September 28th, 2011

be quiet

Top court to rule Friday on Vancouver's supervised injection site

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada will announce Friday its landmark decision on Vancouver's supervised injection site for addicts.

The decision, being followed closely by media and health authorities both nationally and internationally, pits the right of the B.C. government to manage health care against the federal government's jurisdiction over the Criminal Code.

The decision will play a major role in determining whether similar facilities are established elsewhere in Canada, and interest has already been expressed to follow Insite's lead in provinces such as Alberta and Quebec.

"If you're successful here, there could be Insites all over the country," Supreme Court Judge Marshall Rothstein told an Insite lawyer during the May hearing.

The facility in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, which provides clean needles to addicts as well as supervision from professional nurses, was established in 2003 under a special exemption from federal drug laws.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government, which has championed a tough law-and-order agenda, refused to extend the exemption in 2008 and has attempted to shut it down.

Two B.C. court decisions backed the B.C. government's position that Insite should be allowed to remain open. Supporters of the facility have cited research showing that supervision has reduced both overdose deaths and the spread of HIV-AIDS in an area where needle-sharing is common.

But critics, including former Tory health minister Tony Clement, have argued that such so-called "harm reduction" programs divert money from addict treatment programs.

Federal prosecutors also argue that governments should not be in the business of facilitating illegal drug use.

"The state has no constitutional obligation to facilitate drug use at a specific location by hardcore addicts, the mildly addicted, frequent users or occasional users," federal prosecutors said in a written court submission.

vancouver sun

Marijuana growers to face more jail than child rapists under Harper's new omnibus bill

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is getting tougher on pot growers than he is on rapists of children.

Under the Tories' omnibus crime legislation tabled Tuesday, a person growing 201 pot plants in a rental unit would receive a longer mandatory sentence than someone who rapes a toddler or forces a five-year-old to have sex with an animal.

Producing six to 200 pot plants nets an automatic six-month sentence, with an extra three months if it's done in a rental or is deemed a public-safety hazard. Growing 201 to 500 plants brings a one-year sentence, or 1 1/2 years if it's in a rental or poses a safety risk.

The omnibus legislation imposes one-year mandatory minimums for sexually assaulting a child, luring a child via the Internet or involving a child in bestiality. All three of these offences carry lighter automatic sentences than those for people running medium-sized grow-ops in rental property or on someone else's land.

A pedophile who gets a child to watch pornography with him, or a pervert exposing himself to kids at a playground, would receive a minimum 90-day sentence, half the term of a man convicted of growing six pot plants in his own home.

The maximum sentence for growing marijuana would double from seven to 14 years, the same maximum applied to someone using a weapon during a child rape, and four years more than for someone sexually assaulting a kid without using a weapon.

In B.C., if police and prosecutors don't rebel against the new laws, we're going to be hit with massive jail costs, says Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd. The new marijuana legislation will increase the proportion of pot criminals in B.C. jails from less than five per cent to around 30 per cent, at a cost of $60,000 to $70,000 per inmate annually, Boyd says.

"Why put people who are not violent in jail?" Boyd asks. "People who commit serious violent crime are already dealt with pretty harshly, and crime rates are down, not up."

Harper's U.S.-style war on drugs ignores our southern neighbour's expensive failed effort. "Eight states — including New York, where laws were the most punitive in the nation — have repealed most of these mandatory-minimum sentences, and dozens of other jurisdictions are considering repeal or reform," a February report from Human Rights Watch says.

Even the government's own Justice Department questions the use of mandatory minimums. "There is some indication that minimum sentences are not an effective sentencing tool," reads a 2010 report from the department. "They constrain judicial discretion without offering any increased crime-prevention benefits."

Provincial jails — where most people convicted under the new laws will end up — provide far fewer rehabilitation programs than federal prisons, leading to higher rates of re-offending, says Stacey Hannem, chairman of the policy review committee at the Canadian Criminal Justice Association.

"There's a real revolving-door problem in our provincial institutions," Hannem says. "If you're going to throw even more people in there, you can bet that the recidivism rate in the provincial system is likely to go up.

"If you want to get tough on crime, that's fine. But don't sell it as increasing public safety. That's just not true."

the province

As if there weren't enough reasons to hate Stephen Harper already...
-bio-digital jazz

Australia to let women fight on the front line

Australia will allow women to serve in front-line combat roles for the first time, joining a handful of other countries that have removed gender restrictions in their armed forces.

The decision, which has bilateral political support, means women will be permitted to perform any role, provided they meet the physical and psychological requirements. The changes, to be phased in over the next five years, could lead to them serving in infantry combat units and special forces.

The Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, yesterday called the move "a significant and major cultural change". He said: "Once this is fully implemented, there will be no restrictions. If a woman is fully capable of doing the entrance programme for the Special Air Service or Commandos, [they can join]."

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The Gang
  • acmeeoy

The new sparks of labor resistance

There's a new surge of labor struggles in the U.S.--and what unites them is the activism and solidarity on display, despite a hostile media and aggressive employers.

PICKET LINES are popping up with greater frequency across the U.S.--and strikers are displaying a new, fighting mood that exists among growing numbers of working people fed up with being forced to pay for an economic crisis caused by Wall Street and Corporate America.

These struggles represent a challenge and an opportunity for working-class activists and socialists to put forward a strategy for taking on Corporate America and the business-backed attack on public-sector workers.

The struggles are varied. They include teachers who defied a judge's order to win a strike in Tacoma, Wash.; hospital workers who struck the Kaiser health care system in California for two days, with nurses honoring the walkout; professors on the picket line at Long Island University in New York; Hyatt hotel workers carrying out a weeklong strike at six hotels in four cities; members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) blocking trains filled with scab cargo at the port of Longview, Wash.; a strike at the Central Park Boathouse restaurant in New York City against a notorious union-buster; and the beginnings of a campaign by postal workers' unions against the assault on their members at the U.S. Postal Service.

All this follows the two-week strike at Verizon in August, where roving pickets and demonstrations at the company's wireless stores caught management by surprise--and, earlier this year, the uprising in Wisconsin against Republican Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting attack on public-sector workers.

Workers haven't yet prevailed in all of these struggles, nor will all of them win in the future. But what unites these fights is the activism and solidarity on display, despite a hostile corporate media and aggressive employers.

Labor's new sparks of resistance are proof positive that the defiant spirit of the battle in Wisconsin last winter wasn't a flash in the pan, but a sign that growing numbers of working people are rediscovering their capacity to struggle. After decades of a one-sided class war, the fightback has begun.

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TLDR: Strikers and working people >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> the likes of Emanuel and Obama, who are complicit or actively involved in making the lives of these people hell. Attacking the worker is a bipartisan sport.

Killjoy Spin
  • arisma

BBC Drops B.C./A.D. Dating Method: Christians Outraged

LONDON (RNS) British Christians are incensed after the state-funded BBC decided to jettison the terms B.C. and A.D. in favor of B.C.E. and C.E. in historical date references.

The broadcaster has directed that the traditional B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, or Year of the Lord) be replaced by B.C.E. (Before Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) in its television and radio broadcasts.

The BBC said in an official statement that since it is "committed to impartiality, it is appropriate that we use terms that do not offend or alienate non-Christians."

It described the terms B.C.E. and C.E. as "a religiously neutral alternative to B.C./A.D.," although critics quickly pointed out that the new terms, like the old, were anchored around the birth of Jesus Christ.

The new edict drew immediate accusations that the network was guilty of political correctness run amok as the BBC's phone lines were jammed with irate listeners and readers.

Retired Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester, a leading British evangelical, told journalists that "this amounts to the dumbing down of the Christian basis of our culture, language and history."

"These changes are unnecessary," said Nazir-Ali, "and they don't actually achieve what the BBC wants them to achieve. Whether you use Common Era or Anno Domini, the date is still the same and the reference point is still the birth of Jesus Christ."

The network also drew fire from Britain's Plain English Campaign, whose spokeswoman, Marie Clair, said "it sounds like change just for the sake of change. ... It is difficult to see what the point of the changes are if people do not understand the new terms."


disbelieving hook

As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe


Angelos Tzortzinis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

MADRID — Hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Indians cheer a rural activist on a hunger strike. Israel reels before the largest street demonstrations in its history. Enraged young people in Spain and Greece take over public squares across their countries.
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I didn't see this article posted and felt like sharing.

Source: NYT

I attended a politics and new media lecture last night (hell yes grad school), which concentrated on how Web culture and new media have affected the way politics, policy and elections communicate. She went as far as to call the media "the 4th branch of government." Today I e-mailed the lecturer about the #occupyWallStreet protests and she sent me the MSNBC version of this article in response (with the imo deceptive headline "'Voting is worthless'? Global protests share contempt for democracy"). I think the article gets to the heart of some of the frustrations I've seen here about how the US has been run, and I'm blown away by just how widespread the disgust with corruption has gone globally.

The Gang
  • acmeeoy

What's behind the scorn for the Wall Street protests?

It's unsurprising that establishment media outlets have been condescending, dismissive and scornful of the ongoing protests on Wall Street.  Any entity that declares itself an adversary of prevailing institutional power is going to be viewed with hostility by establishment-serving institutions and their loyalists.  That's just the nature of protests that take place outside approved channels, an inevitable by-product of disruptive dissent: those who are most vested in safeguarding and legitimizing establishment prerogatives (which, by definition, includes establishment media outlets) are going to be hostile to those challenges.  As the virtually universal disdain in these same circles for WikiLeaks (and, before that, for the Iraq War protests) demonstrated: the more effectively adversarial it is, the more establishment hostility it's going to provoke. 

Nor is it surprising that much of the most vocal criticisms of the Wall Street protests has come from some self-identified progressives, who one might think would be instinctively sympathetic to the substantive message of the protesters.  In an excellent analysis entitled "Why Establishment Media & the Power Elite Loathe Occupy Wall Street," Kevin Gosztola chronicles how many of the most scornful criticisms have come from Democratic partisans who -- like the politicians to whom they devote their fealty -- feign populist opposition to Wall Street for political gain.

Some of this anti-protest posturing is just the all-too-familiar New-Republic-ish eagerness to prove one's own Seriousness by castigating anyone to the left of, say, Dianne Feinstein or John Kerry; for such individuals, multi-term, pro-Iraq-War Democratic Senator-plutocrats define the outermost left-wing limit of respectability.  Also at play is the jingoistic notion that street protests are valid in Those Bad Contries but not in free, democratic America. 

A siginificant aspect of this progressive disdain is grounded in the belief that the only valid form of political activism is support for Democratic Party candidates, and a corresponding desire to undermine anything that distracts from that goal.  Indeed, the loyalists of both parties have an interest in marginalizing anything that might serve as a vehicle for activism outside of fealty to one of the two parties (Fox News' firing of Glenn Beck was almost certainly motivated by his frequent deviation from the GOP party-line orthodoxy which Fox exists to foster).

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Huh?  From cail
  • sesmo

Baby Joseph' Dies at Home After Long Treatment Battle

I missed this story when it first made the news. It raises some interesting issues about healthcare rationing, limits on medical care, as well as end of life issues.

Sept. 28, 2011
Baby Joseph, the 20-month-old terminally ill infant at the center of an end-of-life debate, died Tuesday in his Ontario home.

Joseph Maraachli, who had come to be known as "Baby Joseph," was thrust into the forefront of the end-of-life debate in February, when Canadian doctors told his parents, Moe and Nader Maraachli, that no treatment could bring their baby out of a persistent vegetative state. Joseph had Leigh syndrome, a progressive, degenerative neurological disease, which had claimed the life of his brother eight years ago at the age of 18 months..

Because Joseph's condition was terminal, the Canadian government denied him the tracheotomy that would have allowed him to live out his remaining days at home with his family. His parents fought this decision, and for months, Joseph's life remained in negotiation as advocacy groups fought the Canadian government to allow him the procedure, underscoring the sensitive balance many parents and health systems face between keeping babies alive as long as possible and pouring money and medical resources into a losing battle.

Debating End of Life Care Watch Video

Cost of End-of-Life Care Watch Video

Is Palliative Care The Same As Hospice? Watch Video
With the help of Priests for Life, a New York organization that lobbies against abortion rights and euthanasia, Joseph was eventually flown to a St. Louis hospital for the tracheotomy last April, which allowed him to spend his last five months at home with his family.

The Rev. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, who led the effort to get Joseph end-of-life care in Missouri, commented on the infant's death in a statement:

"I learned with sadness tonight of the passing of Baby Joseph, and extend my prayers to his family. I praise God tonight for the tens of thousands who stood with Priests for Life and other 'pro-life' groups to save Baby Joseph. We remain convinced that the value of life is not measured in months or years, but rather, reflected in the love we share moment by moment."

Baby Joseph's End-of-Life Care Saga

Last February, Joseph's condition had deteriorated to the point where doctors at the Canadian hospital treating him presented his parents with a consent form that would allow doctors to take him off life support. But the Maraachlis refused to sign the waiver and fought for their son to receive a tracheotomy.

The case was brought to the Consent and Capacity Board, an independent body created by the government of Ontario, and then a Canadian Supreme Court judge. Both entities ruled that Joseph's breathing tube should be removed. It was only after Priests for Life offered to pay Joseph's medical costs that he could get the tracheotomy on March 21.

"I would call this a success," Pavone told ABC News at the time. "We did this based on the value of the child's life here and now, not based on any specific medical outcomes. The family wasn't looking for anything extraordinary, just to be able to have him at home."

"From the beginning, the point of view of the family has been 'If my child is dying, at least let us bring our child home,'" Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, who has acted as a spokesman for the Maraachli family, told ABC News last March.

More here.

I have to say while I have sympathy for the family, I don't agree with their approach to this issue.

Occupy Wall Street News Round Up of the Day:

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell delivers a scathing excoriation of the criminally under-reported police brutality exhibited during last weekend’s Occupy Wall Street protests.

The footage of police officers dragging women by their hair and tackling civilians to the ground simply for holding a video camera drew the ire of Anonymous members, who have released private details about suspected pepper-spraying police officer Anthony Bologna, and have vowed to “take [the NYPD] down from the Internet” if police brutality against the protesters persists.

Meanwhile, the “99 percent” wrapped up the 11th day of their Wall Street “occupation” with some “star power” in the form of Susan Sarandon, who lent her support to the cause.

Though O’Donnell’s show is called The Last Word, Matt Taibbi, popping his Occupy Wall Street cherry in Rolling Stone, notes that this movement may be instrumental in conquering Wall Street corruption by taking the important first step toward “making people aware of the battle lines.”

books & coffee

Gay black youths go from attacked to attackers

Whenever there’s trouble around the Chinatown and Gallery Place Metro stations in the District, the finger of blame often points to a most unusual group of suspects: a black gay gang called Check It.

Depending on whom you talk to, they’re just a bunch of mischievous gender benders and drama queens, vulnerable gay youths seeking safety in numbers. Or, they’re one of the largest, more aggressive gangs in the city.

To hear the leader of Check It tell it, there may be some truth to both.

“I just got tired of people beating on me and calling me faggie,” Tayron Bennett, 21, told me recently. He’d helped to organize Check It while a student at Hine Junior High School. Other gay youths from his Trinidad neighborhood in Northeast soon joined, followed by gay youths from throughout the city.

D.C. police estimate that Check It has a core membership of about 20 and counts between 50 and 100 others as “associates.”

“At first, I tried fighting bullies one-on-one, but they don’t fight fair; they fight two and three on one,” Bennett said. So the youths got together and “started carrying mace, knives, brass knuckles and stun guns, and if somebody messed with one of us then all of us would gang up on them.”

Check It.

Bennett was cryptic about the meaning of the gang’s name, saying only that it might have something to do with going to a nightclub and “checking your hat or coat.” Or gun? Or, he said, it might mean, “You better check yourself.”

Bennett had just been released from the D.C. jail when we spoke. He’d been arrested and charged with assault after a melee near Gallery Place earlier this year. But the charges were dropped the day he was scheduled to appear in court. Although happy to be free, he despaired over losing more time behind bars. He’d also gotten into a fight in jail and came out with a fresh scar on his scalp to show for it.

“I’m ready to go back to school and get my GED,” Bennett said. But he didn’t know where to start.

At Hine, Bennett had been unsure of his sexual identity and was hurt by schoolmates who said he acted gay. When a teacher also said he acted gay, Bennett went into a rage and hit the teacher with the buckle of his belt. He was arrested and expelled from school. He never went back. And he vowed never to run from a bully. No tears. No fears. If attacked on the streets, he wouldn’t even call the police. He’d just find a way to get his revenge.

The District may have a reputation as a “gay friendly” city, home to one of the largest, most affluent and politically influential gay and lesbian communities in the country. But Bennett and his friends live in a world where attitudes toward homosexuality are not always so progressive.

Philip Pannell, a community activist who is gay, said he believes that Check It would benefit from having some adult black gay male role models in their lives. But that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

“It’s sad that we have all of these gay black men in Washington and all they do is work all day and go to black gay clubs on the weekends,” Pannell told me. “They won’t help out the gay youth because then they’d have to confront the homophobia of the larger black community.”

Jeffrey Richardson, director of the Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, agreed that having positive role models would be good for Check It, along with a safe space for them to meet. But he noted that not everybody is capable of being a good mentor.

“The challenge is identifying people in the community who can connect with these particular young people,” Richardson said. “Some gay men wouldn’t want to volunteer as mentors just because they are gay. They say, ‘Yes, I’m gay and I’m fine with that, but I’m not trying to define my whole life in those terms.’ ”

For Bennett, the focus now is just on staying out of trouble. But sitting at home all day is “boring,” as he put it. Adding to the restlessness, he knows that Check It members are just a tweet away, eagerly awaiting word from him to meet downtown and start the drama anew.


Harper LOL

Harpers Conservatives - now targeted reproductive rights

Abortion debate reopened, Tory MP Trost says

The abortion debate is open again, meaning MPs will start to speak about it, Conservative MP Brad Trost told CBC News.

The Canadian International Development Agency reopened the matter by  approving funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation,  said Trost in an interview Wednesday.

"So in reinvigorating the debate as they have by funding IPPF, you'll see more politicians like myself will be discussing the matter. In a  respectful way, but it will be discussed."

Trost says some social conservatives will feel it was a slap in the  face. He admits he may get in trouble for speaking out against a  Conservative minister's decision.

"Prime Minister Harper is always very fair. While he probably won't  be exactly thrilled with what I'm saying, they do understand there's  differences of opinion in the caucus on this issue," he said.

Trost spoke to CBC News following an interview with Evan Solomon,  host of Power & Politics, to be aired Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has consistently said he doesn't want to re-open the debate over abortion in Canada.

The issue arose last year when Harper announced maternal and child  health would be a focus of the Canadian-hosted G8 meeting in Muskoka,  and again last April when Trost said Planned Parenthood had been  "de-funded" as a result of petitions by anti-abortion groups.

Last week, CBC News reported the Conservative government would give  Planned Parenthood $6 million for sex education and contraception  projects in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Mali, Sudan and Tanzania.

The group's funding ran out in 2009, and the Canadian International  Development Agency didn't respond to its 2009 or 2010 requests for  financial support.

In a statement posted on his website Wednesday afternoon, Trost says Canada's anti-abortion movement must be more aggressive.

"Many, many Conservative MPs pressed the [prime minister's office] to stop the funds from flowing," Trost wrote on his website. "Federal  funding did stop for a time. Funds allocated to IPPF were considerably  reduced. Furthermore, federal grants for IPPF also had more strings  attached.

"This only happened because of the pressure applied. This was a real victory. "

"Pro-life politicians have been taught a lesson. The government only  responds to pro-life issues and concerns when we take an aggressive  stance. We will apply this lesson."

MPs started asking quietly in 2006 for the funding to be pulled,  Trost writes, but they were ignored because they asked politely behind  closed doors. Trost says the campaign went public in 2009 and that's  when they saw results.

In April, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Planned  Parenthood was eligible for funding as long as they fit the criteria her agency had set out. The government said the money allotted for maternal and child health projects was not to be used for abortion funding.

'The proper thing to do'

Oda's spokesman reiterated those comments Wednesday in response to Trost.

"We said during the election that an application from this  organization would be approved if it met the criteria of the program.  After completing due diligence, the government decided to fund the  portion of the proposal that met the Government’s Muskoka Initiative in  five countries of focus," Justin Broekema said in a statement.

Harper's spokesman declined to comment on Trost's declaration that the debate is re-opened.

Trost says he's not attacking the government but criticizing one  decision. And he says he owes it to his constituents to be honest.

"Ultimately, I have the backing of my constituency association and  the Conservatives there. That's who I represent. Because I've been vocal on this issue before, I owe them my democratic voice. I also owe my  democratic voice to people who disagree with me so they know honestly  whether or not to vote for or against me in the next election. It's the  proper thing to do."

Source is the CBC

I wish I could believe this is just one batshit crazy conservative MP, but I'm not that optimistic. I've always thought that if Harper got a majority goverment, he'd re-open the abortion debate, because ...he'd have a majority.
And of course, the best way to improve the lives of  poor women and children in developing countries is by ensuring that they continue to have children so that they remain no their is no logic in this at all.
I really, really don't like whats happening to my country.
Edited to add - I hate the term "pro-life" because they don't give a shit about the living.

Gryffindor corgi
  • jettakd

Not-so-far reaching effects of extreme immigration bill

A State Without Mexicans?

Today a federal judge rules on whether Alabama's immigration law—the harshest in the land—can stand. But the damage to the state's economy has already been done.

—By Paul Reyes

Saturday was game day in Alabama, a clean, bright September afternoon. The Crimson Tide and Tigers were both at home, all but emptying Birmingham out.
I headed north toward Cullman County to talk with Keith Smith and other farmers about HB 56, Alabama's divisive anti-immigration bill—the toughest in the nation, signed by Gov. Robert Bentley in June and suspended at the end of summer after several groups sued to stop it, forcing US District Judge Sharon Blackburn to consider its constitutionality.
Her ruling is due today, but Alabama has seen a long summer of bitter confrontations over race and regulation, and in many ways, the damage has already been done.

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Alabama is shooting itself in the foot if this bill passes, and destroying countless of lives and families in the process.
once upon a time

Team starts external inspection of Washington Monument

Shortly after 9:30 Tuesday morning, a small hatch opened on the south face of the Washington Monument just beneath its peak, about 550 feet above the ground.

A damp wind blew from the west, and low clouds outlined the dirty white obelisk as passersby began to turn their eyes and cameras skyward.

Then, David Megerle, in a yellow hard hat, blue polo shirt and tan cargo pants, slithered out of the opening. From the ground, he looked like a large bug crawling over the marble “pyramidion” at the top of the monument.

But Megerle was no pest. A senior associate with a prominent engineering firm, he was the advance man of a team of experts that Tuesday began a hair-raising “difficult access” examination of the earthquake-damaged monument.

In a few moments, Megerle, wearing a safety harness and using clips, pulleys and a kind of cloth climbing ladder called an etrier, wove a web of ropes around the tip of the monument to prepare for the team’s inspection descent.

The endeavor is part of an overall examination of the monument in the wake of the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the region on Aug. 23 and has had the structure closed ever since.

The National Park Service said Monday that the monument will be closed indefinitely, until experts assess all the damage and map out a plan for repairs. The interior has already been thoroughly checked.

Tuesday’s effort was the start of the inspection of the exterior. The Park Service said it would take about five days, and a more complete assessment could be finished next month.

The team halted work in mid-afternoon because of the threat of lightning from an approaching thunderstorm, Megerle said afterward.

“There was a storm coming,” he said. “They told us it was 40 miles away, and it was getting near our 30-mile threshold . . . so we decided to retreat. . . . Lightning’s our biggest concern up there.”

He said it was “very cool” to be atop the monument, “a unique place to be” but also “just a day in the life of my job.”

He said the team planned to resume work Wednesday.

Officials said earlier that the quake cracked several of the exterior marble blocks and rained smaller debris, mostly weatherizing mortar, on the ground below.

The monument’s blocks are not held together with any cement, only the pressure of the stones against each other. The Park Service has said the overall structure remains solid, and experts said Monday that they did not think any blocks would have to be replaced.

The monument, technically 555 feet, 5 1 / 8 inches tall, was partly constructed between 1848 and 1854, when it was halted at the 152-foot level. Work resumed in 1879 and finished in 1884, according to the Park Service.

The inspection team, from the Illinois-based firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, aims to check each of the hundreds of blocks of marble that make up the exterior of the monument.

The inspectors — one for each of the four faces of the monument — plan to descend on ropes, examining the blocks one at a time.

“They’re going to go through every single block . . . take a look at each one,” said National Mall and Memorial Parks spokeswoman Carol Bradley Johnson. The team has access to drawings of the blocks that were done during the monument’s rehabilitation in the 1990s.

They will be able to “find out what has happened because of the earthquake, as opposed to what was there before,” Johnson said.

As Megerle crawled across the tip of the monument Tuesday, tourists, joggers and workers paused to watch.

“All I could think was, ‘He must have a great view,’ ” said Johnson, who was watching from below.

She said she also thought: “Wow, can you imagine telling your kids that you did this? That you were at the top of this incredible landmark? I couldn’t even imagine it, to say nothing of the fact that they should have enormous courage.”


Source has awesome photos. 

mus | like a bird in a cage

Williams Lake girl accuses RCMP of assault

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is calling for an independent investigation into allegations an RCMP officer in Williams Lake, B.C., assaulted a 17-year-old girl.

Martina Jeff says her teenaged daughter, Jamie Haller, was punched in the face by an RCMP constable while she was handcuffed in the back of a police car.

Jeff said the incident happened on Sept. 10 after Haller had called the RCMP for assistance.
"I saw Jamie on the ground, crying and handcuffed," Jeff said. "I got out and ran towards her. She was having a panic attack. She is very small and has never been in trouble with police before."

Haller said she was mistakenly arrested and was kicking at the inside of the car windows, trying to get the attention of her mom, who was nearby.

"There's two cops in the front, and ... one cop was sitting on my legs and the other cop was holding my head back and was punching me," Haller said. "The cop was punching me on this side, and I know he punched me more than six times."

Jeff witnessed the incident from a few feet away.

"I heard one [officer] say, 'Keep kicking and you’ll see what happens,'" Jeff said.

"He put his whole upper body in the car and started punching … When I looked in the car I saw my daughter. Her face started swelling really bad. There was blood coming down on each side of her mouth. She was handcuffed, with her hands behind her back."

The BCCLA is calling for an immediate and independent investigation of the incident by, at a minimum, a senior officer from outside the Williams Lake RCMP detachment.

"The community needs confidence that these serious allegations will be investigated fully, promptly and as impartially as possible under our current system. If wrongs were committed, the public wants to know that they will be dealt with in accordance with the law — whether those involved are employed as law enforcement officers or are members of the public," said BCCLA president Robert Holmes.

"The community needs to trust that when someone calls 911 for the police, they will be treated with respect and not end up in hospital because of injuries sustained due to police actions."
Haller was released the next morning without charge and alleges she did not receive any medical attention.

The teen said she was unable to work at her job at a fast food outlet because of the bruising on her face and had to take a week off school due to injuries to her eye that affected her vision.

However, RCMP Sgt. Warren Brown said the accounts of police officers on scene differ dramatically from Haller's account, and police are recommending the teen be charged with assaulting a police officer.

Brown said he has asked a senior officer at a neighbouring detachment to investigate.


A tiny seventeen-year-old girl assaulted a group of grown-ass police officers! Suuuuuure.
once upon a time

When even Al-Qaeda is against you...

Al-Qaeda tells Ahmadinejad to stop ‘ridiculous’ 9/11 theories

Even al-Qaeda is sick of hearing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s conspiracy theories.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech. (Ashraf Shazly - AFP/Getty Images)
The glossy al-Qaeda-run magazine Inspire’s latest issue — a commemorative issue for the 9/11 attacks — calls Ahmadinejad’s belief “ridiculous” and says it “stands in the face of all logic and evidence.”

In an address before the U.N. General Assembly last week, Ahmadinejad reiterated his belief that the U.S. government was somehow behind the attacks.

The magazine appears to have criticized the Iranian leader because it didn’t want anyone else taking credit for the attacks, writing: “Iran and the Shi’a in general do not want to give al-Qaeda credit for the greatest and biggest operation ever committed against America.”

The issue was entitled “The Greatest Special Operation of All Time,” and its cover image shows a silhouette of the World Trade Center made up of dollar signs. 

In addition to its remarks on Iran, the issue bragged of American-born al-Qaeda followers, including California-born Adam Gadahn, now a spokesman for al-Qaeda in Pakistan, and North Carolina-born Samir Khan, the man behind the magazine’s slick graphics.

Also included was a photo preview of the next edition of the magazine, showing what appears to be Americans in long robes in front of Grand Central Station with the caption: “Targeting the populations of countries that are at war with the Muslims.”

An FBI official told Fox News that “Grand Central Station is not a new threat target,” and that the Joint Terrorism Task Force “continues to work diligently with our partners throughout the city to mitigate every threat and keep every target safe.”

The issue was the seventh for the glossy English-language magazine, which was created by New Mexico-born cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi in July 2010 to spread the message of al-Qaeda and help inspire homegrown terrorism. Aulaqi is believed to be in hiding in Yemen.



I'm kind of reminded of this, a little bit. Not exactly, just a little.

Sorry for the WaPo flooding today. Lots of interesting stories today.  

More information about the Fort Worth student suspended for saying ‘homosexuality is wrong’

This is an update to This Post

Kristopher Franks, a German teacher with a long and distinguished service record at Western Hills High School, is currently being investigated by FWISD administrators, swayed by a right-wing attempt to rouse public opinion against him for having the temerity to write a disciplinary referral against Dakota Ary, a student whom Franks reports publicly harassed him in class on the basis of the student’s perception that Mr. Franks is gay. This is being depicted in numerous news reports as an effort to suppress the student’s First Amendment right to free speech. As Franks and the district cannot speak to media while the incident is being investigated by the district, only the student and his Liberty Institute lawyer’s version of the incident is being reported in the media.

The gist of these reports is that Ary, during a discussion about religion and homosexuality in his first-year German class, expressed the opinion that “I am a Christian, and I believe that homosexuality is wrong,” and was subsequently sent out of class with a disciplinary referral by his teacher, Mr. Franks, and then given a three-day suspension from an assistant principal.

I and other members of LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S., a group formed a year ago in response to local and national incidents of school-based, anti-LGBTQ incidents of harassment, became aware of this incident last week, shortly after the first, distorted media reports came out. Concerned that only one side of the incident was being reported, we met Friday night with Mr. Franks. His account contradicts Ary and his lawyer’s version of events, and has been substantiated by several of the other students in class at the time. We found Mr. Franks’ explanation entirely credible.

He reports (and has reported to his school) repeated acts of anti-gay harassment by several students that occurred this and last year, including by a group of four specific boys in this class, of whom Ary is one. Among other incidents, Mr. Franks maintains a “word wall” for his German IV class on which he posts articles and images from several journals, including the German magazine, Stern. One of these articles concerned gay rights in Germany, and included a photo of two men kissing. The group of four boys concerned was sitting near this image immediately before Mr. Franks found it had been ripped from the wall. The student and his lawyer are now asserting that including this photo among the others constituted his teacher’s “imposing acceptance of homosexuality” in his classroom. These students subsequently took every opportunity to denounce homosexuality in class, frequently without context; that is, with the topic having otherwise been broached.

On the particular day in which this incident occurred, Mr. Franks was opening class when the topic of Christianity in Germany was broached by one student, who asked what churches were there, another whether they read the Bible in English, etc. Franks asserts that the topic of homosexuality was not broached in any way, and that Ary‘s assertions to the contrary are entirely false. At this point, Ary declared, with a class audience, “Gays can’t be Christians; homosexuality is wrong,” looking directly at Mr. Franks. Franks says he understands and affirms students’ right to free speech, and that he is perfectly prepared to lead a respectful discussion on topics such as gay rights that allows for the assertion of opinions with which he disagrees. He has led such discussion in the past in his sociology classes. But in this case, hr feels the context makes it clear that this remark was made ad hominem, aimed specifically at him to devalue him and any information he might share on the topic of religion, on the basis of his perceived sexual orientation.

Read more at The Source

Racism, Alive and Well in Missouri

So, last week the Kansas City, Missouri School District lost there accreditation. Beginning in January, students from the troubled district will be allowed to attend other nearby school districts. Needless to say, some of the rich white folks are ready to circle their Hummers.

Behind the cut is an article from the Lee's Summit, Missouri paper. Lee's Summit is probably the most affluent city that could be impacted.

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A few of the comments at the source make me want to slap someone.

Saudi king revokes flogging of female driver

Saudi King Abdullah has revoked a flogging sentence for a woman who allegedly flouted the conservative kingdom's strict rules that prohibit women from driving a car, two sources with knowledge of the case said Wednesday.

Amnesty International said a Saudi woman was sentenced to 10 lashes for getting behind the wheel, and had urged the dismantling of the "whole system of women's subordination."

Authorities are not expected to release an official statement, but the woman will not be sentenced, according to a source close to the Royal Court.

A source connected to the country's Interior Ministry also confirmed the revocation.
The move comes just as the country's ruling elite promised greater political participation for women in the Islamic nation.

On Sunday, King Abdullah announced two changes for women that would be historic for Saudi Arabia. He said women will be allowed to serve as members of the Shura Council, the appointed consultative council that advises the king.

He also said women will be allowed to run as candidates and nominate candidates in the next set of municipal elections. It is unknown when those may ultimately take place.

Amnesty said a court in Jeddah handed down the sentence Tuesday. Two other women are believed to be facing charges for driving, one in Jeddah and one in al-Khobar.

The Women2Drive campaign said the woman who was sentenced to 10 lashes has appealed the sentence. She said she did not want to be identified or speak publicly about her case for her own safety.

Women2Drive also said police pulled over women's rights activist Madeah Alajroush for driving in Riyadh on Tuesday. She was taken to police headquarters for questioning and released after she signed a pledge not to drive and called for a taxi home, a statement from Women2Drive said.
The Women2Drive campaign on Facebook and Twitter encouraged women to drive as part of their normal daily activities rather than converge in one place.

  • kangofu

Brain-damaged woman's family loses right to die case

Family loses bid to pull life support for brain-damaged British woman kept alive on tube since 2003
Source - NY Daily News
Wednesday, September 28th 2011, 12:49 PM

A brain-damaged British woman kept alive by feeding tube since 2003 must stay on life support despite her family's wishes to end her sad existence, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The landmark decision in the case of a 52-year-old woman identified as "M" marked the first time that an English judge was asked to rule on pulling life support from someone considered minimally conscious.

Typically, the end of life support comes when the victim falls into a persistent vegetative state.

"The factor which does carry substantial weight, in my judgement, is the preservation of life," the judge ruled. "Although not an absolute rule, the law regards the preservation of life as a fundamental principle."

"M" was on a family skiing holiday in 2003 when she was found in semi-coherent condition by her partner. Although she was rushed to the hospital, "M" slipped into a coma and was diagnosed with viral encephalitis.

The disease caused extensive, untreatable brain damage. She was put on a feeding tube in April 2003, and has remained on the life-support device ever since.

The ruling came as a major disappointment to her family, said their attorney, Yogi Amin.

"They love her dearly and want only what is best for her, and it has been desperately difficult for them to make this application to the court for treatment to be withdrawn," Amin said after the High Court ruling.

"They believe that 'M' was clear that she would not have wanted to live in the condition that she is in."

But the judge found the brain-damaged woman had "some positive experiences" since falling into her irreversible condition - even as he anticipated the reaction to his ruling.

"After pursuing this litigation for years, I know that (the family) will be extremely disappointed and probably distressed by my decision," the judge ruled.

Her family first raised the question of ending her treatment in 2007, saying they were convinced "M" would not want a life prolonged by such extreme measures.

"There can be no question that the last eight years have been heartbreaking for them all," said Amin.

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Stop The Planet Of The Apes I Want To Ge

Probe: Wis. clerk likely violated law in election

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A county clerk likely violated the law when she failed to report thousands of votes in this spring's tightly contested Wisconsin Supreme Court election, but her conduct wasn't criminal, state investigators said Wednesday.

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus touched off a firestorm in April when she revealed she hadn't reported 14,000 votes in the race between conservative Justice David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg. Collapse )

Lovely Jasmine
  • kangofu

5 Signs That America Is Moving Away from Religion

5 Signs That America Is Moving Away from Religion
Source - Alternet
By Tana Ganeva
Sept 28th, 2011

If you look closely there are promising signs that American attitudes are changing in a way that may blunt the impact of religion on politics and culture.

In between bragging about the number of people they've killed and vilifying gay soldiers, the GOP presidential candidates have spent the primaries demonstrating how little they respect the separation of church and state. Michele Bachmann seems to think God is personally invested in her political career. Both she and Rick Perry have ties to Christian Dominionism, a theocratic philosophy that publicly calls for Christian takeover of America's political and civil institutions. (Even Ron Paul, glorified by civil libertarians for his only two good policy stances -- opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and drug prohibition -- sputtered about churches when asked during a debate where he'd send a gravely ill man without health insurance.)

GOP pandering to the Religious Right is just one of those facts of American public life, like climate change denial and Creationism in schools, that leave secular Americans lamenting the decline of the country, and of reason and logic. Organized religion's grasp on the politics and culture of much of Europe has been waning for decades -- why can't we do that here?

But there are signs that American attitudes are changing in ways that may tame religion's power over political life in the future.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, tells AlterNet that she thinks what happened in Europe is (slowly) happening here. While questioning religion remains controversial -- Gaylor says the group's work on church and state issues often elicits hate-mail strongly suggesting they move to, you know, Europe -- atheism, skepticism, and agnosticism are becoming more widely accepted.

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