s Web site read, “during the final hour of flight customers must remain seated, will not be allowed to access carry-on baggage, or have personal belongings or other items on their laps.”

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Christmas comes to the US senate .

The U.S. Congress passed legislation increasing the U.S. debt limit by $290 billion before recessing for the year.

The Senate vote today was 60-39 to raise the limit on federal borrowing to $12.39 trillion, enough to tide the government over for about two months. The House approved the legislation Dec. 16. The measure, which would be the fourth debt-limit increase in 18 months, now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The Senate’s Democratic leaders had to settle for the short-term increase following conflicting demands among their rank-and-file over proposals to reduce the government’s budget deficit. Some lawmakers threatened to withhold their votes for a bigger increase in the debt ceiling unless Congress created a commission to cut government spending.

Raising the limit is a “serious and a sobering reminder we have work to do in restoring fiscal balance and discipline to government,” Montana Democrat Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a written statement.

Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, criticized the Democratic majority for its handling of the debt.

“While it is critical to protect the government’s ability to meet its financial obligations, Congress should not consider passing a long-term debt-limit increase unless the legislation also includes enforceable and meaningful measures to curb out- of-control government borrowing and spending,” Gregg said in a written statement.


HYDERABAD, India (AP) -- The 86-year-old governor of a southern Indian state resigned Saturday, a day after a television news channel broadcast a tape allegedly showing him in bed with three women, an official said.

Gov. Narain Dutt Tiwari's office has denied the allegation, denouncing the tape as fabricated.

Tiwari, a veteran governing Congress party leader in Andhra Pradesh state, sent his resignation letter to the Indian president on Saturday, citing health reasons, a state official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The scandal hit as Andhra Pradesh is engulfed in social unrest. Outrage over a delay in creating a new state there erupted into violent demonstrations in several cities earlier this week.

Pressure mounted on Tiwari to quit after the tape allegedly showing him in bed with three women was broadcast Friday, prompting the opposition and women's right groups to hold street protests in Hyderabad, the state capital, demanding his resignation.

A statement issued on Friday by Aryendra Sharma, an aide to the governor, said ''the news channel report is fabricated, false and malicious to tarnish the image of the governor.''

The television channel ABN Andhra Jyoti News, broadcast the tape, said it was made in a sting operation. The three women were from his northern home state of Uttrakhand, it claimed.

They were brought to Hyderabad by another woman who was allegedly promised a mining lease by the governor in return for sexual favors, the television channel claimed.

The woman said she decided to expose Tiwari through a sting operation after he did not keep his promise, the channel said.

A court stopped the channel from broadcasting the tape again later Friday after a petition filed by Sharma, the governor's aide, who said the video was ''likely to demean and denigrate his office.''

Tiwari had earlier served as the top elected official of northern Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand states and as a federal minister.

Abortion = Holocaust?

"Let's play along, shall we? Let's try, for the sake of argument, to accept the premise of this ad: Abortion is indistinguishable from killing babies and politicians who support abortion rights are the kind of people who would do nothing and pass by if they saw a baby -- a poor, adorably helpless baby -- abandoned in the path of an oncoming train.

The people who composed, prepared, funded and shipped this mailer do not believe any of that.

They're not lying, exactly. They like the idea that something like this might be true. They want the world to be like this. They want the world to be easily divided between heroes and villains, and they want to be able to count themselves on the heroic side of that divide. And if you really, really want something to be true -- if you really, really, deep in your heart, wish you deserved to be able to think of yourself as the heroic rescuer of imperiled babies -- then declaring it to be true isn't really lying, is it?

But however much they want to believe this, they don't. They can't.


"So, as I said, let's play along. There is a baby on the railroad tracks and there is an approaching train. We are witnesses to this impending tragedy. What are we obliged to do? How ought we to respond?

Princeton law professor Robert George has thought long and hard about this. That baby on the railroad tracks, George says, ought "... to be the central issue in the consideration of any voter."


Apparently there's no immediate urgency. No need to rush onto the tracks and whisk the baby away to safety before the train arrives. We just need to remember that the baby and the train are there and, every two or four years, make the abstract acknowledgement of that fact the "central issue" when we vote. If enough of us do this, the theory goes, we may, over time, establish a substantial Republican majority in our national and state legislatures. And that Republican majority may, over time, produce judicial appointments which might, in turn, over time, lead to a reinterpretation of the law and the Constitution in a way that might, over time, save that poor, innocent baby on the railroad tracks.

Seriously, can you imagine any human responding so dispassionately and abstractly and irresponsibly languidly to an actual baby-on-the-railroad-tracks scenario? Anyone who suggested such a response would be regarded, rightly, as a fool or a monster. It's almost too absurd to imagine such a response:

YOU: Ohmygod! There's a baby on the tracks!

THEM: Yes. Yes there is. And next November, we need to be sure that we make this horrible situation the central -- nay, the single -- issue that determines how we cast our votes.

YOU: But the train's coming! Shouldn't we --

THEM: Vote straight-ticket Republican? Yes we should. Yes we must. And, next November, yes we will.

Anyone who talked like that couldn't really believe that there was really a baby on the railroad tracks. And they don't really believe it."


anyway, all of slacktivist is a fantastic read, but let us observe this assessment.

if anyone in this community considers abortion to be mass murder, an atrocity, a holocaust... why have they not responded to this "threat" in kind? we knew how to deal with Hitler, so why do we (or more importantly, conservative religious groups) tepidly condemn the undue course of action pursued by, say, George Tiller's murderer?

it's an unsustainable political belief because it does not scale properly with the premise it puts forth.


Socialized Medicine Will Kill Grandma But At Least Wont Make Our Kids Pregnant.

Abstinence proponents look for aid from new health bill

Proponents of sex education classes that focus on encouraging teenagers to remain virgins until marriage are hoping that the rescue plan for the nation's health-care system will also save their programs, which are facing extinction because of a cutoff of federal funding.

The health-care reform legislation pending in the Senate includes $50 million for programs that states could use to try to reduce pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease among adolescents by teaching to them to delay when they start having sex.

Under the federal budget signed by President Obama, such programs would no longer have funds targeted for them.

"We're optimistic," said Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association, which is lobbying to maintain funding for the programs. "Nothing is certain, but we're hopeful."

Critics of sex education programs focused on abstinence, however, are fighting to permanently end funding, saying there is clear evidence that the approach is unsuccessful.

"This is a last-ditch attempt by conservatives to resuscitate a program that has been proven to be ineffective," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington-based advocacy group. "This is the failed abstinence-only model that research has shown is ineffective."
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The VA wants you, seriously

VA Student Loans

I was talking to txvoodoo the other night and mentioned this, and she was all, why don't you post it to ondt_p? And I was all, really? I know they are mostly students but wouldn't it be apolitical? And she was all, let the mods figure it out! This is a good cause and LOAN FORGIVENESS!!11!!



Under the VA Student Loan Repayment Program, you may be eligible to receive up to $10,000 per year, with a lifetime maximum of $60,000, to help you repay your student loans.


Employees may qualify for monetary awards to help them medical training or to pay back their student loans. From physicians and dietitians to medical records technicians, the Employee Incentive Scholarship Program or the Education Reduction Repayment Program, may be available to assist with the cost of furthering your medical education.

VA can pay or reimburse employees for all or a part of the necessary expenses for job-related training. This includes tuition, books, supplies, and travel.
• Employee Incentive Scholarship Program (EISP) Earn a scholarship to pursue a degree or training in health care disciplines in which recruitment/retention is difficult. You must work in a full-time VA position for a period of 1-3 years to qualify.
• Education Reduction Repayment Plan (ERRP) Reduce your debt with a VA loan of up to $45,364. To qualify, you must be appointed to a position providing direct patient care services or services incident to direct patient care.

Also, I hear you can also get tuition and loan forgiveness for working for Native American issues, but I can't find a good link. Don't go to loan packagers on google, they're bullshit.

EDIT: I shoud mention that this? Also works for Canadian medical students. I know this because my brilliant physician is a woman of color from Canada. :)

Son of edit: No more Captain America jpeg, then. Sheesh.