December 13th, 2010


Pope seeks solar-powered Popemobile

Pope Benedict XVI is looking for a solar-powered Popemobile to carry him through crowds of adoring pilgrims, the Vatican has revealed.

Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, who runs the Vatican City state, said The Pontiff would certainly prefer an electric popemobile to a traditional, petroleum-powered one given the priority he has given to making the Vatican a leader in green energy.

His comments came during a presentation of a book on the Vatican's ecological efforts: "The Energy of the Sun in the Vatican." The book documents the 2008 installation of photovoltaic cells on the roof of the Vatican's main auditorium and the 2009 installation of a solar cooling unit for its main cafeteria.

The technology has won awards and earned Pope Benedict a reputation as the "green pope."

The Germany-based firm SolarWorld, which provided the photovaltaic cells on the auditorium, said it has discussed the idea of providing the pope with a solar-powered electric car.

SolarWorld marketing chief Milan Nitzschke said the main hurdle is to get the Vatican security apparatus to sign off on it, since some still have concerns - unfounded, he said - that electric cars don't accelerate as quickly as traditional ones.

"It's really no problem," he said, noting that electric cars can go from 0-100 kph in three seconds.

"This is something we have to discuss with the people who are in charge of the security aspect, but of course this is possible and it would be a very, very huge symbol."

Cardinal Lajolo added: "If he's offered a functioning, efficient and appropriately sized popemobile, why not?"

"It would also be a demonstration, a sign of his ecological attention. And we hope SolarWorld can furnish it," Lajolo said, though he added that the Vatican would be open to any other carmaker donating one as well.

When he's outside the Vatican, The Pope usually rides in a modified white Mercedes-Benz fitted with bullet-proof windows; it has room for two passengers in addition to the pope, who sits on an elevated chair to wave to crowds.

The Pope has spoken out frequently, including in his encyclicals and books, about the need to safeguard Earth's natural resources.

"If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation," he said in his 2010 message for the church's World Day of Peace.


Harvard University investigating vandalized LGBT books as hate crime

At least 40 books at a Harvard University library dealing with LGBT subject matter have been vandalized with what appeared to be urine, and University police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

According to the student newspaper, The Crimson, staff at the Lamont Harvard College Undergraduate Library filed a police report with university police regarding an incident that took place on Nov. 24.

Library spokeswoman Beth S. Brainard told The Crimson that library staff had also found a bottle near the damaged books that allegedly had some traces of urine left in it. Brainard said that library staff then removed the damage books from Lamont Library and sent them to another campus facility.

Staff initially responded to the incident as a health hazard, quickly removing the bottle and relocating the damaged books to the Collections Conservation Lab on Level D of Widener Library.

Brainard said that the library staff assessed the value of the vandalized books before reporting the incident, accounting for the space of two weeks between the incident and the report to HUPD. The books—which Brainard estimated to be worth a few thousand dollars—will be discarded due to the severity of the damage.

“Once the urine is poured, they can’t really fix [the books],” she said

A spokesperson for Harvard University Police department told The Crimson that due to the subject matter of the damaged collection, university police were treating this incident as a hate crime.

“The HUPD has zero tolerance for any bias-related incidents or crimes,” said HUPD spokesman Steven G. Catalano, in an e-mail.

Marco Chan, co-chair of the Harvard College Queer Students and Allies, called the incident “extremely frustrating” and “disconcerting.”

“I am very outraged. It is hard to conceive this as a coincidence when there are 40 books on the same subject,” Chan said. “The message that this incident sent to me is that we need more resources not only for the LGBT community but also targeted towards other people.”


Homophobia in the Ivy League? YOU DON'T SAAAAAAAAAY-- oh, wait.

Kevin Rudd defends Julian Assange's rights

FOREIGN Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday mounted a strong defence of Julian Assange's legal rights.

The WikiLeaks founder is preparing to face court in London early Wednesday morning (AEDT).

Mr Rudd said he was prepared to intervene to have a laptop computer provided for Mr Assange in London's Wandsworth prison to help the Australian prepare his defence and obtain bail at his appearance at Westminster Magistrates Court.

Following suggestions by Julia Gillard and Attorney-General Robert McClelland that Mr Assange may have his Australian passport cancelled, Mr Rudd said any such decision was his as Foreign Minister. "Under law, I'm responsible for the Passports Act, therefore the decisions concerning the withdrawal or otherwise of passports rests exclusively with the foreign minister based on the advice of the relevant agencies," Mr Rudd told The Australian in Cairo.

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What Now for the Democrats?

Let's imagine the political possibilities of the next two years and beyond. So far, President Obama's response to the drubbing of the mid-term has confirmed the progressive community's worst fears. Astonishingly, he still seems to believe the following:

The American people care more about bipartisan compromise and budget cuts than about ending the economic crisis.

If he just compromises a little more, the Republicans might still meet him halfway.
The recipe for economic recovery has something to do with reducing the short term federal deficit.

All three of these premises are disastrously wrong -- as politics and as economics.

Gestures like freezing federal pay levels and cutting the government workforce only play into the rightwing mantra that the government is the problem. Politically, they signal weakness.

This move makes no significant impact on the deficit, reduces employment and purchasing power; and, characteristically, Obama got nothing in return. The Democratic National Committee, disgracefully, even used the Organizing for America email list to try to drum up support for a Democratic president freezing worker pay during a deep recession.

The Bush tax cuts expire on December 31. Most Democrats are beating on the Republicans for refusing to spare 98 percent of Americans a tax hike, so that the top 2 percent can continue to get lower rates. Most Democrats are whacking the Republicans for letting unemployment insurance expire at a time of increased joblessness. But the message gets blurred because of Obama's mixed signals.

And instead of drawing a line in the sand and making clear that Democrats will not cut Social Security, Obama encouraged Democrats to support the scheme of the deficit commission, which was an anti-government, anti-social insurance blueprint that had very little public support and no constructive impact on the economic recovery that the country needs, and robbed Democrats of their most potent issue -- that Democrats defend Social Security and Republicans don't.

To add insult to injury, Obama just proposed yet another Bush-style trade deal with South Korea, which is likely to be a net job loser for the U.S. The widely expected appointment of investment banker and Robert Rubin protégé Roger Altman as Obama's chief economic adviser to succeed Larry Summers will continue the Wall Street dynasty at the White House.

The problem, however, is not Obama's advisers. It is the man who appointed them -- and his failure to know how to fight and lead as a progressive.

Let's stop pretending. Barack Obama is a disaster as a crisis president. He has taken an economic collapse that was the result of Republican ideology and Republican policies, and made it the Democrats' fault. And the more that he is pummeled, the more he bends over.

So what exactly are our prospects and alternatives?

Absent radically different policies, an economic depression will continue indefinitely. This is not a "Great Recession" in the New York Times' cute pun. It's a depression, made up of persistently high unemployment, reduced consumer purchasing power, damaged banks, and business unwillingness to invest, just like the 1930s. Unemployment is not quite as severe, but measured properly it is around 18 percent. And unlike in the 1930s, we don't have a strong Democratic president using activist government to dig our way out.

With Congress deadlocked, the second best course in these circumstances is to offer progressive policies that will cure the depression, and beat the stuffings out of the Republicans for blocking them. But that is simply not going to happen because that is not who Obama is. His style is not to draw bright lines, but to blur them.

Absent that kind of leadership, the Republicans going onto 2012 will succeed in blaming the continuing crisis on Obama and the Democrats. Obama is rapidly becoming our Herbert Hoover. As you will recall, Hoover's legacy was Democratic dominance of American politics for a generation.

The 2012 election is especially bleak because redistricting, with the increased Republican control of statehouses, gives the Republicans a likely pickup of ten to twenty House seats independent of other electoral trends. On the Senate side, just 10 Republican-held seats are up for re-election compared to 23 Democratic ones. The arithmetic alone suggests a Republican Congress.
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[info]perfectisafault isn't posting about South America? :O
Shirley Animated

The few, the proud, the filthy rich

A party at the Waldorf Astoria to celebrate the life's work of an investment banker
A party at the Waldorf Astoria to celebrate the life's work of an investment banker

HE'S NUMBER 69 on the latest Forbes 400 list of richest Americans and head of Blackstone Group, the world's largest private equity firm specializing in corporate takeovers. He lives in a 35-room triplex on Park Avenue in Manhattan, with second "homes"--mansions, really--in the Hamptons, Palm Beach and Jamaica. His private chef regularly spends $3,000 for a weekend's feasting for him and his wife, including those stone crabs he loves at $400 each. Which works out to $40 a claw.

But comfortable as his life is, Stephen Schwarzman isn't the kind of guy to allow tyranny to go unopposed. "It's a war," he declared in July at the board meeting of a nonprofit organization, according to Newsweek. "It's like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939."

And what cruel injustice was Schwarzman standing against?

Turns out it's all those people who want to tax him to death. Schwarzman was talking about a widely supported Democratic proposal--now abandoned, naturally--to close a loophole that allows private equity firms like Blackstone to pay taxes at less than half the rate of normal corporations.

Which, when you think about it, is not really in any way like the Nazi blitzkrieg that killed hundreds of thousands of Poles in a country that would become the site of the extermination camps for Jews, Roma, socialists, communists and others.

And yet Schwarzman's out-of-control ranting isn't so out of the ordinary for Corporate America these days. Big business seems to have adopted a motto from the Marine Corps: The few, the proud, the filthy rich--and the rest of you can go to hell.

The profits of U.S. businesses hit another record in the third quarter of 2010, clocking in at $1.659 trillion at an annual rate, according to the Commerce Department--the highest figure in non-inflation-adjusted dollars since the government started keeping track more than 60 years ago. This was the seventh straight quarter of rising profits, and at one of the fastest clips in recent history.

Meanwhile, unemployment has hung on stubbornly at twice its pre-crisis level, and one in six Americans--including one in four children--is at risk of hunger, according to the latest government statistics.

But don't expect any humility from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The business federation is spoiling for a new fight--against a "regulatory tsunami of unprecedented force" allegedly coming from the Obama administration. The Chamber's Chief Executive Thomas Donahue says the White House is plotting "thousands of new and questionable regulatory rulemakings."

Any bets on the outcome of that one?

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On Haters or: When Critics Need to Shut Up While They're Ahead

Christmas is upon us, and for a top ballerina at New York City Ballet, that means one sure thing: suiting up in tulle and sequins as the Sugarplum Fairy in the annual classic, The Nutcracker. What Jenifer Ringer surely didn't expect was to be accused of having "eaten one sugarplum too many.''

That remark two weeks ago by the nation's most prominent dance critic reverberated across the Web, with many coming to Ringer's defense and calling the reviewer a cad.

Even worse, angry fans wrote on chat boards, Ringer has been public about struggles with eating disorders earlier in her career, over which she triumphed to become one of NYCB's most popular dancers. How cruel, then, to criticize her body now.

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[The Source]
[The Original Review]
[The Follow-up Review]

As a former dancer, to know that people think that it's okay to follow the body types and regulations of a dead douchebag like George Balanchine (who also said that ballet dancers should be as white as the inside of an apple), and to pretty much ignore legends like Dame Margot Fonteyn, Pierina Legnani, Alicia Alonzo, and other women that were dancers with curves, and to simply make a point about a single ballet dancer for being too large disgusts me and fills me with rage. There is no macro for what I'm feeling.
movies | The Sound of Music

ONTD_Political's PotD: December 13, 2010.

Young, Gay and Homeless in L.A. County | Homeless gay youths on the streets of Los Angeles County are largely a hidden population. Part of how they survive is by blending in. Police officers are quick to issue tickets, and the streets are full of predators. In recent weeks, Times reporter Alexandra Zavis and photographer Christina House spent time with several gay homeless men in their early 20s. They agreed to speak openly about their lives, including illegal drug use and other criminal activity, on the condition that their full names not be used.

Read Zavis’ full story:
"Gay and homeless: In plain sight, a largely hidden population".
(^ Possibly triggering: contains sex assault depiction.)

All photos: Christina House | LA Times
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JFK Jr '88

Inside 'Anonymous': tales from within the group taking aim at Amazon and Mastercard

Though it sounds like a coordinated organisation, the reality is that it's more like a stampeding herd - and members are fearful of standing up and being counted.

"Just don't use my name, OK, please?" said the person on the other end of the phone. "I don't want this to get out." His cause for concern? He'd helped produce some innocuous content - nothing actionable legally in any way - for "Anonymous", the vague online group spawned by 4Chan's /b/ forums.

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Anyone here frequent 4chan? It always seems boring to me... this article makes it seem quite exciting though

Rock out with your coccyx out.

Stem cell transplant has cured HIV infection in 'Berlin patient', say doctors

Doctors who carried out a stem cell transplant on an HIV-infected man with leukaemia in 2007 say they now believe the man to have been cured of HIV infection as a result of the treatment, which introduced stem cells which happened to be resistant to HIV infection.

The man received bone marrow from a donor who had natural resistance to HIV infection; this was due to a genetic profile which led to the CCR5 co-receptor being absent from his cells. The most common variety of HIV uses CCR5 as its ‘docking station’, attaching to it in order to enter and infect CD4 cells, and people with this mutation are almost completely protected against infection.

The case was first reported at the 2008 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston, and Berlin doctors subsequently published a detailed case history in the New England Journal of Medicine in February 2009.

They have now published a follow-up report in the journal Blood, arguing that based on the results of extensive tests, “It is reasonable to conclude that cure of HIV infection has been achieved in this patient.”

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