November 27th, 2010

U.S. now in Afghanistan as long as Soviets were

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Moscow — As wartime days go, Friday was a fairly quiet one in Afghanistan. Helicopters skittered across the sky; convoys rumbled along desert roads; soldiers in mountain outposts scanned the jagged peaks around them.

But one thing set the day apart: With its passing, the U.S. military's campaign in Afghanistan matched the Soviet Union's long and demoralizing sojourn in the nation.

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Source: LA Times

FBI thwarts terrorist bombing attempt at Portland holiday tree lighting, authorities say

The FBI thwarted an attempted terrorist bombing in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square before the city's annual tree-lighting Friday night, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oregon.

A Corvallis man, thinking he was going to ignite a bomb, drove a van to the corner of the square at Southwest Yamhill Street and Sixth Avenue and attempted to detonate it.

However, the supposed explosive was a dummy that FBI operatives supplied to him, according to an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint signed Friday night by U.S. Magistrate Judge John V. Acosta.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a Somali-born U.S. citizen, was arrested at 5:42 p.m., 18 minutes before the tree lighting was to occur, on an accusation of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The arrest was the culmination of a long-term undercover operation, during which Mohamud had been monitored for months as his alleged bomb plot developed.

"The device was in fact inert, and the public was never in danger," according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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Deputy of Rio de Janeiro thinks gays can be turned straight with spanking.

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warning: violence towards children
sources: Cena G, a brazilian website(in Portuguese):
Brasil Alerta (also in Portuguese):

Japan's lesbians still scared to come out.

“Homosexuality itself -- as long as you don’t say it -- is accepted in Japan. Once you start saying it you put yourself in a box,” says a 29-year-old, describing the situation for many gay women in her country.

“Then sometimes you get in trouble, and maybe you get all the images put on you that come with the word,” she says.

In Japan, while there is no law against homosexuality, being gay or lesbian is something that remains generally ‘undesirable’ in mainstream society. Marriage in the country is only permitted for heterosexual couples.

Still, in recent years more lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBT) in Japan have trickled into the public eye, including some high-profile celebrities through the powerful channel of the Japanese showbiz industry.

Twenty-five-year-old singer and actress Ataru Nakamura’s popularity is rumored to have grown after the 2006 disclosure of her male-to-female (MTF) gender reassignment, while transsexual celebrities Ai Haruna and Ayana Tsubaki are a common sight on the variety show circuit.

Outside the entertainment world, several openly gay politicians have seen the spotlight as well, including Aya Kamikawa, the only openly transgendered official in Japan, who was re-elected for a second four-year term in 2007 to her seat in Setagaya ward, the largest ward in Tokyo.

And this August, the Tokyo Pride parade received international media attention as it returned with gusto after a three-year hiatus.

But there is still a noticeable lack of openly lesbian figures in public arenas, leaving many in the dark when it comes to the lesbian community in Japan.

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*betty draper reading

Conservative social engineering scheme turns out more like a wedding day tax hike

Few Texas couples taking advantage of fee-reducing premarital counseling course


Published: 8:51 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26, 2010

FORT WORTH — A program that offers lower marriage license fees for couples who go through an eight-hour course on married life before exchanging vows has drawn little interest since its inception two years ago.

The Twogether in Texas program was hotly debated when it was put before the Legislature in 2007. But according to information provided to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram by state agencies, fewer than 15 percent of all marriage licenses over the past two years were related to the program.

That does not faze the program's author, state Rep. Warren Chisum.

"The teaching of the course is working fine, and I have no intention of modifying that," the Pampa Republican said this week. "We just have to figure out more ways to get more people to take the course (rather) than pay the double fee." Collapse )

Groff Gallagher

U.S. Shuts Down Web Sites in Piracy Crackdown

In what appears to be the latest phase of a far-reaching federal crackdown on online piracy of music and movies, the Web addresses of a number of sites that facilitate illegal file-sharing were seized this week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security.

By Friday morning, visiting the addresses of a handful of sites that either hosted unauthorized copies of films and music or allowed users to search for them elsewhere on the Internet produced a notice that said, in part: “This domain name has been seized by ICE — Homeland Security Investigations, pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by a United States District Court.”

In taking over the sites’ domain names, or Web addresses, the government effectively redirected any visitors to its own takedown notice.Collapse )


Hitchens defeats Blair in Canadian religion debate

Tony Blair told an audience member at a debate yesterday that his religious beliefs did not play a role in his decision to support the US invasion of Iraq - but the votes went 2-1 the way of his opponent, Christopher Hitchens.

The former prime minister said it was true that "people commit horrific acts of evil in the name of religion". But Mr Blair, who converted to Catholicism in 2007, said it was also true that religion inspires acts of extraordinary good.

And he said it was important not to condemn all people of religious faith because of the "bigotry or prejudice shown by some".

Mr Blair also told the 2,700-strong audience in Toronto, Canada, the invasion of Iraq was "not about religious faith" but decisions on the war were "based on policy".

He said it was "futile" to try to "drive religion out" and it was more important to concentrate on how to get people of different faiths to work together, particularly in the Middle East where the conflict would only be resolved if people worked across the "faith divide".

Sceptic Mr Hitchens, who has terminal cancer, likened God to a "celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea".

He appeared to win over the audience, which voted two-to-one in his favour following the debate, which argued the motion "be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world".

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Palin Knocks Obama on Obesity.

Sarah Palin is taking shots at Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity initiative “Let’s Move,” saying that the first lady should stay out of our families’ lives and let parents decide for themselves what to feed their kids.

Obama’s Let’s Move is helping to increase access to healthy food in schools, encouraging physical activity, partnering with classrooms and farmer’s markets, and making healthy foods more affordable.

In other words, Palin is dangerous and misinformed. Her blind ideological opposition to public health programs has absolutely nothing to do with data, medical information, science, or anything reality-based.
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China, Russia quit dollar

St. Petersburg, Russia - China and Russia have decided to renounce the US dollar and resort to using their own currencies for bilateral trade, Premier Wen Jiabao and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin announced late on Tuesday.

Chinese experts said the move reflected closer relations between Beijing and Moscow and is not aimed at challenging the dollar, but to protect their domestic economies.

"About trade settlement, we have decided to use our own currencies," Putin said at a joint news conference with Wen in St. Petersburg.

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I didn't see anything posted about this, which, wuuuuuuut.