October 19th, 2010

Amy and Rory and the Doctor

Stimulus, Earmark Critics Try Back Door For Funds

Congress passed the economic stimulus bill in early 2009, but with the unemployment rate still above 9 percent, the bill is a prime target of criticism and contempt on the 2010 campaign trail.

That doesn't mean lawmakers haven't been trying to get their hands on some stimulus money for their districts. Indeed, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity finds that some of the bill's biggest critics worked behind the scenes to get a slice of the pie.

One of the major selling points of the stimulus bill was that it was supposed to be free of congressional earmarks — those little flags lawmakers plant in legislation claiming money for pet projects. President Obama celebrated the bill on its anniversary.

"I'm grateful that Congress agreed to my request that the bill include no earmarks," he said, "that all projects receive funding based solely on their merits."

But the Center for Public Integrity has discovered that lawmakers, instead of going through the congressional earmark process, have written directly to federal departments with backdoor requests for stimulus funds. It's a practice known as lettermarking, says John Solomon, an investigative journalist for the center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group.

"The letters one day were on my desk, and they were a foot high. ... I couldn't look over my desk and see my colleagues across the hallway," he says, "because literally there was a mountain of paper."


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Source and Center for Public Integrity's in-depth entry about the lettermarks.

In Sumo's Push for the Olympics, a Turn Away From Tradition

For years, promoters of sumo have been pushing for the sport’s inclusion in the Olympic Games. To get there, the International Sumo Federation has thrown its weight behind a form of the game that would offend purists and surprise most everyone else: women’s sumo.

Sumo officials have long tried to get their sport, for years identified with giant men with topknots shoving each other in a ring, into the Summer Games. But when the International Olympic Committee declared in 1994 that single-sex sports could no longer qualify as candidates for the Games, that was enough to turn tradition on its head. Since then, sumo has been coming into its own internationally as an equal opportunity sport.

Such a radical change to Japan’s ancient national sport did not come easy, and the initial push came from outside the country. Among those who lobbied the I.F.S., as the sumo federation is commonly known, was Stephen Gadd, the general secretary of the European Sumo Union and president of the Netherlands Sumo Federation.

Men’s sumo first started gaining a following internationally in the mid-1980s as part of a campaign by Japan to spread its culture internationally. More than a decade later, women’s sumo started gaining followers as the I.F.S., which oversees 87 member nations, started pushing for a women’s version of the sport.

“We held the very first women’s sumo tournament with the European Championships in 1996,” he said. “After that, it really took off in Europe.”

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Guffman eyes

Oh, for God's sake.

No headscarf, Obama may skip Golden Temple visit

US President Barack Obama’s visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar is likely to be called off after a ticklish question on what he should use to cover his head put his aides in a tight spot. Moreover, a packed schedule in Mumbai and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s plan to host a dinner for Obama on November 7 left a very narrow window for Amritsar.

But it was the first question which created more doubt — what should Obama use to cover his head when he visits the Golden Temple?

The White House team which visited India last month ruled out Obama wearing the traditional scarf on his head. Indian officials were informally told that Obama wearing a headscarf to visit the Golden Temple may convey an image of him appearing to be a Muslim. This is one misinterpretation Obama’s advisors did not want at any cost, given the political sensitivities over this issue in the US.

As a result, a final decision on whether Obama would visit the Golden Temple was always kept pending. An American official is said to have explained at one of the pre-visit meetings that each day Obama has to remind the US that he should not be mistaken for a Muslim just because his middle name is Hussein. For this reason, considerable thought was being given to what Obama could wear without offending Sikh sentiments.

Obama’s aides finally came up with the idea of a “modified” baseball cap. It would have to be modified because the Golden Temple does not permit a baseball cap instead of a headscarf. In fact, the temple authorities have no problems with skull caps.

As Giani Gurbachan Singh, head priest of the Golden Temple, puts it: “We have no problems if he wears a skull cap, the kind that Muslims wear to the mosque — or any other cap that is modified to something similar. But we don’t allow baseball caps or Army hats.”

It is within these red lines that Obama’s aides had to find the appropriate headgear which would serve his domestic political purpose while taking care not to hurt Sikh sentiments. The Indian government, on its part, studiously stayed away from this issue, maintaining that it was for US authorities to resolve.

Obama, who arrives here on November 6, will first touch down in Mumbai, where he plans to visit a 26/11 memorial and Mani Bhawan, where Mahatma Gandhi used to stay. He was then scheduled to go to Amritsar for this brief and only religious engagement in the itinerary.


I think it's so stupid that this is even an issue.
Mr. T the Homo

Military recruiters told to accept gay applicants

WASHINGTON – The Defense Department said Tuesday that it is accepting openly gay recruits, but is warning applicants they might not be allowed to stick around for long.

Following last week's court ruling that struck down a 1993 law banning gays from serving openly, the military has suspended enforcement of the rule known as "don't ask, don't tell." The Justice Department is appealing the decision and has asked the courts for a temporary stay on the ruling.

The Defense Department said it would comply with the law and had frozen any discharge cases. But at least one case was reported of a man being turned away from an Army recruiting office in Austin, Texas.

Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith on Tuesday confirmed that recruiters had been given top-level guidance to accept applicants who say they are gay.

Recruiters also have been told to inform potential recruits that the moratorium on enforcement of "don't ask, don't tell" could be reversed at any point, if the ruling is appealed or the court grants a stay, she said.
The uncertain status of the law has caused much confusion within an institution that has historically discriminated against gays. Before the 1993 law, the Defense Department banned gays entirely and declared them incompatible with military service.

Douglas Smith, spokesman for U.S. Army Recruiting Command based at Fort Knox, Ky., said even before the ruling recruiters did not ask applicants about their sexual orientation. The difference now is that recruiters will process those who say they are gay.

"If they were to self admit that they are gay and want to enlist, we will process them for enlistment, but will tell them that the legal situation could change," Smith said.

He said the enlistment process takes time and recruiters have been told to inform those who are openly gay that they could be declared ineligible if the law is upheld on appeal.

"U.S. Army Recruiting Command is going to follow the law, whatever the law is at the time," he said.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips, who had ordered the military to stop enforcing "don't ask, don't tell," was expected to deny the administration's request to delay her order. That would send the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

After Phillips' ruling last week, Omar Lopez — discharged from the Navy in 2006 after admitting his gay status to his military doctor — walked into an Army recruiting office in Austin and asked if he could re-enlist. He said he was up front, even showing the recruiters his Navy discharge papers.
"They just said, `I can't let you re-enlist because we haven't got anything down from the chain of command,'" Lopez, 29, told the AP in a telephone interview. "They were courteous and apologetic, but they couldn't help me."
Smith was unable to confirm the account. She said guidance on gay applicants had been issued to recruiting commands on Oct. 15.

Source is wearing its favorite gay pride shirt to the recruiting office in the morning

I am amazed this guy is willing to go back into the military after they discharged him for being gay. I hope he and every other unfairly discharged person is allowed back in if they choose to go.
Lucy  - Durnk n Pitsy

Former surgeon general calls for marijuana legalization


(CNN) -- Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders told CNN Sunday she supports legalizing marijuana.

The trend-setting state of California is voting next month on a ballot initiative to legalize pot, also known as Proposition 19. The measure would legalize recreational use in the state, though federal officials have said they would continue to enforce drug laws in California if the initiative is approved.

"What I think is horrible about all of this, is that we criminalize young people. And we use so many of our excellent resources ... for things that aren't really causing any problems," said Elders. "It's not a toxic substance."

Supporters of California's Prop. 19 say it would raise revenue and cut the cost of enforcement, while opponents point to drug's harmful side-effects.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter, obtained by CNN Friday, that federal agents would continue to enforce federal marijuana laws and warned Prop. 19, if passed, would be a major stumbling block to federal partnerships between state and local authorities around drug enforcement.

His letter was a response to an August letter from several former directors of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration urging the White House to block Prop. 19 if it's approved next month.

Elders stressed the drug is not physically addictive and pointed to the damaging impact of alcohol, which is legal.

"We have the highest number of people in the world being criminalized, many for non-violent crimes related to marijuana," said Elders. "We can use our resources so much better."

Source + video
tb - sookie says wtf

The First Amendment?

WILMINGTON, Del. — Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell of Delaware on Tuesday questioned whether the U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of church and state, appearing to disagree or not know that the First Amendment bars the government from establishing religion.

The exchange came in a debate before an audience of legal scholars and law students at Widener University Law School, as O'Donnell criticized Democratic nominee Chris Coons' position that teaching creationism in public school would violate the First Amendment by promoting religious doctrine.

Coons said private and parochial schools are free to teach creationism but that "religious doctrine doesn't belong in our public schools."

"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked him.

When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O'Donnell asked: "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"

Her comments, in a debate aired on radio station WDEL, generated a buzz in the audience.

"You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp," said Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone, adding that he thought it raised questions about O'Donnell's grasp of the Constitution.

the rest of the article

Someone explain to me how this person is a viable senate candidate? Because I really don't understand.

ETA: the video of the exchange was posted here
Chibis- ChibiMermaidRachel is awesome

"They're all sleepers and you know what sleepers are?"

Selden, Long Island (WABC) -- Another battle is brewing over a mosque in our area. This one is happening on Long Island.

Mosque officials want to construct a new building on their site in Selden, but neighbors are putting up a fight. So does this have anything to do with the mosque controversy near Ground Zero?

You have to look closely to make out the Arabic writing - the only sign of the Islamic Association of long Island.

The mosque, in a former church, has served area Muslims for three decades. So long, community leaders say, it no longer meets their needs.

"The building is not serving the purpose of a place of worship," said the Islamic Center of Long Island's Tahir Qureshi.

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What is this? I don't even...

(no subject)


The Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone this week published the names and addresses of 100 "top homos" and called for them to be hanged, in a front page story, the AP reports:

"In the days since it was published, at least four gay Ugandans on the list have been attacked and many others are in hiding, according to rights activist Julian Onziema. One person named in the story had stones thrown at his house by neighbors.


The Oct. 9 article in a Ugandan newspaper called Rolling Stone - not the American magazine - came out five days before the one-year anniversary of the controversial ("kill the gays") legislation. The article claimed that an unknown but deadly disease was attacking homosexuals in Uganda, and said that gays were recruiting 1 million children by raiding schools, a common smear used in Uganda.

After the newspaper hit the streets, the government Media Council ordered the newspaper to cease publishing - not because of the newspaper's content, but rather that the newspaper had not registered with the government. After it completes the paperwork, Rolling Stone will be free to publish again, said Paul Mukasa, secretary of the Media Council.

That decision has angered the gay community further. Onziema said a lawsuit against Rolling Stone is in the works, and that she believes the publication has submitted its registration and plans to publish again.

According to the AP, the tabloid is relatively new and only publishes about 2,000 copies, but that hasn't stopped it form causing havoc since the article's publication:

The paper's managing editor, Giles Muhame, said the article was "in the public interest."

"We felt there was need for society to know that such characters exist amongst them. Some of them recruit young children into homosexuality, which is bad and need to be exposed," he said. "They take advantage of poverty to recruit Ugandans. In brief we did so because homosexuality is illegal, unacceptable and insults our traditional lifestyle.'

Members of the gay community named in the article faced harassment from friends and neighbors. Onziema said the proposed bill already has led to evictions from apartments, intimidation on the street, unlawful arrests and physical assault.

The "kill the gays" bill introduced by MP David Bahati is said to have been "quietly shelved" but the animus toward gays, it appears, is still very active.


A budding romance

Iran brokers behind-the-scenes deal for pro-Tehran government in Iraq

Exclusive: Fears over Iran's influence after secret talks involving Syria, Hezbollah and the highest authorities in Shia Islam


Iran has brokered a critical deal with its regional neighbours that could see a pro-Tehran government installed in Iraq, a move that would shift the fragile country sharply away from a sphere of western influence.

The Guardian can reveal that the Islamic republic was instrumental in forming an alliance between Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki, who is vying for a second term as prime minister, and the country's powerful radical Shia cleric leader, Moqtada al-Sadr.

The deal – which involved Syria, Lebanon's Hezbollah and the highest authorities in Shia Islam – positions Maliki as a frontrunner to return as leader despite a seven-month stalemate between Iraq's feuding political blocs.

It also positions Iran as a potent buffer to US interests at a time when America is looking to change its relationship with Iraq from military overlords to civilian partners.

Senior officials in Iraq have given the Guardian details of the behind-the-scenes Iranian campaign which began in earnest in early September.

At the time the US had only just withdrawn its last dedicated combat units from Iraq but left behind a political vacuum with no government in place after March elections delivered a seemingly irrevocably split parliament.

According to sources the Iranians saw their opportunity.

"The Iranians were holding out until then," said a key source about the timing of the Iranian move. "They were not going to give the Americans the satisfaction of leaving on a good note."

Within days of the withdrawal, Sadr, who lives in self-imposed exile in the Iranian city of Qom, was told by the Iranians to reconsider his position as a vehement opponent of Maliki. Sadr's party in Iraq had won more than 10% of the 325 seats in play at the election making him a powerbroker in the formation of any new government.

The push initially came from the spiritual head of the Sadrist movement, Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri, who has been a godfather figure to the firebrand cleric for the past 15 years.

"He couldn't say no to him," said the official. "Then the Iranians themselves got involved."

Days after the Iranian move, an Iraqi push followed. Throughout September Maliki sent his chief of staff to Qom along with a key leader in his Dawa party, Abdul Halim al-Zuhairi. They were, according to the Guardian's source, joined by a senior figure in Lebanese Hezbollah's politburo, Mohamed Kawtharani, as well as arch-US foe General Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Al-Quds Brigades, whose forces the US military blames for causing more than one quarter of its combat casualties in Iraq throughout almost eight years of war.


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The divide and conquer plan to get Iraq in our corner is going great.
Akuma River

How about some happy? Wild Tigers might have a future afterall

Found via Huffington Post:

On BBC's series Lost Land of the Tiger, Gordon Buchanan's remote cameras reveal tigers living above 3000m in Bhutan, a discovery that could help to secure the future of tigers in the region.

Watch the footage:

Here's another video from the special, when an enormous storm breaks suddenly in the jungle. The sky rains hail stones the size of bullets and threatens to blow away the team's base camp. Camerawoman Justine Evans is forced to brave the fierce wind, rain and lightning from her hide in the trees.

What do you guys think?

Gov't to Offer Settlement With Indian Farmers

The government is offering American Indian farmers who say they were denied farm loans a $680 million settlement.

The two sides agreed on the deal after more than 10 months of negotiations. The government and the Indian plaintiffs met in federal court Tuesday to present the settlement to U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan.

A hearing on preliminary approval of the deal is set for Oct. 29. Sullivan indicated he was pleased with the agreement, calling it historic and coming down off his bench to shake hands with lawyers from both sides.

The lawsuit filed in 1999 contends Indian farmers and ranchers lost about $500 million because they were denied USDA loans. The government settled a similar lawsuit filed by black farmers more than a decade ago.

A federal judge will consider a government offer to settle with American Indian farmers who say the Agriculture Department discriminated against them for decades.

The two sides are meeting in U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan's courtroom Tuesday afternoon to discuss a proposed deal. The government and the plaintiffs both declined to disclose the terms of the would-be settlement ahead of hearing.

The lawsuit filed in 1999 contends Indian farmers and ranchers lost about $500 million because they were denied USDA loans. The government settled a similar lawsuit filed by black farmers more than a decade ago.

American Indian farmers have said that local USDA officials tried to squeeze them out of business by denying them loans that instead went to their white neighbors.



Meet New York's Latest Political Party: The Rent is Too Damn High


The U.S. midterm elections just keep getting stranger. And the New York gubernatorial debate on Monday was no exception. Amid the seven participants, one candidate stood out: Jimmy McMillan, of “The Rent is Too Damn High” party.

Yes, we’re serious. He’s a 64 year old Vietnam veteran, two-time mayoral candidate and a newfound Internet sensation.

The party’s key platform is obvious: the rent. It’s too damn high. But at last night’s debate Mr. McMillan gave some interesting insights into his party’s views on other, non-tenant-related subjects:

•On gay marriage: “The Rent is Too Damn High party feels if you wanna marry a shoe? I’ll marry you,”
•On the deficit: “It’s like a cancer. It will heal itself.”
•On negative campaigning: “As a karate expert, I will not talk about anyone up here.”
•Poverty: “Our children can’t afford to live anywhere. Nowhere. There’s nowhere to go. Once again why? You said it: The rent is too damn high.”

There's a video at the source, but this one (via Youtube) is a bit longer and whatnot.

And here's a 2009 mayoral candidacy pitch video of his via Youtube:

US military accepting gay recruits

The US military has started accepting gay recruits after a California judge last week struck down the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring openly gay people from serving.

But the US defense department says new gay recruits are warned the repeal of the law may be overturned.

The Pentagon is appealing against the decision and has asked the judge to reinstate the ban in the interim.

Judge Virginia Phillips on Monday tentatively refused that request.

Some gay activist groups were planning to send people to enlist at recruiting stations to test the Pentagon's announcement that it was accepting recruits who openly state that they are gay.

"If they were to self admit that they are gay and want to enlist, we will process them for enlistment, but will tell them that the legal situation could change," Douglas Smith, spokesman for US Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky, said.

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Murasaki Shikibu
  • homasse

Security high in China after days of protest against Japan

Security high in China after days of protest against Japan

Security forces patrolled the streets of many parts of China Tuesday after three days of rowdy anti-Japanese protests.

The protests began Saturday and lasted through Monday. Most of the demonstrations took place in central China, which is home to many Japanese factories.

While reports on the size of the protests varied, Japanese news agency Kyodo placed the number at around 10,000.

Video captured by an American living in China showed protesters in the town of Chengdu in southwest China burning the Chinese characters that read "Nihon" or "Japan" in English.

In the city of Mianyang in northern China, protesters overturned a Japanese-made car, according to footage that aired on Japan's TV Asahi.

The station also aired video of vandalized Japanese stores. The letters on the sign of one Sony store had all but vanished -- with only the "N" left dangling from the wall.

Video also showed damage inside Japanese grocery chain Ito Yokado in Chengdu and extra staff holding watch outside.

People in various locations chanted anti-Japan slogans in the videos and called for a boycott of Japanese products. Chinese security forces protectively surrounded the Japanese embassy in Beijing.

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Wow, it's like 2005 redux (that was the year of the protests over the Japanese textbooks that totally whitewashed over the bad things Japan had done but were only used in a whopping 1% of junior high schools in Japan). :/ This shouldn't be much of a surprise, given how the Chinese press has been reporting the whole mess with the Senkaku Islands--it's been pretty inflammatory (but, full disclosure, what I saw was what the Japanese press was reporting that the Chinese press was saying in editorials. The bits I saw on TV reports, the Japanese translation of the Chinese were pretty good, and it was all pretty virulently anti-Japan.)
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Whitman campaign typo underscores the dangers of tweeting

What a difference an "r" makes. That's the lesson to be learned from the retweeting adventures of a Meg Whitman spokeswoman Monday.

Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei meant to pass along an earlier posting from Whitman adviser Mike Murphy, touting Whitman's endorsement from the San Diego Deputy Sheriff's association. "SD Cnty Sheriff Assoc says @Whitman2010 4 gov! RT: @Murphy4MegNews: CA Cops get it: Jerry Brown is too soft on crime," Pompei wrote. She then included a link: http://bit.ly/bNCAV.

The problem is, Murphy's original link had an "r" on the end of the Web address. And without that letter, the link went somewhere else entirely.

What did Pompei link to? Well, we watched the video, and we're still not exactly sure, since we don't speak Japanese. And although we do know our tutus and our bass guitars, we can't quite articulate what it was that we saw. Intrigued? Well, you'll just have to click for yourself. Words alone don't do this video justice.

When asked for comment, Pompei laughed about the bad link, and offered a one-word reply. "Oopsie."

-- Anthony York in Sacramento

Here's the video.


I thought we needed something funny after all of today's sad and angering posts. Also, the music he is playing is from K-ON!</strike>
JL: Annoyed J. Law

Clarence Thomas’s Wife Asks Anita Hill for Apology

WASHINGTON – Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, left a message last weekend on the voicemail of Anita Hill, who accused her husband of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings, a spokeswoman for Ms. Thomas confirmed on Tuesday.

In a message left at the office of Ms. Hill, who is now a professor at Brandeis University, Ms. Thomas apparently brought up Ms. Hill’s accusations against her husband during the 1991 hearings.

In response to questions about the call relayed through a publicist, Ms. Thomas confirmed that she had left a message on Ms. Hill’s voicemail.

“I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get passed what happened so long ago,” Ms. Thomas said in a statement provided to The New York Times.

“That offer still stands,” her statement went on. “I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same. Certainly no offense was ever intended.”

Ms. Thomas did not explain why she had reached out to Ms. Hill at this time.Collapse )


Stonewall Scotland (?) does something halfway decent.

Stonewall drops Bill Leckie nomination for Journalist of the Year after protests
By Jessica Geen | October 19, 2010

Scottish Sun journalist Bill Leckie has been dropped from Stonewall’s Journalist of the Year shortlist.

Mr Leckie, one of five nominees for the award, was criticised in a 2007 Stonewall Scotland report for poking fun at a drag queen bingo night.

In 2008, he criticised the use of taxpayers’ money on treatment for trans prisoners

However, he was nominated for an award by the charity for one of its annual media awards after writing a sympathetic article on gay rugby star Gareth Thomas.

Last week, trans campaigners complained at his nomination and questioned whether Stonewall would nominate a gay-friendly writer who had once been racist.

A Stonewall spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk: “Bill Leckie’s nomination for Stonewall Journalist of the Year 2010 has been withdrawn. We’re sorry for any offence this has caused.”


idk what the deal with this is. I haven't followed this too closely but from what I can tell, the article is discussing something that Stonewall Scotland has done, as opposed to its parent organization Stonewall UK. Stonewall Scotland seems to generally be less transphobic. Perhaps some of the British members here can elucidate/I should read some more about this on my own, although tbh, the reason I've been avoiding it is because some of Stonewall UK's cisfail is too embarrassing for life.