November 28th, 2010

David Mitchell is brilliant once again in The Grauniad

Nick Clegg getting a good kicking? Could anything be more joyous?

The deputy PM deserves all the opprobrium being heaped on him for betraying students

Students bring out a violent streak in me. When I see NUS spokespeople on TV talking simplistically about tuition fees, even though I basically agree with the sentiments they express so unattractively, I want to punch them. But I also like watching them chuck stuff at the police, smash windows and jump up and down on vans. I'm not so keen on the fire extinguisher hurling – I lose my appetite for the scuffle if I think someone might get killed – but a bit of a ruck with some bobbies dressed as X-wing pilots seems entirely appropriate.

It's the peaceful protesting that winds me up: the super-keen "political" students who've nosed their way into being interviewed to show how clever they are. They seem unrealistic and unaccountable and you can smell the self-interest and grubby ambition lurking beneath the veneer of unworkable ideals. Like pre-election Lib Dems.

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What he says about the amount in repayments and debt being written off is true, but I think the amount of debt is only part of the argument. These proposals don't save the state anything at all for a very long time, and really this tuition fees thing is largely about a perception/policy shift of moving the burden of higher education from the state to the student to enable governments of all colours to shaft the students/young more in the future. Pretty much everything Mitchell said here seems right on the money to me.

Huge, epic, unimaginable...

Follows this post

Rio police claim victory after invading gang haven

RIO DE JANEIRO - Rio police backed by helicopters and armored vehicles invaded a shantytown complex long held by traffickers on Sunday, quickly taking over the key drug gang stronghold, a top official said.

Black-clad officers from elite police units entered the Alemao slum complex amid heavy fire, with TV images showing police and army helicopters flying low to support the men on the ground as hundreds of drug gang members tried to hold their position.

But the officers encountered less resistance than expected and claimed victory, saying police were controlling the shantytown complex although many gang members still remained inside.

"We won," said Mario Sergio Duarte, head of Rio state's military police. "We brought freedom to the residents of Alemao."

Officers on the ground, however, were saying they had not completely taken over the complex, and that gunmen were still fighting back. Gunfire could still be heard in the area.

"Without any doubt we know there are gang members hold up inside this slum still and we've got to go in and take them out," said one solider at the base of the slum who did not want to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

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Hoping the gangs aren't preparing some ambush and holding hostages. Hope it's permanent as well, obviously.

Even those Brazilians who've never been to Rio know the area around Complexo do Alemão is home to over 400,000 people and easily one of the worst cases of drug-trafficking related violence in the world.
Their main goal is to get the drugs and weapons though, most drug lords will probably escape (open your eyes, Minas!), which is frustrating and scary but mostly people seem hopeful today. Voz da Comunidade >> BOPE.

For ‘Lost Boy,’ Vote in Sudan Is Homecoming

NYAL, Sudan — Joseph Gatyoung Khan made a vow, uttered in the back seat of a Land Cruiser on a very bumpy road, as he headed home for the first time in 22 years: I will not cry.

He had not seen his parents for two decades. He had not set foot in his village since he marched off in 1988, an 8-year-old boy on a barefoot odyssey through one of Africa’s worst civil wars.

His story would be repeated thousandsfold, and a generation of southern Sudanese boys, scattered by the conflict, would come to be known as the Lost Boys. Sent off by their families at the height of the violence, they ended up trekking hundreds of miles through swamps, deserts and hostile territory — often in packs, sometimes chased by government bombers and slave traders, sometimes forced to be child soldiers.

Several thousand, including Mr. Khan, were eventually resettled in the United States, where they faced another difficult trial: fitting in. Mr. Khan spent the last seven years working his way up from the midnight shift in a casino, to dean’s list at the University of Iowa and buying a white Isuzu Rodeo.

But now he was coming home, as southern Sudan is finally rounding the bend of its own epic journey.

On Jan. 9, the people of southern Sudan will vote in a referendum to decide if they will split off from the north and form their own country. The election will be the capstone to a 50-year liberation struggle in which more than two million people were killed, as the Christian and animist southern part of the country fought against Arab rulers in the north. As in Darfur, the government unleashed local militias to do its dirty work, and the militias razed villages, raped women, massacred civilians and kidnapped children to sell as slaves.


the entire article can be read at the New York Times

Wikileaks: We're under cyber attack

The whistleblower website WikiLeaks is under cyber attack, it said via Twitter Sunday.

The announcement came shortly before the site is expected to release an enormous new cache of secret documents, possibly of United States diplomatic material.

The site is experiencing a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack, it said. That's an effort to make a website unavailable to users, normally by flooding it with requests for data.


UPDATE: The report will still be released Sunday night even if site is down, WikiLeaks states


So who's behind it: U.S. Government or 4chan?  :x
misc. | Toronto

"Remembering George Robitaille: the conductor who became a TTC pariah has passed away".

George Robitaille is dead.

The name won’t mean anything to most, but he was the so-called “sleepy conductor” caught snoozing on the job in that famous TTC ticket taker fiasco that blew up around this time last year. Read NOW's take at the time.

The incident was a watershed moment for the TTC and, arguably, the city [of Toronto]. The shot of Robitaille catching flies in his booth went viral, as they say in the online biz, and unleashed a firestorm of criticism against the TTC that eventually prompted an independent review of customer service

The resulting public backlash bordered on the insane. Anti-TTC websites popped up and for weeks afterward newsrooms were swamped with cell phone camera shots and reports of all manner of supposed transgressions on the part of TTC employees. Remember the bus driver who got called out for taking a coffee break?

Of course, lost completely in the news back then was the fact that Robitaille was in fact seriously ill with a heart condition and on new medication when he was “caught” copping a few zzzs on the job. The Sun is reporting that Robitaille died following a stroke Thursday.

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Source: NOW magazine

Fire Set at Mosque Where Terror Suspect Worshipped

The Associated Press
Sunday, November 28, 2010; 3:26 PM

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Anger over a Somali-born teen's failed plan to blow up a van full of explosives during Portland's Christmas tree lighting ceremony erupted in arson on Sunday when a fire damaged an Islamic center frequented by the suspect, authorities said.

Police don't know who started the blaze or exactly why, but they believe the Islamic center in Corvallis was targeted because terror suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, occasionally worshipped there.

Yosof Wanly, the imam at the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center, said he was advised by friends to take his family out of their home because of the potential threat of hate crime, and members decried the alleged arson attack. No one was injured, and the fire was contained to one room.

"We know how it is, we know some people due to ignorance are going to perceive of these things and hold most Muslims accountable," Wanly said. "We do what we can, but it's a tough situation."

The failed attack on Portland's Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Friday is testing tolerance in what has typically been a state accepting of Muslims, and the FBI warned it would not accept retribution for Mohamud's alleged plot.

The agency was working closely with leadership at the center as agents investigated the fire, said Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. A $10,000 reward was offered for information leading to an arrest.

Ahson Saeed, 25, who worships at the center, called the fire "a heinous act."

The fire was reported at 2:15 a.m., and evidence at the scene led authorities believe it was set intentionally, said Carla Pusateri, a fire prevention officer for the Corvallis Fire Department.

The entire article can be read at the Washington Post


I hope they catch the person(s) who did this.
Dissaproving Face

Wikileaks is Fighting the Wrong Enemy

WikiLeaks Is Fighting the Wrong Enemy

24 November 2010

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted in Sweden to face rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion charges, was driven by one noble principle — that good should prevail over evil. The computer genius — aka the “Robin Hood of hackers” — founded WikiLeaks to expose evil and injustice throughout the world.

But Assange’s guns were aimed at the wrong target. Instead of being used to fight North Korean dictators, al-Qaida or the drug mafia, Assange fired on the U.S. military. In July, WikiLeaks published more than 76,900 documents on the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, and in October it released about 400,000 documents connected with the war in Iraq.

The documents make for an interesting read, although the majority contain no classified information. The only problem is that Assange’s leaks make it easier for the Taliban to capture, torture and kill the secret informants in Afghanistan who are working for the U.S. military. For this, al-Qaida counterintelligence should bestow Assange the Bin Laden Award for outstanding service in the fight against U.S. infidels.

Making his contribution to the fight against the global center of evil and tyranny, Assange decided not to linger long in any one place. In September, he flew from Stockholm to Berlin, checking his bags containing three laptop computers with encrypted information. The computers disappeared, and the computer wonder boy was shocked.

“We have been attacked by the United States,” he complained to a New York Times reporter.

What Assange didn’t take into account was that he had attacked the United States first. It actually never occurred to the infantile self-proclaimed champion of truth and justice that a person who had aided al-Qaida counterintelligence should never pack laptop computers into his checked baggage. Neither should the Australian-born Casanova sleep with any young Swedish beauty who bats her eyes at him. It could easily be a trap.

There is a simple reason why Assange targeted his attacks on the United States, not on tyrants and butchers, who are not known for their computer literacy.  Imagine that instead of exposing tens of thousands of detailed, technical documents about U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Assange had decided to expose cannibalism in the Congo. Not much would have come of it because, unfortunately, Jean-Pierre Bemba — a former vice president of the Congolese provisional government in 2003-06 and a man who is now being tried in the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity and war crimes — did not keep computerized records of the number of pygmies his troops ate for dinner. What’s more, Congolese cannibals probably don’t even know what a computer is.

The syndrome from which Assange suffers is the same problem afflicting most members of the infantile left. They start with the self-absorbed goal of becoming famous by declaring a noble fight against tyranny and evil. They then proceed into battle without ever once tearing their faces away from the computer screen. They forget that, in the first place, the same battle is already being fought by professionals working for Mossad and the CIA.

For someone in the public eye and without any significant credentials, that path leads more often to shame than fame. That is why it is much easier for a computer wizard like Assange to fight against democratic nations that document their actions on computers rather than fighting against real tyranny and evil in the world.


So: While I personally don't agree with the tone or ad hominem attacks in this opinion piece, I thought it provided an interesting counter-point to all of the other articles posted recently about WikiLeaks.

ETA: I was kind of ">.>" at the comment about rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion charges, so I googled it. Turns out, tis true.

Swiss right-wingers still don't like foreigners, let people vote

Swiss voters 'back expulsion of foreign criminals'

Swiss voters have accepted a referendum proposal for the automatic expulsion of non-Swiss citizens for certain crimes, an exit poll suggests.

Some 53% agreed that those convicted of crimes ranging from murder to benefit fraud should be deported, the poll for state broadcaster SF1 said.

The Swiss People's Party, which drew up the measure, said immigrants "should respect the rules of this country".

But opponents said it was another example of increasing xenophobia.

The right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), was behind last year's referendum that imposed a ban on the building of Islamic minarets. That decision was condemned by human rights groups and foreign governments.

The SVP says immigrants to Switzerland are disproportionately responsible for crime. It points to the fact that more than 60% of prison inmates do not have Swiss nationality.

But opponents say the measures go too far. The children of immigrants do not automatically get Swiss citizenship, so the rule would mean sending some people who were born and brought up in Switzerland to countries they know nothing of.

Convicts would serve their sentence in Switzerland first and then be deported without appeal.

The Swiss government believes mandatory deportation could violate Switzerland's obligations under international law not to send people to countries that practise torture or execution.

It advised voters to reject the proposal, and it put forward an alternative system which would allow deportation for certain crimes, but which would assess cases individually. The exit poll suggested that had been defeated.

'Statement against foreigners'

The SVP has been accused of using racist posters that depict certain ethnic groups as criminal.

The Swiss political analyst Georg Lutz says the SVP's wider strategy is to capitalise on Swiss worries that the foreign population is too big.

"This vote is not about some complex legal issues about how to deal with certain types of criminal foreigners," he says.

"What most people will want to do in this vote is make a statement against foreigners, and that is the central motivation."

A second referendum, which asked the Swiss to approve a minimum tax rate of 22% for people earning more than 250,000 francs (£160,000; 190,000 euros), was rejected, the exit poll suggested.

The Socialist Party said it would be more just, but the government and centre-right parties said it would harm the economy by making the country less appealing to foreign businessmen.

BBC News Sauce

Lovely. I can't wait to see what they'll think of for the next referendum! [/sarcasm]
misc. | Black Superwoman

ONTD_Political's PotD: November 28, 2010.

Manuel Ladouceur was buried four days under the rubble of his Uncle’s house before he was pulled out as the sole survivor. Ladouceur survived but lost his entire left arm because of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti one fateful afternoon in January. That week Ladouceur joined the ranks of hundreds of Haitians who, because they had lost a limb during the disaster, now had shaky and uncertain futures.

Now, almost exactly nine months later, Ladouceur is one of 15 amputees and disabled men chosen to travel to Argentina to represent Haiti for the first time in the country’s history in the Amputee Soccer World Cup. Hope has re-entered Ladouceur’s life and so has a sense of purpose, “when I talk with people, they don’t think that we can play soccer, but they have no way to see it… But it’s not too difficult for me or for other amputees to play, so I think that after we go to Argentina and compete, they will see that we can play.” Ladouceur said through a translator. Collapse )

Source: "Haitian Amputee Football" | The Game/P-Blog | Denver Post

WikiLeaks breaking US laws over documents, State Department tells Julian Assange

THE United States has rejected talks with WikiLeaks over its planned release of confidential US documents.

WikiLeaks, the whistle-blower website, is holding the documents in violation of US law, the US State Department says in a letter to site founder Julian Assange and his lawyer.

"We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained US government classified materials," State Department legal adviser Harold Koh wrote.

"As you know, if any of the materials you intend to publish were provided by any government officials, or any intermediary without proper authorisation, they were provided in violation of US law and without regard for the grave consequences of this action.

"As long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing."

US officials said Assange had sent a letter to the Department of State on Friday, in which he tried to address US concerns that WikiLeaks' planned release of classified documents placed individual persons at risk.

In his letter, Assange said he wanted information regarding individuals who might be "at significant risk of harm" because of WikiLeaks' actions, the officials said.

It was not immediately clear what other offers, if any, Assange's letter contained.

But Koh's response strongly condemned the anticipated release.

"Despite your stated desire to protect those lives, you have done the opposite and endangered the lives of countless individuals," the US legal adviser wrote.

"You have undermined your stated objective by disseminating this material widely, without redaction, and without regard to the security and sanctity of the lives your actions endanger."

Koh said the document release would have "grave consequences" and place at risk the lives of "countless innocent individuals", from journalists to human rights activists to bloggers and soldiers.

It would place at risk ongoing military operations, including operations to stop terrorists, and cooperation between countries, he added.

An independent French website reported that the leaks would be published simultaneously at 8.30am AEDT tomorrow by several Western newspapers.

The website,, had previously launched an interface allowing the public to search the Iraq war logs published by WikiLeaks in October.

It said the New York Times, Britain's The Guardian, Germany's Der Spiegel, Spain's El Pais and France's Le Monde would release their first analysis of the documents late Sunday, with leaks expected to trickle out before then.


Actor Mark Ruffalo Lands on Terror List for Screening Film Against Fracking

Opposing controversial oil- and gas-drilling practices is a prelude to terrorism, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security.

Actor Mark Ruffalo discovered this when he landed on the state's terror watch list after planning a screening of an anti-fracking documentary–an incident he found “pretty fuckin' funny,” according to GQ.

The star of Zodiac and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has been a vocal opponent of the drilling method, which involves cracking rocks through hydraulic pressure underground to release the fossil fuels below–often into groundwater. Earlier this year, he appeared on Maddow to discuss the practice, which was recently given the OK in the areas where the tri-state region–New York, New Jersey and yep, Pennsylvania– gets their drinking water.



"If you think that what you are putting into the ground is so safe," Ruffalo addressed the gas industry now so gung-ho to drill near NYC's water source, "Why note come into the regulation of the Clean Water Act?"

The area where drilling is slated to occur is in "the watershed for 19 million people -- 5% of our population could have their water contaminated" by this process, Ruffalo notes. Thirty thousand gas wells are slated to be fracked immediately.



The Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security, for its part, seems more concerned with its citizens' potential outrage than their health.



The Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security appears to be at least as heavily focused on anti-oil and gas documentaries as it is on international terrorism. In October, it was revealed that the department had declared the documentary Coal Country to be a "potential catalyst for inspiring 'direct action' protests or even sabotage against facilities, machinery, and/or corporate headquarters."

A Pennsylvania activist Web site reported earlier this month that the department has been monitoring the Twitter feeds of known anti-war activists.



No word on whether the city of Pittsburgh–which recently banned fracking–is also on Pennsylvania's terror list.

JL: Annoyed J. Law

More on S.B. 510

Just saw this and remembered this post. Thought people might be interested in reading this opinion piece.

A Stale Food Fight

By Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser
THE best opportunity in a generation to improve the safety of the American food supply will come as early as Monday night, when the Senate is scheduled to vote on the F.D.A. Food Safety Modernization bill. This legislation is by no means perfect. But it promises to achieve several important food safety objectives, greatly benefiting consumers without harming small farmers or local food producers.

The bill would, for the first time, give the F.D.A., which oversees 80 percent of the nation’s food, the authority to test widely for dangerous pathogens and to recall contaminated food. The agency would finally have the resources and authority to prevent food safety problems, rather than respond only after people have become ill. The bill would also require more frequent inspections of large-scale, high-risk food-production plants.


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MISC - moustache

Prison Industry: More African American Slaves in the United States Today Than in 1850

California is, as the time-worn adage has it, our nation’s bellwether, and nowhere is that truer than in the Golden State’s prison crisis. California’s inmate population is among the highest in the nation. Its complex of prisons spills over with tens of thousands of inmates housed in every available inch of space and sleep-stacked three-high. So overcrowded are California’s prisons that the state penal system has been successfully sued for violating the constitutional rights of inmates — essentially by subjecting them to a public-health crisis. That its inmates consistently resort to violence in prison should come as no surprise.

The dire state of California’s prisons can, in part, be traced to its draconian “three-strikes law,” which throws three-time felons behind bars for a mandatory 25 years. Overflowing prison populations have, in turn, contributed to that state’s bleak economic future, helping consign California to a perpetual budget deficit, annual financial crises, and repeated deep cuts in education and social funding. The state currently spends a staggering 10% of its annual operating budget, or $10.8 billion, on its prison system and its nearly 170,000 prisoners — more than it spends on the University of California system, once the jewel in the crown of American public higher education.

And which Americans have borne the brunt of California’s prison boom? Mostly minorities, African Americans especially. In 2005, the state was incarcerating, on average, 5,125 for every 100,000 male adult blacks in the population — nearly four-and-a-half times more than for Latino men and six-and-a-half times more than for white men. California’s prisons are also notorious for separating their prisoners by skin color, a form of segregation that was, one lawyer remarked, “not tolerated in any other aspect of American life and hasn’t been for fifty years. It’s the shame of California.”

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source has links to references and further reading