December 18th, 2010

  • merig00

WikiLeaks: Cuba banned Sicko for depicting 'mythical' healthcare system

Cuba banned Michael Moore's 2007 documentary, Sicko, because it painted such a "mythically" favourable picture of Cuba's healthcare system that the authorities feared it could lead to a "popular backlash", according to US diplomats in Havana.

The revelation, contained in a confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks , is surprising, given that the film attempted to discredit the US healthcare system by highlighting what it claimed was the excellence of the Cuban system.

But the memo reveals that when the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so "disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room".

Castro's government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it "knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them."

Sicko investigated healthcare in the US by comparing the for-profit, non-universal US system with the non-profit universal health care systems of other countries, including Cuba, France and the UK.

It was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary feature but was also castigated for being naive and tendentious.

The cable comes from the United States Interests Section in Havana (USINT) – staffed by US foreign service personnel and local staff employed by the department of state, the unit is formally a section of the Embassy of Switzerland, although it operates independently of the Swiss in virtually all but protocol respects.

The secret 2008 cable is based on reports from the USINT's foreign service health practitioner (FSHP) of her conversations with local people, unauthorised visits to Cuban hospitals, and experience of helping USINT American and Cuban personnel access healthcare.

The cable describes a visit made by the FSHP to the Hermanos Ameijeiras hospital in October 2007. Built in 1982, the newly renovated hospital was used in Michael Moore's film as evidence of the high-quality of healthcare available to all Cubans.

But according to the FSHP, the only way a Cuban can get access to the hospital is through a bribe or contacts inside the hospital administration. "Cubans are reportedly very resentful that the best hospital in Havana is 'off-limits' to them," the memo reveals.

According to the FSHP, a more "accurate" view of the healthcare experience of Cubans can be seen at the Calixto Garcia Hospital. "FSHP believes that if Michael Moore really wanted the 'same care as local Cubans', this is where he should have gone," the cable states.

A 2007 visit by the FSHP to this "dilapidated" hospital, built in the 1800s, was "reminiscent of a scene from some of the poorest countries in the world," the cable adds.

The memo points out that even the Cuban ruling elite leave Cuba when they need medical care. Fidel Castro, for example, brought in a Spanish doctor during his health crisis in 2006. The vice-minister of health, Abelardo Ramirez, went to France for gastric cancer surgery. The neurosurgeon whoheads CIMEQ [Centro de Investigaciones Médico-Quirúrgicas] hospital – widely regarded as one of the best in Cuba – came to England for eye surgery, returning periodically for checkups.

"After living in Cuba for two and a half years, treating numerous Cuban employees at USINT, and interacting with many other Cubans, the FSHP believes … preventive medicine in Cuba is a by-gone ideal, rather than the standard practice of care," the memo concludes.


JFK Jr '88

Britain needs a bullshit news channel too?

Mark Thompson: Britain needs a channel like Fox News

BBC's director general says rules on impartiality on television are outdated in internet era and advocates opinionated journalism

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"Why shouldn't the public be able to see and hear, as well as read, a range of opinionated journalism and then make up their own mind what they think about it?"...
-Maybe we should be allowed to pick our channels according to their political persuasion... but he's citing FOX NEWS as an example?? THAT'S NOT EVEN REAL JOURNALISM- I wanna know how much Murdoch paid him.

Sky News is enough of a joke as it is tyvm.

p.s This is yet another example that the beeb doesn't really do "impartial" anymore.


George Monbiot: Astroturfers who are paid for trolling disrupt intelligent conversation


The Guardian: These astroturf libertarians are the real threat to internet democracy
As I see in threads on my articles, the online sabotaging of intelligent debate seems organised. We must fight to save this precious gift.
George Monbiot

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‘Unprecedented’ Drone Assault: 58 Strikes in 102 Days

It may take years, but some researchers will travel to Pakistan’s tribal areas and produce a definitive study on what it’s been like to live amidst an aerial bombardment from American pilotless aircraft. When that account inevitably comes out, it’s likely to find that 2010 — and especially the final quarter of 2010 — marked a turning point in how civilians coped with a drone war that turned relentless.

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This is a witty Space Ghost reference.

Fancy ATM skips the folding cash, spits out gold

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Shoppers who are looking for something sparkly to put under the Christmas tree can skip the jewelry and go straight to the source: an ATM that dispenses shiny 24-carat gold bars and coins.

A German company installed the machine Friday at an upscale mall in Boca Raton, a South Florida paradise of palm trees, pink buildings and wealthy retirees.

Thomas Geissler, CEO of Ex Oriente Lux and inventor of the Gold To Go machines, says the majority of buyers will be walk-ups enamored by the novelty. But he says they're also convenient for more serious investors looking to bypass the hassle of buying gold at pawn shops and over the Internet.

"Instead of buying flowers or chocolates, which is gone after two or three minutes, this will stay for the next few hundreds years," Geissler told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The company installed its first machine at Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace hotel in May and followed up with gold ATMs in Germany, Spain and Italy. Geissler said they plan to unroll a few hundred machines worldwide in 2011. He said the Abu Dhabi machine has been so popular it has to be restocked every two days.

A bank in Vietnam installed its own brand of the machines in a country with a much poorer population but one that values gold more than paper money.

The gold-leaf-covered machine at Boca Raton's Town Center Mall sits outside a gourmet chocolate store and works much like the cash ATM beside it. Shoppers insert cash or credit cards and use a computer touch-screen to choose the weight and style they want. The machine spits out the gold in a classy black box with a tamperproof seal.

Each machine, manufactured in Germany, carries about 320 pieces of different-sized bars and coins. Prices are refigured automatically every 10 minutes to reflect market fluctuations. On Friday, a two-gram piece cost about $122, including packaging, certification and a 5 percent markup. An ounce cost about $1,442.

Buyer beware: A gram of the heavy metal is much smaller than you think, about the size of a fingernail. An ounce is a little larger than a quarter.

Florence Schneider, who checked out the machine Friday, said she might use it, but only if she needed a unique gift.

"I can't see it being successful. Maybe for Christmas as a gimmick," said the 78-year-old Boca Raton resident. "If I knew someone was having a big birthday coming up I'd buy it for something different."

Owners said the machine, which will hold around $150,000 in cash and gold, will be flanked by an armed bodyguard for now. Several live security cameras are fixed inside and outside the machine.

The popularity of gold is cyclical, but it's riding high these days in part because of fears stoked by financial troubles.

Geissler, who plans to open a machine in Las Vegas by the year's end, said the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment firm was the impetus for the flashy ATMs. His customers refused to buy bonds, stocks and other funds from the financial industry, so they focused on precious metals.

As some investors continued to lose faith in global finance markets, the company worked on the gold-leaf finished ATM, banking that the protection of purchasing power found in gold would lure market leery customers.

"Gold always comes back to its real value," Geissler said. "It's not diamonds, it's not silver, it's not real estate. It's just gold."

Dave Jones, who brokered the deal to bring the machines to the U.S., predicts gold will become a parallel currency in the next five years. He said they plan to install about 40 more machines at upscale malls and hotels around the U.S.

"Gold has a place in everyone's portfolio," said Jones, of Boca Raton-based PMX Gold. "It's a good hedge against inflation and it's a good comfort level."

AP via Yahooooooooo
Murasaki Shikibu
  • homasse

Marvel Boycotted by White Supremacists

Marvel Boycotted by White Supremacists

Marvel Comics became a right wing target earlier this year after publishing a comic in which Captain America “undermined” the Tea Party. Now the Disney-owned company has come under fire for having black actor Idris Elba play a “whites only” role in the movie adaptation of ‘Thor.’ You can’t make this stuff up.

Fundamentalist group Council of Conservative Citizens joined a boycott of the Kenneth Branagh-directed ‘Thor’, because, according to the group, Elba has no right to be playing Norse god Heimdel, because all Norse gods, real people who exist, are Aryan.

“It’s not enough that Marvel attacks conservatives values, now mythological Gods must be re-invented with black skin,” they write. “It seems that Marvel Studios believes that white people should have nothing that is unique to themselves.”

Another post attacks Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ series for sympathizing with independent South Africa, and Kyle Rogers, who heads the Council’s South Carolina chapter, lamented, “Marvel has taken their anti-white, radical campaign even further. They cast a black man as a Norse Deity.”
These people are horrible.

The Council, which calls the States “an integral part of European civilization and the European people,” and insists “the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character,” a more polite way of saying “white is right,” has now organized an online boycott of ‘Thor,’ Marvel and common decency.

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I'm gonna go out on a limb and say these guys didn't care about the Last Airbender or Prince of Persia casting.

Edit - Here's the movie trailer. You can see about three really quick shots of Elba in it.

movies | Impish Fräulein2

LIVE POST: DREAM Act/DADT Last-Minute Senate Legislation.

The Senate is meeting today and possibly Sunday to vote to end debate on two bills: repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the DREAM Act, a measure that, under certain conditions, creates a path for citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. If either bill gets sixty votes,  the Senate will then proceed to debate and vote on that piece of legislation.

Last night, the Senate voted on the House approved budget to continue federal spending in order to keep government running through next Tuesday. The stop-gap measure will allow the House and Senate time to come up with a new resolution to fund the government through early next year.

The Senate also hopes to complete debate and vote on the START treaty before the Christmas holiday.

Assuming it ends (it seems to have gone on for more than an hour already), continue using this post to discuss all matters concerning these last-minute Senate meetings. Share links/articles/notable tweets in the comment section.

  • DREAM Act fails: 55 Yeas/41 Nays. DREAM Act comes 5 votes short.
  • DADT cloture motion succeeds: 63 Yeas/33 Nays. (i.e., Filibuster cockblocking killed/the push for the future repeal of DADT gains a step.

UPDATE II: BREAKING: Final DADT Vote at 3 PM Today.
bitch. pls.
  • chaya

Bribery charges can be dropped if you have enough money. Great.

Nigeria drops Cheney graft charges
Anti-corruption watchdog drops charges against former US vice-president and Halliburton after settlement reached.

Nigeria has dropped charges against Dick Cheney, the former US vice-president, over bribery allegations involving the energy giant Halliburton after an out-of-court settlement was agreed.

Nigeria's anti-corruption watchdog, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said that the charges were dropped on Friday after Halliburton agreed to pay fines totalling up to $250 million over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to Nigerian officials.

Halliburton, which has previously said the claims had no legal basis, confirmed that the charges had been dropped, but declined to give further comment on the case.

The EFCC said it received the settlement offer when it met with officials representing Cheney and Halliburton in London last week after 16-count charges were filed at a federal high court in Abuja.

Before charges were filed a Nigerian prosecutor had confirmed that negotiations were under way with companies allegedly linked to the scandal, raising the question of whether indictments might be used as leverage to secure payments from the companies.

KBR admission

The charges relate to money paid to Nigerian officials by KBR, the Houston-based Halliburton-owned engineering firm between 1994 and 2004. KBR admitted last year it paid $180 million in bribes to secure a natural gas project in the Niger Delta.

After admitting the bribery, KBR paid out a $579 million settlement in the United States, but that did not stop Nigeria, France and Switzerland from conducting their own investigations into the case.

The EFCC last week announced it was charging David Lesar, Cheney and two other executives over the bribery. It also filed charges against Halliburton as a company, which was headed by Cheney during the 1990s, and four associated businesses.

Halliburton split from KBR in 2007, and has insisted that its current operations in Nigeria had no link in the gas project in question.

After the EFCC announcement, KBR declined comment, but has in the past said that "the actions of the Nigerian government suggest that its officials are wildly and wrongly asserting blame in this matter".

The EFCC is still pursuing cases against a number of Nigerians accused of receiving the bribes, but has closed the investigation into Halliburton.

The charges against Halliburton and Cheny came as Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president, faces pre-election pressure to show progress in reducing corruption in a country that is consistently ranked as one of the world's most graft-ridden.


movies | Impish Fräulein2


Senate Set to Take a Final Vote on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The Senate is set to vote on final passage to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this afternoon at 3pm. If the Senate passes this piece of legislation it will go to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

Earlier this morning the Senate also took up the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, voting 55- 41, falling shy of the 60 votes required to limit debate and move forward.