May 31st, 2010

aurora // once upon a time

Gen. Menard Scandal Update, Plus Rules of [Sexual] Engagement (see what I did there)

Daniel Ménard scandal leaves military reeling

Allegations that top soldier had an in-theatre affair deals another blow to credibility of leadership

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No sex, please. We're soldiers

Why getting it on in the trenches is against the rules of war

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Source One & Source Two.

1. IDK, the allegations against Gen. Menard and Col. Williams reflect individual persons, not some defect in Canadian Forces leadership.
2. Second article included purely for because it made me lol. Dutch disco at KAF, ftw. 


Coalition could succeed with Layton at helm - poll

Interesting stuff:

In one respect, the results of an Angus Reid poll to be released on Monday are not surprising — the Conservatives are at 35 per cent, the Liberals at 27 and the NDP are at 19 per cent; in Quebec, the Bloc leads with 37 per cent.

However, the poll also asked Canadians how they would vote if the Liberals and NDP went to the polls offering Canadians a coalition government, and here things get interesting.

According to the results published in Monday’s edition of La Presse, the Conservatives led by Stephen Harper would defeat a coalition led by Michael Ignatieff 40-34 per cent.

With Bob Rae as Liberal leader, the coalition and Conservatives would be tied.

However, if the coalition were to propose Jack Layton as prime minister, according to the Reid poll, it could defeat the Conservatives by 43-37 per cent.

From the Globe and Mail. I don't expect this to happen, but it's an interesting result. If nothing else, it sends a message to the Liberals that they need a new leader...

Gergen: Mr. President, take command


By David Gergen, CNN contributor
May 31, 2010 7:11 a.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Enough is enough! After the latest failure by BP to plug the gaping hole, it is time for President Obama to take full command of this growing national catastrophe. Immediately!

The president in his press conference this past Thursday assured the nation that he and his administration were already in charge and he has manfully taken personal responsibility -- "the buck stops here," he said, echoing Harry Truman. Well, it may be true that BP has been acting all along under the oversight of the federal government, but that supervision has been loose and ineffective.

To the world, it has been apparent that the government has been riding shotgun and BP has been at the wheel. It's time for the White House to get in the driver's seat and get us to safety -- fast.

First off, who can now trust BP to do the job right? From the beginning, it has appeared to be more interested in shoring up its stock price than in playing straight and solving the problem. It took reckless short cuts in opening up the rig, had no serious plan in place for a disaster, low-balled early estimates of the spill, has high-balled its chances of stopping the leak and has kept both the government and the public too much in the dark. And its efforts on shore are increasingly pathetic -- can it really have failed to protect the safety of beach workers and have stage managed the clean-up when Obama was there, as reported? It was a mistake to leave our fate in the hands of this company as long as we have.

Second, even if BP were reliable, the problem has clearly become too big for it to handle, as Colin Powell is now arguing on television. We have been told for days that the top kill procedure was BP's best hope for stopping the leak and if that failed, we would likely have to wait until BP drilled new wells which might be as late as August. We can't wait that long. BP is especially not up to the task of protecting our precious shorelines and cleaning up the beaches. For that, we need the organizational strength of the U.S. military.

Third, this catastrophe is increasingly threatening the nation's welfare. With a potentially dangerous storm season just around the corner, a continuing gush of oil will not only pose huge, long-term damage to the Gulf region but could easily wash the oil around the tip of Florida and up the East Coast. The loss to livelihoods, the economy and to ways of life would be immeasurable. It would be worse than Katrina and Exxon Valdez put together. Unless we solve this soon, this spill could do to off-shore drilling what Three Mile Island did to nuclear power -- darn near kill it. Obama is right that it is a wake-up call to end our addiction to oil, but we need some forms of off-shore oil as a bridge to that future.

Finally, Obama's leadership is increasingly at stake in this emergency. I thought Peggy Noonan was premature in arguing in the Wall Street Journal this weekend that the spill has already broken his presidency, but her column certainly gave pause. The cameras down at the bottom of the sea give us vivid reminders that this oil is spewing forth day after day after day -- almost like the daily television reminders we had of how long our hostages were held in Teheran while Jimmy Carter sat helplessly in the White House, the authority leaking out of his presidency.

What can the White House do? For starters:
  • Set up a daily command center in Washington where a presidentially appointed leader runs the show, calls the shots, coordinates the overall effort, briefs the president and briefs the country
  • Have two deputies, one to direct the leak-stoppage and the other to direct the clean-up. Ex-CEOs and generals would be excellent candidates
  • Summon all the major oil and drilling companies to the White House for emergency efforts to get the hole plugged
  • Get BP out of the picture for clean-up; just send it the bill. If it is still needed for hole-plugging, okay, but ensure that it answers every day to directions from the government. If BP needs new internal leadership, figure out how to get that done
  • Employ the U.S. military for organizational coordination and where needed, for anything else such as clean-up
  • Make more aggressive efforts to tap the best minds in the world for help
  • Provide the country with the kind of daily briefings that the military has mastered for wartime -- bring in people who are smart, straight and tough
  • Ensure that economic assistance is provided to families, small businesses and communities that need it with dispatch and generosity
  • Call off the finger pointing until we get out of this mess
  • And finally, very importantly, exercise the powers of leadership every day from the Oval Office

The whole country now has a keen interest in the White House now taking full command. Mr. President, it's your move. The nation cannot afford to wait that long -- the government needs to summon all the big oil and drilling companies to the White House on an emergency basis and seek faster answers.


I have to agree with... all of it pretty much. The handling of this entire mess is beyond frustrating and obviously (imo) BP is doing this to save their asses and keep people buying their product, not because they give a shit about the effects on the Gulf, the life within it, and the economies that rely on it.
rei 2

(no subject)

jkinney3 was one of several readers to send in news of recently discovered internal documents from BP which indicate the company knew "there were serious problems and safety concerns with the Deepwater Horizon rig far earlier than those the company described to Congress last week." According to the New York Times, "The documents show that in March, after several weeks of problems on the rig, BP was struggling with a loss of 'well control.' And as far back as 11 months ago, it was concerned about the well casing and the blowout preventer." Reader bezenek points out this troubling quote about BP's inconsistent risk assessments: "In April of this year, BP engineers concluded that the casing was 'unlikely to be a successful cement job,' according to a document, referring to how the casing would be sealed to prevent gases from escaping up the well. The document also says that the plan for casing the well is 'unable to fulfill M.M.S. regulations,' referring to the Minerals Management Service. A second version of the same document says 'It is possible to obtain a successful cement job' and 'It is possible to fulfill M.M.S. regulations.'"

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where i stole this summery from
a full new york times artical on it
Magneto puppet
  • drbat

Gay couple freed by Malawi presidential pardon return to home villages

A gay couple freed by presidential pardon in Malawi are living in separate villages amid fears for their safety.

Steven Monjeza, 26, and 20-year-old Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, walked free earlier this weekend when President Bingu wa Mutharika lifted their 14-year jail sentence on "humanitarian grounds" after meeting the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.

But a human rights campaigner in Malawi said the men had not been reunited.

"Prison officials told them that they had received instructions from above that they should send them to their respective villages," Gift Trapence, who heads the Centre for the Development of the People (Cedep), said.

The two were "leading separate lives ... they are not staying together and they don't want to talk about their experience", he added.

He said Chimbalanga, who was jailed at Chichiri prison in Blantyre, was sent to his home village in the tea-growing district of Thyolo, 22 miles from the commercial capital, Blantyre.

Monjeza, who was imprisoned at Zomba maximum security prison, was dispatched to his home village of Chileka, nine miles from Blantyre.

Monjeza's family members said his partner would not be welcome in their village.

Kelvin Kaumira, in his 60s, said the community was "fuming" over the incident. "People here are furious," he said. "There are so many beautiful women in this village looking for a hand in marriage."

Zione Monjeza, an aunt of Monjeza, said: "Nobody wants to see Tiwonge again in this village. If he dares to come here, he must do so with police for his protection."

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Half a million Swedes to fill giant gene bank

Scientists are hoping that genetic data gathered from half a million Swedes will help improve our understanding some of the world's most pressing public health problems, Dagens Nyheter reports.

Hundreds of thousands of Swedes will be approached this autumn by the mammoth LifeGene project and asked if they wish to participate in Sweden’s largest ever health-related population study.

Leading medical university Karolinska Institutet will host the project, which has secured the approval of the national Ethics Review Board.
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MISC - moustache

DKos Booming School

I've been in Oil and Gas Production (all upstream) and Exploration for over 30 years. My salary is a little bigger than God's, which is okay because I'm more useful than he is. I'm a better cook than God is too, but lets get back on subject here. Booming School. Not only is Oil Spill Booming a large industry in the USA, teaching Oil Spill Booming is a large industry in the USA. Most of BP's production and pipeline employees in the USA have attended at least one booming school. Many have attended two or three. Most oil and gas production employees in the USA have attended booming school. Some of us have attended really good, really extensive, week or two-week booming schools. BP's production employees have attended the best booming schools. I know this. I've seen them there.

BP's drilling folks have mostly not attended booming school. They're sometimes sent to booming school, but they fuck off in the bar and their bosses sign off on that being okay. Because for Drilling Hands, booming is for pussies. This is a generalization. Not all drilling hands think that, but most of them do and I guarantee BP's drilling executives think that booming is for pussies -- and that's if they think about booming at all or even know what it is. That's not so shocking. In the major oil companies, there are likely a few drilling executives that don't even know what drilling is. I'm not kidding. There's good BP drilling people who would, in private, back me up on that.

Fucking Nomenclature
Since this is your first day of DKos Booming school, you HAVE to fight lets go over some important definitions and oilfield grammar. Rope is not rope. It is fucking rope. All of it. Every yard of rope is fucking rope. Every section of boom is fucking boom. An anchor block is not an anchor block. It is a fucking anchor block. You get the idea. Later, when you're accustomed to all of this, you can substitute "goddamed", "motherfucking", "piece-of-shit-c*nt" (never understood that one myself) or "cocksucking" for fucking. But for now, it's all fucking.

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"Come As You Are": French McDonald's Ad Features Closeted Teen And Father

In this surprisingly moving McDonald's commercial from France, a teen boy has a sweet phone conversation with his boyfriend, followed by a lunch at McDonald's with his father, who does not yet know he is gay.

Thoughts? I found it ballsy of a major corp like McDonald's to have this sort of commercial, even if it was outside of the U.S.
airt art

A message from Lt. Dan Choi: Dignity Fast Day 4


Call your senators, newspapers, journalists, TV, radio stations (dedicate a song to Dan & Jim!), friends and family.  Tweet, post this to your Facebook, do whatever is in your capacity to do to help Dan & Jim and demand a FULL repeal of DADT.


Obama Not the 1st President to Miss Memorial Day at Arlington

President Barack Obama, second from left, and Gen. Karl Horst, right, stop to talk with visitors among the graves of soldiers from the Iraq and Afghan conflicts in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Nov. 11, 2009. Mr. Obama spoke with Stephen and Matthew Barbieri at the grave of their brother, Army Spec. Thomas "T.J." Barbieri, who was killed in Iraq.


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Köln Kirchen bei Nacht

Breaking news - German President resigns over Afghanistan comments

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

German President Horst Köhler said Monday he was stepping down, following criticism of recent comments he made about the country's military mission in Afghanistan.

"I announce my resignation from the office of the federal presidency with immediate affect," Köhler said in Berlin.

He said the decision came after withering criticism of comments he made connecting Germany's military deployment in Afghanistan with the country's economic interests.

"This criticism had absolutely no justification," said the 67-year-old former head of the International Monetary Fund.

His remarks just over a week ago prompted a furious debate about Germany’s military engagement – and whether Köhler had damaged the image of the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

Köhler began by saying that Germany was in the country, alongside its allies, to ensure its security and that it was good and proper for these issues to be openly and robustly discussed.

He then added: “But my estimation is that, on the whole, we are on the way to understanding, even broadly in society, that a country of our size, with this orientation toward foreign trade and therefore also dependence on foreign trade, has to be aware that when in doubt in case of an emergency, military deployment is also necessary to protect our interests.

For example, free trade routes, for example to prevent instability in a whole region, which certainly have an negative impact on our opportunities via trade, jobs and income. All of that ought to be discussed and I believe that we are not doing too badly.”

The remarks appear to be a major departure from the political orthodoxy on the Afghanistan mission, which says the Bundeswehr is there to protect Germany from terrorist groups who would use the country as a base were it to descend into lawlessness or Islamist theocracy.


This... is surprising. Note that the German President is largely a ceremonial figure, while the government is led by the Chancellor. The President has to sign laws, but should not be involved in party politics. A bit like an elected King/Queen, perhaps.

What he said
was problematic and extremely badly put, so he should not have been surprised to be criticised.

ETA: I just looked it up, and the only time a President resigned before the end of a term was in 1969, when Heinrich Lübke resigned shortly before his term ended because of health issues and criticisms over possible involvement in Nazi crimes.

But this is a really different thing, because Köhler had still four years of his term left. Currently, the news is full of surprised people, and no one really knows what will happen with the office. Funnily, the commentators are not even sure toward whom he should have declared his resignation. There is no precedent for this.

The office will be filled for now by Jens Böhrnsen, who is the mayor of Bremen - he is the head of the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament (Bremen is a state).

ETA: Any Germans watching ARD? The expert just said "Wahlmännerinnen... ähh, Wahlfrauen" (Sorry, non-German-readers, while this is hilarious, it is untranslatable.)
vatican, catholic

The Roman Catholic Gaydar is running at full tilt...

I live in Brooklyn, which has one of the more conservative Roman Catholic bishops in the United States. His editorials in the weekly diocesan newspaper about such subjects evolution are the things that make intelligent Catholics cringe. The New York Times has published a large article dealing with the screening of potential priestly candidates in the Roman Catholic church in the wake of the child abuse cases. Because conservative elements in the hierarchy blame the scandal on homosexuality, vocations directors are now asking some tough questions to candidates. Apparently even celibate gay men will be likely barred (although it's claimed individual bishops have leeway to make that decision).

While the Brooklyn archdiocese would not allow seminarians to be interviewed for the New York Times article, the director of vocations the Rev. Kevin J. Sweeney said:

...the new rules were not the order of battle for a witch hunt. “We do not say that homosexuals are bad people,” he said. “And sure, homosexuals have been good priests. But it has to do with our view of marriage,” he said. “A priest can only give his life to the church in the sense that a man gives his life to a female spouse. A homosexual man cannot have the same relationship. It’s not about condemning anybody. It’s about our world view.”

WHhhhhat? I *REALLY* think someone it taking the Biblical metaphor (i.e. the Church is seen as the bride of Christ) a wee bit too literally. It's just absolute insanity. Then there is the very thorny question of several women as being described in the New Testament as Apostles (in the narrow meaning of that word).

EDIT: Interesting thread with an Augustinian seminary student, who takes issue with women apostles and other things.

Did Twitter censor the #flotilla hashtag following the Israel attack?

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

The attack by Israel on a flotilla of ships approaching Gaza has, as you'd expect, generated a huge response on social media - and of course Twitter, with its real-time content, was quick to react.

Many users began the morning by tagging their comments about it with "#flotilla" - a "hashtag" which gives a structure to a discussion or emerging event, as you can filter searches in applications such as Tweetdeck so that you only see those with that tag.

But at around 11am, as #flotilla began "trending" - rising to the topmost-used hashtags on the service - it seemed to vanish.

Was this censorship by Twitter? Quite a few asked the question.

Certainly if you went to the standard URL for such a search - - you briefly got a result saying "Twitter error".

However if you used the advanced search, you get the results as you'd expect.

What also happened was that people started using a new hashtag: #freedomflotilla. That rapidly trended.

The error in #flotilla search results quickly fixed itself, though. Possibly the rapid rise in the hashtag's visibility tripped an anti-spam filter at Twitter headquarters (where it was 3am in the morning, so we might assume that it's the machines, rather than the people, who are on duty - though then again, knowing the nocturnal habits of programmers, perhaps not).

Update: Mike Butcher at Techcrunch points out that this surely was a case of anti-spam filtering: there had already been a "flotilla" story in the past week - the anniversary of Dunkirk (for non-Britons: a dramatic rescue during the second world war of British and French troops from the Dunkirk beaches by small craft). And Gaza is frequently topical. (Thanks @vensa in the comments.)

So Twitter's anti-spam algorithms - that is, the machines - likely decided that this was a spam attack trying to piggyback on old hashtags, and pushed the "#flotilla" hashtag out of the trending topics. Is it censorship if it's done by machines that think it's spam? Given that "#freedomflotilla" instead rapidly trended, clearly there's no human censorship against the story of the attack being made visible to other Twitter users.

That's why Trendsmap, which is independent of Twitter and from which the screenshot is taken, looks as it does: it reflects what's on Twitter.

So: shock as Twitter not being used to censor news. But it does show the enormous sensitivity there now is about Twitter's impartiality that any suggestion that a world event might be pushed out of its "trending topics" (displayed on the right-hand column of every Twitter user's home page) can create such frustration.

It doesn't, of course, help anyone on the convoy that was attacked. But getting information into public hands is a public good. Twitter is coming closer and closer to being viewed as a utility - certainly by those who use it. Perhaps we'd all feel more comfortable if it had a business model that had real, declared profits - because (to answer @Strummer) that would mean you could be confident of unmediated messages from everywhere in the world.

Source: The Guardian
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Gas Mask Grrl

BP goes judge shopping

Miami Herald via McClatchy:
BP wants Houston judge with oil ties to hear spill cases

By Scott Hiaasen and Curtis Morgan | Miami Herald

MIAMI — Facing more than 100 lawsuits after its Gulf of Mexico oil spill killed 11 workers and threatened four coastal states, oil giant BP is asking the courts to place every pre-trial issue in the hands of a single federal judge in Houston.

That judge, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, has traveled the world giving lectures on ethics for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, a professional association and research group that works with BP and other oil companies. The organization pays his travel expenses.

Hughes has also collected royalties from several energy companies, including ConocoPhillips and Devon Energy, from investments in mineral rights, his financial disclosure forms show.

Hughes, appointed to the bench in 1985 by then-President Ronald Reagan, declined to comment for this report.

Legal experts say the request for a single judge, while not unprecedented, is unusual, and they surmise BP is seeking rulings from a judge well-versed in the company's issues.

Edward Sherman, a law professor at Tulane University in New Orleans who has closely followed the BP legal maneuvers, said BP probably studied Hughes' past rulings and his caseload before suggesting he take the cases.

"Obviously, another factor is they would like to have a judge who understands their point of view," Sherman said.

Hughes is "well known as a competent judge," Sherman added.

Much more, including responses from legal experts and representatives of environmental groups, at the link to the source in the headline.

Peruvian child becomes symbol of US undocumented

Seven-year-old Daisy Cuevas, thrilled to see herself on television with U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, didn't quite understand the predicament in which she had innocently placed her undocumented Peruvian parents.

"She laughed, she jumped up and down. She was excited" after the encounter at Daisy's suburban Washington, D.C., elementary school, the girl's maternal grandfather, Genaro Juica, told The Associated Press.

The TV appearance made the pigtailed second grader a voice of the estimated 12 million immigrants living in the United States illegally — and a source of pride for Peru's president, who visits Washington on Tuesday.


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Video footage from the IDF shows protesters throwing Israeli soldier over board

Jerusalem, Israel - The Israeli Defense force made two videos they just released to show that they were attacked by people carrying chairs and metal objects. The videos also showed that they were outnumbered and some of their members were being thrown overboard.

The video is a bit hard to make out but you can see various projectiles being launched at the IDF. A lot of confusion, at one point a group of people get their hands on one of the IDF soldiers.

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