December 22nd, 2010

movies | Impish Fräulein2

ONTD_Political's PotD: December21, 2010.

Lunar Eclipse / Winter Solstice | Skywatchers got an early holiday present this year: A total eclipse of the moon. Hanging high in the sky, the moon slowly turned from bright silver into a red disk early Tuesday. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth casts its shadow on the full moon, blocking the sun's rays that otherwise reflect off the moon's surface. Some indirect sunlight still pierces through to give the moon its eerie hue. The 3 1/2 hour celestial spectacle was visible from North and Central America where skies were clear. Portions of Europe and Asia only caught part of the show. Since the year's only total lunar eclipse coincided with winter solstice, the moon glowed high in the sky. The last time this occurred was more than three centuries ago on Dec. 21, 1638.
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  • fynoda

The People Who Mattered in 2010

The People Who Mattered in 2010
December 17, 2010 | ISSUE 46•50

Barack Obama - Either Doing His Best In One of The Most Difficult Times In American History, Or Hitler

Barack Obama, the first black president, proved to millions this year that he is either trying his best to lead the nation during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, or he is the modern-day incarnation of Adolph Hitler. One of the two.
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John MacCain: "Military Suicide Prevention Bill" New Example of Government Overreach

It Undermines Our Troops' Freedom to Kill Themselves.

Rep. Holt: Sen. McCain Objected To My Military Suicide Prevention Bill

In 2008, a young sergeant named Coleman S. Bean took his life. After completing his first tour of duty in Iraq, he had come home and been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Nevertheless, he was deployed to Iraq a second time. Bean had sought treatment for PTSD but as a member of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), he found fewer resources available to him than to veterans and active-duty members.

In April, Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) introduced legislation named after the late soldier meant to provide more resources for suicide prevention to Reserve members. The House in May incorporated it into the National Defense Authorization Act for 2011, but it was stripped from the final version, and Holt is pointing the finger at the lead Republican negotiator on the Senate legislation, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

"Twice now, the Senate has stripped this legislation from our defense bill," Holt told The Huffington Post Tuesday. "It's hard to understand why. I know for a fact, because he told me, that Sen. McCain doesn't support it. Whether he's the only one, I don't know. But there was no effort to try to improve the language or negotiate changes; it was just rejected, and I think that is not only bad policy, but it's cruel. It's cruel to the families that are struggling with catastrophic mental health problems."

"He [McCain] said having these counselors check in with the Reservists every few months this way overreaching," continued
Holt, relaying a phone conversation he had had with the senator. "I asked him in what sense it was overreaching. Surely he didn't think there wasn't a problem, did he? I must say I don't understand it."
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The United States holds tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture?

Human beings are social creatures. We are social not just in the trivial sense that we like company, and not just in the obvious sense that we each depend on others. We are social in a more elemental way: simply to exist as a normal human being requires interaction with other people.

Children provide the clearest demonstration of this fact, although it was slow to be accepted. Well into the nineteen-fifties, psychologists were encouraging parents to give children less attention and affection, in order to encourage independence. Then Harry Harlow, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, produced a series of influential studies involving baby rhesus monkeys.

He happened upon the findings in the mid-fifties, when he decided to save money for his primate-research laboratory by breeding his own lab monkeys instead of importing them from India. Because he didn’t know how to raise infant monkeys, he cared for them the way hospitals of the era cared for human infants—in nurseries, with plenty of food, warm blankets, some toys, and in isolation from other infants to prevent the spread of infection. The monkeys grew up sturdy, disease-free, and larger than those from the wild. Yet they were also profoundly disturbed, given to staring blankly and rocking in place for long periods, circling their cages repetitively, and mutilating themselves.

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The rest of the article at the New Yorker

Politics and Eye Movement: Liberals Focus Their Attention on 'Gaze Cues' Much Differently Than Conse

It goes without saying that conservatives and liberals don't see the world in the same way. Now, research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln suggests that is exactly, and quite literally, the case.

In a new study, UNL researchers measured both liberals' and conservatives' reaction to "gaze cues" -- a person's tendency to shift attention in a direction consistent with another person's eye movements, even if it's irrelevant to their current task -- and found big differences between the two groups.

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Lucy  - Durnk n Pitsy

Trolls In the Dungeon?

Are Right-Wing Libertarian Internet Trolls Getting Paid to Dumb Down Online Conversations?

There are daily attempts to control and influence content in the interests of the state and corporations: attempts in which money talks.

They are the online equivalent of enclosure riots: the rick-burning, fence-toppling protests by English peasants losing their rights to the land. When MasterCard, Visa, Paypal and Amazon tried to shut WikiLeaks out of the cyber-commons, an army of hackers responded by trying to smash their way into these great estates and pull down their fences.

In the Wikileaks punch-up the commoners appear to have the upper hand. But it’s just one battle. There’s a wider cyberwar being fought, of which you hear much less. And in most cases the landlords, with the help of a mercenary army, are winning.

I’m not talking here about threats to net neutrality and the danger of a two-tier internet developing, though these are real. I’m talking about the daily attempts to control and influence content in the interests of the state and corporations: attempts in which money talks.

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Obama signs "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal bill!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

In 36 degree weather, hundreds stood in line for hours in front of the Interior Department well before the requested 7:00 AM invitation time to watch President Obama sign into law the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

After two House votes, three Senate votes, seventeen years of forced lies and witchhunts, over 13,000 discharges, twenty-three military studies — the most recent costing $4.5 million — untold hours and millions of dollars worth of of lobbying and debate, the declaration as unconstitutional by a federal judge, and 78% of Americans in agreement, President Obama spoke for 20 minutes, then at 9:35, with many pens, the President signed into law the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal bill.

President Obama spoke of many LGBT service members who were true patriots and devoted their lives to their country. Acknowledging this has been going on for over two centuries, Obama said, “You are not the first to have to endure this, but you are the last.”

In a particularly evil move, late last night Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to add a poison pill to the upcoming defense authorization bill, by requiring all four service chiefs to certify the repeal as well. Given their public statements, this would have effectively ended repeal. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) objected and quashed the underhanded move.

Joining the President on stage were Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Majority Leader, Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Majority Leader, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA), Representative Susan Davis (D-CA), Eric Alva, Former Staff Sgt, US Marine Corps, and Zoe Dunning, Former Commander, US Navy.

In attendance also were approximately 500 invitees, including hundreds of LGBT vets who have fought for repeal since Bill Clinton signed the discriminatory law in 1993. From Lt. Dan Choi, the poster boy for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, and Mike Almy, to Frank Kameny, long-time LGBT vet, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, The New Civil Rights Movement writers Tanya Domi and Justin Elzie, GetEQUAL’s Robin McGehee, AmericaBlog’s Joe Sudbay, MetroWeekly’s Chris Geidner, Margaret Witt, the vet who fought in court the Obama DOD and DOJ, and so many others!


Theater Group in Belarus Is Forced Underground

The Belarus Free Theater, one of the revelations of the 2008 Under the Radar alternative-theater festival, is scheduled to return for the 2011 edition of the event, which begins early next month. But a real-life drama has suddenly intruded: both founders of the troupe are now in hiding, and another member is in jail, as the result of a government crackdown on protests against a presidential election that human rights groups have described as rigged.

Nikolai Khalezin and Natalia Kolyada, the husband-and-wife team who run the five-year-old company, were at a demonstration on Sunday night on the main square in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, when government security forces charged. Ms. Kolyada was arrested, roughed up, released on bail and went underground, as did her husband. The company’s manager, Artiom Zhelezniak, was less fortunate: he has been tried and convicted of charges of illegal assembly.

“We don’t know what happens next, and any kind of development is possible,” Ms. Kolyada said in a telephone interview Tuesday from a location she would not disclose. “Every one of us could be taken from the street, from apartments, from any place that we go. But we still hope to go to New York, because we understand it is important to speak on behalf of Belarus, so that the voices of those arrested can be heard in the world.”

The arrests of the theater company members are part of a larger campaign of repression directed by the government of Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, who claims to have won 79 percent of the vote in Sunday’s balloting. Since 1994 Mr. Lukashenko has run this former republic of the Soviet Union, leading what former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice once called “the last true remaining dictatorship in the heart of Europe.” On Monday Mr. Lukashenko announced that more than 600 “bandits and saboteurs,” including several of his opponents, had been arrested.

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(No tag for Belarus, so I tagged it with Europe)

Video: George Osborne’s ‘pantomime dame’ jibe

The Chancellor, George Osborne, was accused of being “homophobic” by out gay Labour MP Chris Bryant yesterday for joking that the latter was a “pantomime dame”.

Mr Bryant, the MP for Rhondda, said afterwards: “I don’t think he would have said that phrase if I was not gay.

“I think when he gets back to the office he will probably think to himself ‘I should send a little note saying sorry, I didn’t mean to offend’.

“We all get it wrong sometimes and I think he got it wrong this time,” he added.

Mr Osborne’s aides said he had merely been making a Christmas joke after Mr Bryant accused him of being “Baron Hardup”.

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Source: Pink News

Considering he's a fucking Tory, a party which no matter how much it tries to doll itself up will always be the party of Section 28 and Janet Young, not giving him the benefit of the doubt here.

EA supports gay youth, haters pile on hate

Electronic Arts, one of the biggest video game companies in the world, has joined a campaign to end bullying and harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered teens and to offer these kids support and hope.

EA is the first gaming company to join the It Gets Better Project, which was started by columnist Dan Savage in September after several young gay people committed suicide after being bullied.

Nine out of 10 gay teenagers experience bullying and harassment, Savage pointed out in his Sept. 21 podcast. And gay teenagers are four times more likely to commit suicide. The It Gets Better Project strives to let gay kids know that, despite the difficult times they might experience, life does get better and is worth living.

Since its launch, the It Gets Better project has received hundreds of videos from both gay and straight people – celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, President Barack Obama as well as companies like Pixar.

But EA – the development and publishing company that brought us game franchises like "The Sims," "Medal of Honor" and "Dead Space" – appears to be the first video game company to join the project. The company's video features a variety of their employees – from artists to database programmers – talking about their experiences growing up.

"At one time, a bully actually physically threatened me and put a knife to my neck," one employee recalls.

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Source, includes video.

Assange says Swedish accusers in a 'tizzy', Wikilieaks persecution just like anti-Semetism.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Tuesday the Swedish women who have accused him of sexual assault had got into a "tizzy" about the possibility they had caught a sexually transmitted disease from him.

Assange told the BBC that one account of what happened in August -- the month at the centre of allegations against him -- was that the two women had panicked when they found out they had both slept with him and went to police who "bamboozled" them.

He insisted he was fighting a Swedish extradition warrant because he believes "no natural justice" would occur in Sweden.

"There are some serious problems with the Swedish prosecution," he said in an interview from the mansion of a wealthy supporter in eastern England where he must stay as part of his bail conditions.

Sweden wants Britain to extradite the 39-year-old Australian to face questioning over allegations from two women that he raped one of them and sexually assaulted the other in Stockholm in August.

Assange claimed that the Swedish authorities had asked that his Swedish lawyer be "gagged", adding that his offers to be interviewed by video link or by Swedish officials in Britain had been rejected.

"I don't need to be at the beck and call of people making allegations," he said.

"I don't need to go back to Sweden. The law says I... have certain rights, and these rights mean that I do not need to speak to random prosecutors around the world who simply want to have a chat, and won't do it in any other standard way."

He said that one account of what occurred in August was that after having discovered they had each had sex with him, they had got into a "tizzy", or a panic, about the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases.

As a result, he said, the women had gone to the police for advice "and then the police jumped in on this and bamboozled the women".

WikiLeaks has enraged Washington by releasing thousands of US diplomatic cables and US Vice President Joe Biden described Assange as a "hi-tech terrorist".

US officials are believed to be considering how to indict Assange for espionage.

In an interview with The Times on Tuesday, Assange compared WikiLeaks' "persecution" to that endured by Jews in the US in the 1950s.

Assange also confirmed that WikiLeaks was holding a vast amount of material about Bank of America which it intends to release early next year.

"We don't want the bank to suffer unless it's called for," Assange told The Times. "But if its management is operating in a responsive way there will be resignations," he said, without giving details about the material.

Shares in Bank of America have fallen amid speculation that it was a WikiLeaks target.


The Torture of Bradley Manning

One peculiar outcome of the new clampdown on whistleblowers is the spectacle of Americans cheering on the destruction of their own rights, as in the case of avowed tough guys commenting in blogs that people like Bradley Manning "did the crime and now does the time," deserve no sympathy and merit the clear torture he is now undergoing. The tough consistently miss the point that while Manning has been accused of leaking classified military and State Department files to WikiLeaks, he has been convicted of nothing. The treatment he is undergoing has become the new norm in the case of high-profile cases purportedly involving national security.

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Source: Truth-out
Flux ~ Aeon
  • mzflux


Barack, you are beginning to make this lame duck session look like a Thanksgiving turducken. And I was really starting to think you didn't have the stones to pull much off.

In the past two weeks you have banned offshore drilling, signed the repeal of DADT, and just right now you ratified the New START nuclear arms treaty... Whatever you do, DON'T STOP NOW.

President Obama became the first Democratic President in history today to have an arms-control treaty ratified on his watch. The New START Treaty was approved in the Senate by a vote of 71-26. Thirteen Republicans, a quarter of the Republican caucus, broke with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). This is the first time an arms control treaty has ever passed without the support of the minority leader. As Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said yesterday, “In today’s Senate, 70 votes is yesterday’s 95.”

A year ago, President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for his vision of moving toward a world without nuclear weapons. The ratification of the START treaty is a small but important step toward this goal. It ensures that nuclear stability is maintained and lays the groundwork for future negotiations with Russia, paving the way for deeper cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. While the START treaty has been called a modest treaty, the implications of its failure would have been anything but and would have caused dangerous upheaval in the post-Cold War nuclear order.

Republican opposition looked increasingly petty toward the end of the START debate, with most complaints relating to Senate process. Leslie Gelb, president-emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations concluded that opposition to New START “seriously damages [Republican] credibility on national security.”

Not bad, O. Not bad.

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  • x_jen17

Revised 9/11 first responders health bill passed

Senate passes revised 9/11 first responders health benefits bill

From Ted Barrett and Dana Bash, CNN
December 22, 2010 -- Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT)

In the years since 9/11, respiratory and mental health issues have been a concern for firefighters and other first responders. 

Washington (CNN) -- The Senate on Wednesday passed a compromise version of a bill to provide free medical treatment and compensation to first responders of the September 11 terrorist attack.

The bill passed on a voice vote on what is expected to be the final day of the lame-duck session of Congress. It now goes to the House, which also is expected to approve it and send it to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

Jubilant Democrats hailed the last-minute approval as a triumph for firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel who put themselves in harm's way to help others in the 2001 terrorist attack.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who acknowledged that approval of the bill was in doubt until a few hours before the vote, called it a "great day" for the nation an especially for first responders sickened by exposure to toxic pollution from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers because now they know their country will take care of them.

In New York, outgoing Democratic Gov. David Paterson said the bill "will provide much-needed funds for medical treatment to the rescue workers and residents of New York City who suffered illnesses from breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke from ground zero," and also reopens the victims' compensation fund for rescue workers who were hurt as a result of the attacks.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the Senate's approval of the bill "affirms our nation's commitment to protecting those who protect us all," and some of those first responders also welcomed the development but questioned why it took so long.

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Why Religious People Are Scared of Atheists

Religious believers commonly attack atheists simply for existing. Do out-of-the-closet atheists -- even polite ones -- challenge attempts at theocracy?

What, exactly, do religious believers want from atheists?

If you follow the atheism debates in op-ed pieces and whatnot, you'll see that critiques of the so-called New Atheist movement are often aimed at our tone. Among the pundits and opinion-makers, atheist writers and activists are typically called out for being offensive, intolerant, disrespectful, extremist, hostile, confrontational, and just generally asshats. The question of whether atheists are, you know, right, typically gets sidestepped in favor of what is apparently the much more compelling question of whether atheists are jerks. And if these op-ed pieces and whatnot were all you knew about the atheist movement and the critiques of it, you might think that atheists were simply being asked to be reasonable, civil, and polite.
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Now while I don't necessarily subscribe to the notion of Atheism, I am also of the opinion that everyone should have both the right and the opportunity to speak.

ETA: back to fix some things, and I decided that some people down in the comments section (I'm not naming names) needed some help to get into the HOGSWATCH SPIRIT.
This is a witty Space Ghost reference.

The Anti-Gay Donations That Target Apologized For? They Never Stopped

The December 4th Star Tribune article begins, "It isn't easy being CEO of a public company." The business section's ode to Minneapolis-based Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel, which describes the executive as "always classy," was a public display of affection Minnesotans stereotypically avoid.

The author makes little mention of the recent revelations of gay-friendly Target's long-standing support for many of the most openly anti-gay politicians. Of these donations, the Star Trib says only, "The worst one could say about this incident is that Steinhafel may have been naive. But he admitted his mistake and reaffirmed the company's long-standing support for gay rights."

According to documents filed with the FEC in October 2010, Target continued donating to a bevy of anti-gay politicians even after Steinhafel apologized and committed to reforming the review process for future political donations. These donations even included some of the same anti-gay politicians the company had already been criticized for supporting.

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The Awl
  • xerox78

Going to the Supremes

Cheerleader taking free-speech suit to high court

A Texas high school cheerleader who was kicked off the squad for refusing to chant the name of an athlete she said had raped her will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate her free-speech suit against the school district, her lawyer says.

The cheerleader and her parents are also challenging federal court rulings that found the suit to be frivolous and ordered them to reimburse the district more than $45,000 in legal costs.

The case has drawn national attention since a federal appeals court in New Orleans ruled in September that the cheerleader was speaking for the school, not herself, and had no right to remain silent when called on to shout the athlete's name. Legal commentators said the ruling illustrated courts' increasingly restrictive view of free speech on campus.

The girl, identified by her initials H.S., was 16 when she said she was raped at a party in her southeast Texas hometown of Silsbee in October 2008. She identified the assailant as Rakheem Bolton, a star on the Silsbee High School football team.

Bolton was arrested but not charged at the time, and was allowed to return to school.

At a February 2009 basketball game in Huntsville, Texas, H.S. joined in leading cheers for the Silsbee High team, which included Bolton. But when Bolton went to the foul line to shoot free throws, H.S. stepped back, folded her arms and sat next to the squad's faculty leader.

The girl's lawyer says the cheerleaders were supposed to yell, "Two, four, six, eight, ten, come on, Rakheem, put it in."

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Good for H.S.! I hope she wins.

In Today's Hilariously Appropriate Acronym News, CIA Creates WikiLeaks Task Force

CIA launches task force to assess impact of U.S. cables' exposure by WikiLeaks

By Greg Miller
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 22, 2010; 12:24 AM

The CIA has launched a task force to assess the impact of the exposure of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables and military files by WikiLeaks.

Officially, the panel is called the WikiLeaks Task Force. But at CIA headquarters, it's mainly known by its all-too-apt acronym: W.T.F.

The irreverence is perhaps understandable for an agency that has been relatively unscathed by WikiLeaks.
Only a handful of CIA files have surfaced on the WikiLeaks Web site, and records from other agencies posted online reveal remarkably little about CIA employees or operations.

Even so, CIA officials said the agency is conducting an extensive inventory of the classified information, which is routinely distributed on a dozen or more networks that connect agency employees around the world.

And the task force is focused on the immediate impact of the most recently released files. One issue is whether the agency's ability to recruit informants could be damaged by declining confidence in the U.S. government's ability to keep secrets.

"The director asked the task force to examine whether the latest release of WikiLeaks documents might affect the agency's foreign relationships or operations,"
CIA spokesman George Little said. The panel is being led by the CIA's Counterintelligence Center but has more than two dozen members from departments across the agency.

To some agency veterans, WikiLeaks has vindicated the CIA's long-standing aversion to sharing secrets with other government agencies, a posture that came under sharp criticism after it was identified as a factor that contributed to the nation's failure to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Even while moving to share more information over the past decade, the agency "has not capitulated to this business of making everything available to outsiders," said a former high-ranking CIA official who recently retired. "They don't even make everything available to insiders. And by and large the system has worked."

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Y'all, this story was tailor-made for us.
TV | Peggy Olson

ONTD_Political's PotD: December 22, 2010.

Afghanistan, November, 2010 | Saturday, November 27th marked a milestone in Afghanistan - after that day passed, the United States and its allies have now been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviet Union had been when it withdrew in 1989. Recent announcements by the U.S. appear to show that it plans to remain at least another four years. In the south, U.S. forces are increasingly encountering abandoned buildings that are heavily booby-trapped as they pursue the Taliban, leading them to systematically destroy the structures. Arghandab district governor Shah Muhammed Ahmadi said "In some villages where only a few houses were contaminated by bombs, we called the owners and got their agreement to destroy them, In some villages like Khosrow that were completely empty and full of IED's, we destroyed them without agreement because it was hard to find the people - and not just Khosrow, but many villages. We had to destroy them to make them safe." Collected here are images of the country and conflict over the past month, part of an ongoing monthly series on Afghanistan.
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