November 24th, 2010

Battle Lines Drawn in Catalonia

BARCELONA — When voters in Catalonia go the polls on Sunday, they will not just be writing another chapter in the long and complex saga of whether and how Spain holds together.

The most recent opinion polls suggest that the current Socialist-led coalition government in Spain’s northeastern region will fall, a slap in the face for Spain’s prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a Socialist whose own popularity has plummeted along with the country’s economic fortunes in the financial crisis.

The likely triumph of a Catalan nationalist party, Convergència i Unió, heightens the regional tensions that continually tug at Spain’s fractious unity. As in other European nations, most notably Italy and Belgium, there is a gulf between northern regions like Catalonia, which spearheaded Spain’s industrial revolution and remains home to some of its most successful corporations, and poorer southern areas like Andalusia.


Some of the parties competing on Sunday, in fact, want Catalonia to split immediately from Spain and become a new member state of the European Union. “This election is a historic opportunity to take a decisive step toward independence,” said Joan Laporta, who started his own party earlier this year after leaving the presidency of Barcelona F.C., one of the top soccer clubs in the world.

But rivalries between Mr. Laporta and other advocates of independence have splintered and weakened their movement. Catalan politicians also disagree over the level of popular support for independence.

The entire article can be read at the NY Times
  • fynoda

No survivors for the Pike River Disaster

Where Chile was lucky, New Zealand was not. The 29 men trapped underground in the Pike River mine are presumed dead after an explosion.

Pike River: Families in 'absolute despair'

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said families of the 29 Pike River mine victims who perished in today's second blast fell to the floor screaming and were in "absolute despair", when they heard the news.

Late this afternoon police confirmed there was an explosion at the West Coast mine and they believe there is no chance any of the miners survived.

Families of the miners were told in Greymouth there was an explosion at 2.37pm, bigger than last Friday's, and all hope was now lost.

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Source reminds us all that mining will never, ever will be a safe industry. These families likely won't get huge international media attention or paid for interviews or movie deals; instead, they'll get to start the new year fresh out of funerals. So much rage.

The pushback begins against the pushback against the new TSA scan n' grope screenings

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

a.k.a. Why I shouldn't watch The Last Word when Lawrence O'Donnell is on vacation.

Why is this guy citing a "brand new" (week old) CBS Poll about the body scanners but not pointing out the more recent ABC Poll that indicated a slide in opinion against the scanners like Olbermann did 2 hours beforehand on the very same network? Also, while Carie Lemack might raise a nice point about behavioral profiling later on in the interview, I give her the sideye when she says we should not blame the "people at the airport" but instead blame terrorists for the new procedures and that everyone is just whining.

"I wasn't going to shoot up the women's clinic! I was just stalking a lady, that's all!"

A state representative said it was a misunderstanding when he parked his car in the Planned Parenthood lot in Highland Park and was later stopped by St. Paul police because of the revolver he was carrying near his waistband.

Thomas Hackbarth, 58, was stopped in his car on Nov. 16 after a security guard saw him with a gun in the parking lot about 5 p.m., an hour after the clinic closed. Police ordered him out of his car at gunpoint and handcuffed and questioned him before taking his gun and letting him go.

Hackbarth, who has a conceal and carry permit, picked up his gun from police on Tuesday. He was not arrested or charged, and police have closed the case, said police spokesman Andy Skoogman.

Hackbarth, R-Cedar, is in his eighth term representing District 48A. He represents Elk River, Oak Grove and East Bethel and is considered a strong advocate of conservation issues and an opponent of abortion rights.

He said Tuesday that he is not familiar with the Highland Park area and didn't know he was at Planned Parenthood when he pulled into the empty lot so that he could look for a woman he had met online.

Hackbarth said he had coffee with the woman on Nov. 15, and asked her to dinner the next night but she told him she couldn't because of a commitment she had with a female friend in Highland Park. Hackbarth said he felt that she might have been seeing a man instead, so he parked his car and walked around the block looking for her car. (The security guard spotted Hackbarth's gun when he got out of his car and put on a winter coat.)

When he didn't see the woman's car, he returned to his truck and left. That's when police intercepted him.

"I was not a jealous boyfriend," said Hackbarth, who is in the process of divorcing his wife of 25 years. "I was just trying to check up on her. It's totally a misunderstanding."

Hackbarth said that he always carries his fully loaded gun, and understands why the security guard was alarmed.

"I didn't even know it was Planned Parenthood," he said. "I fully understand why they were upset."


Irish unveil tough four-year recovery plan

The Irish government has unveiled a range of tough austerity measures designed to help solve the country's debt crisis.

Among the spending cuts and tax rises are a reduction in the minimum wage, a new property tax and thousands of public sector job cuts.

The four-year plan is designed to save the state 15bn euros ($20bn; £13bn).

The government is also negotiating a bail-out package with the EU and IMF, expected to be worth about 85bn euros.

The recovery plan outlines plans to cut 24,750 public sector jobs, achieve savings in social welfare spending of 2.8bn euros, and raise an additional 1.9bn euros from income tax.

The government will also reduce the minimum wage by 1 euro, to 7.65 euros an hour, and raise VAT from 21% to 22% in 2013, with a further increase to 24% in 2014.

In total, the spending cuts will amount to 10bn euros while tax rises will bring in a further 5bn euros.

The government has already implemented 15bn euros of cuts since the onset of the global financial crisis.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said he hoped the plan would "bring certainty to our people to make sure they have hope for the future. We can and will pull through as we have in the past".

He added that it was also "about growing the economy and identifying those sectors of the economy that are proving to be successful".

Source, includes video.

British Muslim family who lost their son to extremists speak out

In an unprecedented move, a British Muslim family has spoken openly about one of their own falling victim to radicalisation, a story which reveals serious flaws in how the UK deals with the threat of Islamist terror and the control order system.

"He was a very healthy, active individual," is how Awais Arshad describes his younger brother Umar when he was an undergraduate studying pharmacy at Manchester University.

A model student at school, Umar had won a place to study at the university in his home town in 2004. At the time everything seemed to be going well for the family, who were well integrated into British life and ran a successful business, a garage.

Umar would attend the local mosque with his father and brother, but according to Awais his behaviour was not out the ordinary. "We used to go there and read our prayers and come home, so we had a very good routine," he says.

Dropped out from college

However, in 2006 Umar uncharacteristically failed his second year exams, and from there things started to go wrong. After dropping out for a year, he began working at the garage with his father Mohammed. It was there that Umar was befriended by one of the many clients bringing in cars for repairs.

"He seemed at the time to be a nice individual who spoke very politely," Awais says of the man. "He was fine - another friend."

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(no subject)

You’ve probably heard the story; in the early days of the Internet, many of its architects and champions fully expected it to become the world’s first truly equal society. The old publishing order that kept most people silenced would be left behind, anonymity would be a great leveler, and everyone’s point of view would get heard on all topics and judged without prejudice, on merits. Right?

Today, we see that this didn’t pan out. Economic factors still dictate who has how much time to spend on the Internet, doing what, with whom and at what bitrate. And anonymity hasn’t put everyone on equal footing; it has made it easier for already crowded-out identities, i.e. those that aren’t straight, white, and male, to continue getting overlooked.

These realities are perhaps most starkly clear in the humorous bulletin boards and microblogs that draw the Web’s largest audiences. Sites like the massive anonymized bulletin board 4chan and the image-captioning Web utility Memegenerator are popular examples of an online community that’s open to everyone in theory, that’s admirably participatory in many ways, and that’s accomplished some amazing things. 4chan says it draws more than 10 million users globally a month. And in all seriousness, no thinking person should dismiss the community systems that invented LOLcats.

Dig deeper, though, and such sites are bursting with Southparkian “ironic” bigotry, rape humor, and other jokes that are easier to laugh at when you aren’t the butt of them. The humor isn’t entirely without precedent; in many ways, it’s the same targeted offensiveness of now-embraced comedians like Richard Pryor and George Carlin—saying the nastiest thing you can think of, so you can feel relieved that it isn’t true and prove it has no foothold in you. Old-standby jokes—“there are no black people on the Internet [so say whatever you want about them]”—exaggerate real inconsistencies in the medium itself. However, when looking at a hundred black-people-eating-fried-chicken photos on the same page, one wonders if those noble intentions haven’t gotten lost along the path to funny.

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mus | like a bird in a cage

Sarah Palin: “We Gotta Stand With Our North Korean Allies”

Sarah Palin’s choosing sides in the conflict between North and South Korea–and picking Kim Jong Il?

Couldn’t be. But there she is on Glenn Beck’s radio show saying just that: “This speaks to a bigger picture here that certainly scares me in terms of our national security policy. But obviously we’ve gotta stand with our North Korean allies.”

The host helpfully corrects her, “South Korean allies.”

The scrambled tongue moment–as that’s surely what Palin will say it was–does bring up a charge made in John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s book, Game Change, which portrays Palin as dangerously uninformed–a candidate for the vice presidency who didn’t understand that Korea was divided:

She knew nothing. She had to be taken through World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and Palin was not aware there was a difference between North and South Korea. She continued to insist that Iraq was behind 9/11; and when her son was being sent off to Iraq, she couldn’t describe who we were fighting.

Now, in fairness to Sarah Palin, she’s got a lot on her plate right now–a book tour, a reality show, and a daughter who landed in third place on Dancing with the Stars–so remembering arcane international details like which country has a lunatic dictator with nuclear weapons and which one has American troops can be difficult.

Maybe it’s time to make some notes on her palm?

  • merig00

N.J. congressman fires aide charged with soliciting sex from a minor

A New Jersey congressman has fired his chief of staff after the aide was arrested in Maryland on a charge of soliciting sex from a minor.

Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9th Dist.) took the action after learning that Robert Decheine was among 11 people snared in a Gaithersburg, Md., police sting. Police placed ads on a website and an undercover officer communicated with customers through phone and text messages.

Police said the 48-year-old was arrested on Nov. 17 after soliciting to have sex with an underage girl. Decheine was released on $15,000 bail.

The Record newspaper reports Rothman's office issued a statement saying the New Jersey Democrat considers the alleged criminal act "to be shocking, appalling and indefensible."

Decheine told the newspaper in an e-mail message he had no comment

Decheine has run Rothman's Washington and New Jersey offices since May 2003.


Texas trans woman arrested for using female toilet

A trans woman in Houston, Texas, has been arrested after using a female toilet in a library.

Tyjanae Moore was arrested by police last Wednesday for “knowingly entering a restroom of the opposite sex” but trans groups say her arrest was unlawful.

Ms Moore said she told police she was in the process of transitioning.

She pleaded guilty to using an opposite gender restroom and was given credit for the two nights she spent in jail.

Speaking to Fox News, Ms Moore said: “I felt so belittled going to a jail over something so simple and stupid.

“When I came out, the female [officer] told me I wasn’t supposed to be and I asked if there was any particular reason why not. She said I’m a transgendered female and I was really shocked that they even stopped me for this.”

Trans groups say her arrest was unlawful because a city ordinance passed by Houston this year allows trans people to use the toilets which correspond to their new sex.

The ordinance says: “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally enter any public restroom designated for the exclusive use of the sex opposite to such person’s sex without the permission of the owner, tenant, manager, lessee or other person in charge of the premises, in a manner calculated to cause a disturbance.

Cristan Williams, executive director of the Transgender Foundation of America, which is based in Houston, said: “The arrest should have never happened.

“The City of Houston has given this victim explicit permission to use a restroom consistent with their gender.

“This means that the library patron was acting in a manner consistent with both state and local law. Since she broke no law, this is a case of unlawful arrest and imprisonment.”

Source: Pink News


What the Tea Partiers Really Want

The passion behind the populist insurgency is less about liberty than a particularly American idea of karma.

What do the tea partiers really want? The title of a recent book by two of the movement's leaders offers an answer: "Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto." The authors, Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe, write that "We just want to be free. Free to lead our lives as we please, so long as we do not infringe on the same freedom of others."

This claim should cause liberals to do a double-take. Isn't it straight out of John Stuart Mill, the patron saint of liberalism? Last year my colleagues and I placed a nearly identical statement on our research site, "Everyone should be free to do as they choose, so long as they don't infringe upon the equal freedom of others." Responses from 3,600 Americans showed that self-described libertarians agreed with the statement most strongly, but liberals were right behind them. Social conservatives, who, according to national polls, make up the bulk of the tea party, were more tepid in their endorsement.

Because a generalized love of liberty doesn't distinguish tea partiers from other Americans, liberals have been free to speculate on the "real" motives behind the movement. Explanations so far have spanned a rather narrow range, from racism (they're all white!) to greed (they just don't want to pay taxes!) to gullibility (Glenn Beck has hypnotized them!). Such explanations allow liberals to disregard the moral claims of tea partiers. But the passion of the tea-party movement is, in fact, a moral passion. It can be summarized in one word: not liberty, but karma.

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Wall Street Journal

Civil liberties: Now with more privileged people

Patricia Calhoun at Westword started reporting on women being singled out for inappropriate groping in 2001, just weeks after 9/11.

For the next year, I wouldn't fly in anything other than a sports bra (and being a woman with large breasts, spending any significant amount of time without an underwire was a literal pain). Then the "zealous" screeners at DIA apparently eased off. I started wearing underwires through security again, but not without trepidation.

In 2003 I was almost arrested when I set off the metal detector because I was wearing a garter belt. I was pulled aside for the wand-down, which I didn't object to. I told them they'd get a small positive on the front and back of each thigh from the clips, which they did. The screener then demanded that I go to a "private screening room." "Not until my bags are done being x-rayed," I said, aware that I had a couple thousand dollars worth of technology in my carry-on. "You'll get them afterwards," they told me. I refused to go and asked for the "private screening" in view of my bags, even if that meant in view of other passengers. They threatened to arrest me. I lifted my skirt to show them the garter clips, flashing the entire terminal in the process, and the screener started to grab my arm, but the supervisor waved her off and said "let her go." I grabbed my bags off the conveyor and stalked off.

I have no illusions about what would happen today.

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America worried nobody will like us anymore

US Congress warns of 'damaging' new WikiLeaks release

The United States has warned foreign governments that a damaging release of classified diplomatic cables by the controversial WikiLeaks website is likely in the coming days.

The huge cache of files is thought to include candid reports by US officials abroad of corruption allegations against named politicians and nations.

There may also be embarrassing assessments of foreign leaders and officials who have had dealings with US diplomats.

According to the Obama administration the revelations could harm relations between the US and its friends and allies around the world, even putting lives at risk.

State Department spokesman P J Crowley said the documents may be "harmful to our national security. It does put lives at risk. It does put national interests at risk."

"They are going to create tension in relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world,"

The cables are internal documents that include secret communications between US diplomatic outposts and State Department headquarters in Washington.

They may also include examples of pressure placed by the Obama administration on various countries to accept the transfer of Guantánamo Bay detainees, and details of surveillance programs at US facilities in other countries.


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It was tempting to just bold the entire thing.
Murasaki Shikibu
  • homasse


SKorea reports 2 civilian deaths in NKorea clash

INCHEON, South Korea – South Korea found the burned bodies Wednesday of two islanders killed in a North Korean artillery attack, marking the first civilian deaths in the incident and dramatically escalating the tensions in the region's latest crisis.

The South Korean Coast Guard pulled the bodies of two men, believed in their 60s, from a destroyed construction site on the tiny island of Yeonpyeong near the disputed maritime border with North Korea.

The North's artillery barrages targeting the island Tuesday also killed at least two South Korean marines and wounded 18 other people in what U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called one of the "gravest incidents" since the end of the Korean War.

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Yeah, civilian deaths are going to inflame things. :/ There's a lot highlighted, but there's a lot of good information there. And as much as everyone hates wiki, I'd recommend reading their page on the incident, because it gives a timeline and a list of responses by country, as well has handy-dandy links for more information.
[Other] Bill Hader

Obama made jobs and isn't working towards terroristic economic crashes of America? INCONCEIVABLE

It’s Official: More Private Sector Jobs Created In 2010 Than During Entire Bush Years

By Ole Ole Olson


October 8, 2010

The September jobs report was just released and demonstrates that America is on a far slower path to recovery than anyone originally predicted. Despite this, the shedding of government jobs cloaks a glimmer of hope: more private sector jobs have been created this year than during the entire Bush administration. Read that again: 2010 has had more private job creation than during the entire 8 year tenure of George W. Bush.

This is the 9th straight month of private sector job growth in the midst of a devastating recession that has put a serious strain mostly on the poor and middle class. There has been a total of 863,000 private sector jobs created in 2010, exceeding the total created under the Bush/Cheney regime.

The numbers are not all good however. Companies added 64,000 jobs last month, but after the loss of 159,000 government jobs at all levels, there was a net shedding of ~95,000. The fading influence of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA or the economic stimulus) is causing much of the strain on the job market, as state and local governments still strained by poor revenue are cutting positions, particularly in education.

This is also the central agent that has caused the overall net job loss for the last four months, following a net gain for the first 5 months of the year. The net jobs gained during 2010 stands at 613,000, which is over half of the 1,080,000 jobs were created during the entire time George W. Bush was in office.

2010 Total Jobs Gained or Lost
January 14,000
February 39,000
March 208,000
April 313,000
May 432,000
June -175,000
July -66,000
August -57,000
September -95,000

After modest gains in January and February, March was the month with the greatest job gains in 3 years (since March 2007), and April 2010 was the biggest monthly job gain in 4 years (since March 2006). Beyond this, the increase in jobs from March to April is counter to the jobs trends of the last 10 years, where according to the average, March has gained 61,000 jobs and April only 32,000. The huge gain of 432,000 jobs in May 2010 is the largest net gain of jobs since March 2000 when Bill Clinton was president.

A commonly cited article by conservative pundits to soften the blow on this data is a Wall Street Journal piece titled, Bush On Jobs: The Worst Track Record On Record, which inaccurately states that Bush created 3 million jobs. The actual figure is 1.08 million (all jobs added minus jobs lost), but the conservative leaning WSJ has yet to issue a retraction, correction, or clarification.

In the chart below found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, find the monthly statistics of total jobs created or lost since January 2000.

Read the rest (and see many more charts!) at the source

Kind of old, hopefully it hasn't already been posted.


This isn't just a student protest. It's a children's crusade

Those too young to vote, yet with their futures at stake, have organically come together to be heard.


Outside Downing Street, in front of a line of riot police, I am sitting beside a makeshift campfire. It's cold, and the schoolchildren who have skipped classes gather around as a student with a three-string guitar strikes up the chords to Tracy Chapman's Talkin Bout a Revolution. The kids start to sing, sweet and off-key, an apocalyptic choir knotted around a small bright circle of warmth and energy. "Finally the tables are starting to turn," they sing, the sound of their voices drowning out the drone of helicopters and the screams from the edge of the kettle. "Finally the tables are starting to turn."

Then a cop smashes into the circle. The police shove us out of the way and the camp evaporates in a hiss of smoke, forcing us forward. Not all of us know how we got here, but we're being crammed in with brutal efficiency: the press of bodies is vice-tight and still the cops are screaming at us to move forward. Beside me, a schoolgirl is crying. She is just 14.

"We followed the crowd," she says. So did we all. There are no leaders here: the thousands of schoolchildren and young people who streamed into Whitehall three hours ago in protest at the government's attacks on further and higher education were working completely off script. A wordless cry went up somewhere in the crowd and they were off, moving as one, with no instructions, towards parliament.

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Professor Layton: sipping tea

Jury convicts Tom DeLay in money laundering trial

AUSTIN, Texas – Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay — once one of the most powerful and feared Republicans in Congress — was convicted Wednesday on charges he illegally funneled corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.

Jurors deliberated for 19 hours before returning guilty verdicts against DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces up to life in prison on the money laundering charge.

After the verdicts were read, DeLay hugged his daughter, Danielle, and his wife, Christine. His lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said they planned to appeal the verdict.

"This is an abuse of power. It's a miscarriage of justice, and I still maintain that I am innocent. The criminalization of politics undermines our very system and I'm very disappointed in the outcome," DeLay told reporters outside the courtroom. He remains free on bond, and his sentencing was tentatively set to begin on Dec. 20.

Prosecutors said DeLay, who once held the No. 2 job in the House of Representatives and whose heavy-handed style earned him the nickname "the Hammer," used his political action committee to illegally channel $190,000 in corporate donations into 2002 Texas legislative races through a money swap.

DeLay and his attorneys maintained the former Houston-area congressman did nothing wrong as no corporate funds went to Texas candidates and the money swap was legal.

The verdict came after a three-week trial in which prosecutors presented more than 30 witnesses and volumes of e-mails and other documents. DeLay's attorneys presented five witnesses.

"This case is a message from the citizens of the state of Texas that the public officials they elect to represent them must do so honestly and ethically, and if not, they'll be held accountable," Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said after the verdict.

Prosecutors said DeLay conspired with two associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, to use his Texas-based PAC to send $190,000 in corporate money to an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee, or RNC. The RNC then sent the same amount to seven Texas House candidates. Under Texas law, corporate money can't go directly to political campaigns.

Prosecutors claim the money helped Republicans take control of the Texas House. That enabled the GOP majority to push through a Delay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004 — and strengthened DeLay's political power.

DeLay's attorneys argued the money swap resulted in the seven candidates getting donations from individuals, which they could legally use in Texas.

They also said DeLay only lent his name to the PAC and had little involvement in how it was run. Prosecutors, who presented mostly circumstantial evidence, didn't prove he committed a crime, they said.

DeLay has chosen to have Senior Judge Pat Priest sentence him. He faces five years to life in prison on the money laundering charge and two to 20 years on the conspiracy charge. He also would be eligible for probation.

The 2005 criminal charges in Texas, as well as a separate federal investigation of DeLay's ties to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, ended his 22-year political career representing suburban Houston. The Justice Department probe into DeLay's ties to Abramoff ended without any charges filed against DeLay.

Ellis and Colyandro, who face lesser charges, will be tried later.

Except for a 2009 appearance on ABC's hit television show "Dancing With the Stars," DeLay has been out of the spotlight since resigning from Congress in 2006. He now runs a consulting firm based in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land.