November 21st, 2010

donk... donk... donk...

Pope condones condom use in exceptional cases - book

Pope Benedict XVI has said the use of condoms is acceptable in exceptional circumstances, according to a new book.

He said condoms could reduce the risk of HIV infection, such as for a male prostitute, in a series of interviews given to a German journalist.

But he said a more humane attitude to sexuality, and not condom use, was the proper way to combat HIV infection.

The comments were made in a new book, which the Vatican newspaper ran excerpts of in its Saturday edition.

The Church's hardline stance over contraception has led to the Vatican being heavily criticised for its position in the context of the AIDS crisis.

AIDS crisis

The book - Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times - is based on a series of interview the Pope gave the German Catholic journalist, Peter Seewald, earlier this year.

When asked whether the Catholic Church was not opposed in principle to the use of condoms, the Pope replied: "She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality."

The Pope gives the example of the use of condoms by male prostitutes as "a first step towards moralisation", even though condoms are "not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection".

He says that the "sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalisation of sexuality" where sexuality is no longer an expression of love, "but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves".

Catholic commentator Austen Ivereigh said that although this was the first time the Pope had voiced such an opinion, it was in line with what Catholic moral theologians have been saying for many years.

"The Church's teaching on contraception predates the discovery of AIDS," Mr Ivereigh told the BBC news website.

"The prevalence of HIV raised the question of whether condoms could be used to prevent the transmission of the virus.

"If the intention is to prevent transmission of the virus, rather than prevent contraception, moral theologians would say that was of a different moral order."

UNAIDS, the United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS, welcomed the Pope's comments.

"This is a significant and positive step forward taken by the Vatican," said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe.

"This move recognizes that responsible sexual behaviour and the use of condoms have important roles in HIV prevention."

On a visit to Cameroon last year, the Pope said the use of condoms could endanger public health and increase the problem of HIV/AIDS, rather than help to contain the virus. This drew criticism from several EU states.

Campaigners say condoms are one of the few methods proven to stop the spread of HIV.

Light of the World is to be published in English by the Catholic Truth Society on Tuesday.

I believe I can fly

Superheroes in Seattle

Local boy with cancer turns into a superhero for a day

Erik Martin, who is living with liver cancer, has always wanted to be a superhero. On Thursday, the regional chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted him that wish with an elaborate event that involved hundreds of volunteers in Bellevue and Seattle.

Collapse )


I thought a feel good story was in order. :D
Farscape not broken

Obama "understands" our "frustrations" with the "inconvenience" of the new TSA policies.

LISBON, Portugal — President Barack Obama on Saturday acknowledged some travelers' "frustrations" with having to go through full-body pat-downs and scans at airports, but he said the enhanced security measures are necessary to keep America safe.

In response to a question at a press conference in Lisbon, where he was attending a NATO summit , the president said that the Transportation Security Administration has been "under enormous pressure" to find better ways to screen for explosives and other dangerous items ever since the attempted 2009 Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner over Detroit. In that case, a passenger with links to an al-Qaida extremist group tried to set off plastic explosives concealed in his underwear.

"I understand people’s frustrations, and what I’ve said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to assure the American people’s safety. And you also have to think through are there other ways of doing it that are less intrusive," Obama said.

"But at this point, TSA in consultation with counterterrorism experts have indicated to me that the procedures that they have been putting in place are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat that we saw in the Christmas Day bombing."

Obama acknowledged that as president he does not have to go through pat-downs and other normal security procedures
at airports, since he flies on Air Force One.

Some travelers have criticized the pat-downs and full-body scanners at some airports as overly intrusive and humiliating. In one case, a woman who survived breast cancer said she was forced to show her prosthetic breast during a pat-down at an airport in North Carolina.

A loosely organized campaign on the Internet is urging travelers to boycott the scanners, which produce a virtually naked image of the body that can be seen by a screener who is in a different location and doesn't know the identity of the traveler. The U.S. has nearly 400 of the advanced imaging machines deployed at 70 airports, with plans to expand to 1,000 machines next year. Not all airports have them and not all travelers are selected for scans.

Those who refuse body scans can be forced to undergo physical pat-downs, which could make for long lines during the Thanksgiving holiday travel weekend.

"One of the most frustrating aspects of this fight against terrorism is that it has created a whole security apparatus around us that causes huge inconvenience for all of us,” Obama said.

My two cents:

Bullshit. Bullshitbullshitbullshit.

How about your intelligence agencies actually communicate with one another, rather than subjecting innocent civilians to a) a machine that WOULD NOT HAVE DETECTED THE CHRISTMAS DAY BOMBER ANYWAY, or b) state-sanctioned sexual assault meant to intimidate people into the scanner that wouldn't have worked?

Fitwatch should worry us all

‘The Battle of Milbank Tower’ dominated news cycles last week with its vivid images of enraged lefties and mildly pissed students kicking in windows, lobbing fire extinguishers, and generally having a quite spiffing time at the expense of the Tory party. The event’s aftermath was characterised by introspective front pages and angry TV pundits. However, it was a more disturbing series of events a few days subsequent to the riots that caught the Internet’s attention.

The London Metropolitan Police, with what appears to be surprisingly little effort, managed to erase an entire website dedicated to monitoring some of its more Orwellian pursuits. Fitwatch is a website that monitors the Met Police’s ‘Forward Intelligence Teams’, a fairly obscure division of the Public Order Unit. The ‘Fitties’, as I’m renaming them, have a simple job: procure intelligence on protestors. Their findings are then stored alongside a roster of ‘domestic extremists’ on a database with the not-at-all-intimidating name ‘CRIMINT’.

Fitwatch was established to counteract this remarkably anti-democratic outfit. If the Fitties were to spend their time identifying protestors, it was reasoned, then why shouldn’t protestors spend their time identifying the Fitties? The site has irritated the Met several times over the years: at first activists would hold banners in front of their cameras and publish pictures of FIT police on a blog, but their activism gradually evolved into something more refined, including (successfully) challenging the Fitties’ methods in court.

It was after the student riots at Milbank Tower that the Met perceived an opportunity to rid themselves of the site and its hassle once and for all. Fitwatch published a list of dos and don’ts for individuals who feared they may have been snapped on a police or press camera at the event. It is perhaps inevitable that the police may have jumped upon their opportunity as it came; Fitwatch went beyond the usual ‘take advice from a qualified lawyer’ recommendation and suggested the edgier ‘get rid of ALL clothes you were wearing [at the demo]’. Within a day, the police had written to Fitwatch’s hosting provider, claiming that the blog was “being used to undertake criminal activities” and demanding that the site be removed for a minimum of 12 months.

Collapse )
garf tired

TSA At the Tipping Point

TSA At The 'Tipping Point': Passenger Anger At Airport Pat-Downs Threatens To Boil Over

How did an agency created to protect the public become the target of so much public scorn?

After nine years of funneling travelers into ever longer lines with orders to have shoes off, sippy cups empty and laptops out for inspection, the most surprising thing about increasingly heated frustration with the federal Transportation Security Administration may be that it took so long to boil over.

The agency, a marvel of nearly instant government when it was launched in the fearful months following the 9/11 terror attacks, started out with a strong measure of public goodwill. Americans wanted the assurance of safety when they boarded planes and entrusted the government with the responsibility.

But in episode after episode since then, the TSA has demonstrated a knack for ignoring the basics of customer relations, while struggling with what experts say is an all but impossible task. It must stand as the last line against unknown terror, yet somehow do so without treating everyone from frequent business travelers to the family heading home to visit grandma as a potential terrorist.

The TSA "is not a flier-centered system. It's a terrorist-centered system and the travelers get caught in it," said Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University who has tracked the agency's effectiveness since it's creation.

Collapse )


I think this is a pretty good analysis of this issue. I have a feeling that the tipping point is going to really hit over the holidays, and I hope it is enough to render some change.

No pun intended: 'Joking disease' is no joke

Why did the cookie go to the hospital?

Because he felt crummy.

What did one snowman say to the other snowman?

Smells like carrots.

Why does Snoop Dogg carry an umbrella?

Fo' drizzle.

Terrible jokes? Or a sign of a brain disorder? Actually, sometimes it's hard to tell.

Witzelsucht (the Germans just have the best words for everything, don't they?) is a brain dysfunction that causes all sorts of compulsive silliness: bad jokes, corny puns, wacky behavior. It's also sometimes called the "joking disease," and as Taiwanese researchers phrased it in a 2005 report, it's a "tendency to tell inappropriate and poor jokes." We've covered all sorts of strange disorders of the mind in earlier Body Odd posts: one disorder makes you believe your loved ones are strangers, another convinces you that your hand has taken on a life of its own. Now, we give you a brain disorder that actually causes a poor sense of humor.

It's a symptom of an injury to the right frontal lobe, which could be caused by brain trauma or a stroke, tumor, infection or a degenerative disease. "Patients who have disease of the left frontal lobe often are sad, anxious and depressed," explains Dr. Kenneth Heilman, a neurologist at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, Fla. "In contrast ... patients with right-hemisphere disease often (appear) indifferent or euphoric and have inappropriate jocularity."

Heilman says he sees several cases of Witzelsucht each year. "One of the most dramatic cases (that I've seen) appeared to be attracted to my reflex hammer," Heilman says. "After I checked his deep tendon reflexes and put my hammer down, he picked up the hammer and started to check my reflexes, while giggling."

A 2005 case study describes a 57-year-old woman who suddenly morphed into a more gregarious version of herself. "She had become the life of the party and would laugh, joke, and sing all the time. The patient had decreased self-care and hygiene and wore the same clothes every day," according to the report. Her doctors believed dementia that damaged the front temporal lobes of her brain was to blame for her change in personality.

The Taiwanese case study mentioned earlier describes a 56-year-old man's symptoms, and introduces an interesting conundrum found in some Witzelsucht sufferers. Although they're constantly making others laugh, some patients don't seem to get the joke themselves. "On some occasions, he showed no smiles or laughter to the jokes ... which made everyone laugh loudly, while on other occasions, he was not able to appreciate jokes from the others," according to the report.

When it's possible, doctors attempt to treat the underlying disease or injury that's causing the Witzelsucht symptoms. Some physicians may prescribe mood stabilizers such as antipsychotic medications, but often they'll attempt to use behavioral strategies to rein in the giggles. But as Heilman explains, the jokiness "can be annoying to family and caregivers, (but) it is usually not a terrible problem."


(no subject)

Warren Buffett: I 'Should Be Paying A Lot More In Taxes'

WASHINGTON -- Billionaire Warren Buffett rebutted claims that the Obama administration is unjustly hurting business orders with high taxes by saying that in fact, the wealthy have never had it so good.

"I think that people at the high end, people like myself, should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we've ever had it," he told ABC's Christiane Amanpour in a clip played on "This Week" on Sunday.

When Amanpour pointed to critics' claims that the very wealthy need tax cuts to spur business and capitalism, Buffett replied, "The rich are always going to say that, you know, 'Just give us more money, and we'll go out and spend more, and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you.' But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on."


Collapse )


Secret Jewish heritage converts neo-Nazi

Lauren Frayer

(Sept. 25) -- Two Polish neo-Nazis who were childhood sweethearts and later became skinheads have discovered what for them is a shocking family secret: They're actually Jewish.

Pawel and Ola, identified only by their first names, are the subject of a CNN documentary about Poles rediscovering their Jewish roots generations after their ancestors hid their religious identities to escape persecution during World War II.

A few years ago, Ola found out from Warsaw's Jewish Historical Institute that both she and her husband are technically Jews. "It was unbelievable -- it turned out that we had Jewish roots. It was a shock," she said.

At the time, she and Pawel were active in Warsaw's neo-Nazi movement. "I was a nationalist 100 percent. Back then when we were skinheads it was all about white power... that Jews were the biggest plague and the worst evil of this world," Pawel said.

Both 33, they've now embraced their Jewish identity and are active in their local orthodox synagogue.

"I'm not saying that I don't have regrets but it's not something that I walk around and lash myself over... I feel sorry for those that I beat up," Pawel said. "But I don't hold a grudge against myself."

Read more and watch excerpts from the documentary on CNN.


Oh, karma.

Hellish home refinancing nears bleak conclusion

Hellish home refinancing nears bleak conclusion
It's been an odyssey of misery for Imogene Hall, a Miami Gardens woman who just wanted to tap some home equity

The Miami Herald
Posted on Sat, Nov. 20, 2010

All she wanted was $50,000 from the equity in her house to help pay the bills while looking for a job in nursing. What Imogene Hall got was a brutal lesson in the sometimes shady ways of the mortgage industry.

It's a lesson learned by untold numbers of homeowners in Florida, epicenter of the foreclosure crisis gripping the nation.

"Everywhere I turn, someone else is scamming me," said Hall, a 49-year-old Jamaican immigrant who stands to lose her Miami Gardens home the Monday after Thanksgiving. "All I do is work hard, and I get surrounded by thieves."

A review of court records found evidence of misconduct at nearly every stage of Hall's experience. Consider:

• Johnson Cuffy, a former mortgage broker now serving an 11-year prison sentence for grand theft, handled Hall's refinancing in early 2006, using a strategy a state investigator described as "outright mortgage fraud." He faces up to 30 more years in prison if convicted of 16 other mortgage fraud charges he's facing.

• The title agent who signed the crucial deed transfers that Hall's fraud claim rests on operated an unlicensed title company that stole more than $1.5 million from South Florida home buyers during closing proceedings between 2005 and 2007, according to Florida Supreme Court records.

• A man who listed his employer as a nonexistent Blockbuster Video store in New York somehow used Hall's home as collateral to secure a $230,000 loan from subprime lender Argent Mortgage.

• Hall's foreclosure was processed by the Florida Default Law Group, one of four Florida law firms being investigated by the state attorney general for using flawed documents to repossess homes from thousands of owners.


After spending more than three years in the judicial system, Hall's case was transferred to Miami-Dade's County Court's new foreclosure-only division in July. There, Judge Jeffrey Rosinek, who was fresh to the case, quickly tossed out Hall's fraud defense, and granted the bank a swift summary judgment in a process critics describe as a "rocket docket."

Hall's foreclosure defense lawyers, in what has become a booming — and sometimes predatory — business, charged her more than $20,000 while regularly failing to show up in court. One lawyer charged Hall $2,800 for work he did trying to withdraw himself from the case.

Law enforcement officers are scheduled to come to Hall's house to evict her and her family next week, nearly five years after a mortgage broker showed up on her doorstep unannounced, pitching a stress-free refinance.
Collapse )


I tried to pick and choose excerpts to highlight, but, honestly, I wasn't up to the task. The whole thing — in all its head-shaking outrageousness — deserves to be read.
' jules
  • schmiss

The Follow-Up Post: an ONTD_P Mods joint.

Due to character count limits, please note that this Mod Post Follow-Up is organized in two parts: first, a summary of issues contained in the body of this entry, and secondly,  5 point-form clarifications that shall be individually posted as "sticky replies" in the comment section.

As a result, we're asking that you give us 10-15 minutes to finish copy/pasting those 5 point-form topics, before you contribute your personal replies to the entire post. That way, member comments/questions can be left  directly under each individual mod clarification point according to topic relevance. The comments have been posted!

What did (and did not) prompt the mod post:
There are many issues of wank/meta-wank surrounding the original Mod Post of concern, but we figured it'd make the most sense to try to clarify what prompted the Mod Post, to begin with.

The quick summary of issues that motivated the Mod Post are:

(1) patterns of misinterpreted/misused anti-oppression tools that end up co-opting marginalized voices.
(2) distinguishing straight-up, topic-derailing ad hominems from debating topics that trigger understandable outrage/resentment among debaters.

These will be addressed i below in the 5 "sticky replies" in the comment section. First, we'd like to address motivation for the original Mod Post; the fact members were upset by our framing; and points that we'd like to try and frame clearer.

Collapse )