Saturday, March 03, 2007

Smart Move

Not a bad idea, this:
A Chinese province has taken the unusual step of fining hotels and bars more than $600 if they do not provide condoms, part of efforts to fight the spread of AIDS, a newspaper said on Friday.


Things Ain't Getting Prettier

Global warming will be getting a boost from the US for a long time:
By 2020, the United States will emit almost one-fifth more gases that lead to global warming than it did in 2000, increasing the risks of drought and scarce water supplies.

That projection comes from an internal draft report from the Bush administration that is more than a year overdue at the United Nations. The Associated Press obtained a copy Saturday.



The Cherokee Nation vote went against the descendants of slaves:
Cherokee Nation members voted Saturday to revoke the tribal citizenship of an estimated 2,800 descendants of the people the Cherokee once owned as slaves.


Coulter Cash

Edwards is a clever politician:
Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards is turning conservative commentator Ann Coulter's description of him as a "faggot" into a fundraising tool.

But John Edwards has turned the issue into what his campaign hopes is a positive.

On his campaign website Edwards is calling on supporters to "help us raise $100,000 in 'Coulter Cash' this week to keep this campaign charging ahead and fight back against the politics of bigotry"


Spy Games

Very odd.
Sometimes, it seems the Cold War never quite ended:

US authorities were Saturday investigating the shooting of a US expert on Russian intelligence who was shot outside his house in a Washington suburb, an FBI spokeswoman said.

Paul Joyal, 53, was hit several times as he returned home on Thursday evening, FBI spokeswoman Michelle Crnkovich told AFP.

The shooting came four days after Joyal alleged in a a major television network interview that the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin was involved in the radiation poisoning of a former KGB agent in London.

US media reported that Joyal was in a critical condition, but Crnkovich said she could not confirm his state of health although he was still alive.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Homophobic Brutality Is Never Far Away

Lest we ever consider growing complacent, here's another WTF? moment:
The nation's two largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organizations Friday demanded that charges be dropped against Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida.

Smith was arrested this week during a heated hearing at the Largo City Commission in Florida over the firing of its city manager, Steve Stanton, who had announced plans to begin transitioning as a transsexual.

Smith was in the lobby and arrested when a man approached her and asked for a flier she has holding that said "Don't Discriminate".

According to witnesses, Sgt. Butch Ward confronted Smith and ordered her to take back the flier.

When Smith asked why, Ward reportedly forced her into a side room where several officers violently shoved her to the floor and arrested her.

She has been charged with resisting arrest with violence, a felony, and disturbing others’ assembly, a misdemeanor.


They Fight Dirty

Homophobes indicted for fraud:
Two women have been charged with election fraud in connection with the collection last year of signatures on a referendum to repeal Cincinnati's LGBT rights ordinance.

Following a seven-month investigation indictments were handed down against Lois Mingo, 47 and Precilla Ward, 32. Both women had been hired by Equal Rights Not Special Rights, an organization formed to repeal the ordinance.


War As Product

I just cannot fathom people who can think in this fashion:

Magnet America, the largest manufacturer of the product, has seen sales fall from a peak of 1.2m in August 2004 to about 4,000 a month and now has an unsold stockpile of about 1m magnets.

“We have enough supplies to meet demand for years to come,” said Micah Pattisall, director of operations. “Every product has a lifespan and this one has run its course.”

Nor, of course, the people who would purchase such wares.


Not Enough Expletives in the World for This

But, let's just say, fuck you, Coburn:

A little-known initiative added to the recently-renewed Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Act will divert $60 million from the Center for Disease Control’s HIV/AIDS prevention budget over the next three years into a fund for which no states actually qualify.

CDC officials say that if no new money is appropriated to offset the annual funding loss, the agency will be forced to make cuts in its support for state HIV programs to make up the difference.

Renewed by Congress last fall and signed into law by President Bush in December, the act supports a wide range of care and treatment services for those living with HIV/AIDS. But a provision inserted into the act’s budget by conservative Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) could dramatically reduce funding for prevention programs.

Coburn’s HIV Early Diagnosis Grant initiative mandates that $30 million in CDC's HIV/AIDS prevention dollars be set aside annually to fund grants for states that meet a specific set of qualifications regarding HIV testing.

The problem, according to HIV/AIDS community advocates, is that no states currently qualify for the grant program. However, the CDC’s prevention budget will still lose that $30 million annually, whether any state qualifies and applies or not.

“It’s shocking, really,” Sean Barry, Director of Policy for the New York-based Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP), told RAW STORY last week. “That’s $30 million a year whether any state qualifies or not... that money could, effectively, be wasting away in the Treasury Department.”


Gone But Not Forgotten

The head of Walter Reed has resigned, but he's still gotta answer some hard questions, thanks to Waxman:
A powerful Democratic congressman is challenging the Pentagon, which is attempting to block the former chief of Walter Reed Army Medical Center from testifying before Congress next week.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Henry Waxman, D-Calif., wants to ask Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman about a contract to manage the medical center awarded to a company that had documented troubles fulfilling a government contract to deliver ice to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The Pentagon has refused to allow Weightman to testify. Waxman's staff has confirmed the congressman has issued his first subpoena as a committee chairman this session to legally compel Weightman's testimony.


Prettiest Girl in the World!

(well, at least of the feline variety, as my little niece is damned cute too!)

Zora's still not eating much, but I'm hoping that's just being finicky (as she's currently being spoiled and plied with canned food), rather than continued illness.


John Bolton Calls Bush a Pansy

I'm just so glad that this man represented my nation at the UN for so long:
John Bolton, no longer our man at the United Nations, revealed in a C-SPAN interview taped today that he is writing a book about his experiences in recent years. He also took a few shots at The New York Times and challenged the Bush administration with this: "For God's sakes, it needs to stand up and defend itself. No reason to act limp-wristed. "


Bring 'Em Down

The political firings of attorney after attorney calls for immediate and severe action. And I've always loathed Wilson, anyway. And the House and Senate are both, apparently, issuing subpeonas requiring the eight dismissed attorneys to testify at hearings about the circumstances of their dismissals:
Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico pressured the U.S. attorney in their state to speed up indictments in a federal corruption investigation that involved at least one former Democratic state senator, according to two people familiar with the contacts.

The alleged involvement of the two Republican lawmakers raises questions about possible violations of House of Representatives and Senate ethics rules and could taint the criminal investigation into the award of an $82 million courthouse contract.

The two people with knowledge of the incident said Domenici and Wilson intervened in mid-October, when Wilson was in a competitive re-election campaign that she won by 875 votes out of nearly 211,000 cast.

David Iglesias, who stepped down as U.S. attorney in New Mexico on Wednesday, told McClatchy Newspapers that he believed the Bush administration fired him Dec. 7 because he resisted the pressure to rush an indictment.

According to the two individuals, Domenici and Wilson called to press Iglesias for details of the case.


Not 88% Empty; 12% Full

Quit being so pessimistic, America!

Nearly 90 percent of Army National Guard units in the United States are rated "not ready" -- largely as a result of shortfalls in billions of dollars' worth of equipment -- jeopardizing their capability to respond to crises at home and abroad, according to a congressional commission that released a preliminary report yesterday on the state of U.S. military reserve forces.

The report found that heavy deployments of the National Guard and reserves since 2001 for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other anti-terrorism missions have deepened shortages, forced the cobbling together of units and hurt recruiting.


National Guard units deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have been required to leave large quantities of gear in the combat zone. Partly as a result, 88 percent of Guard units in the United States are now so poorly equipped that they are rated "not ready," according to Guard data and the report, which cited the National Guard Bureau chief, Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum.

Thank the gods our nation doesn't require their services to help recover from disasters such as, say, hurricanes and tornados!


This Will Not Go Well

A major sweep in a militant slum
. What could possibly go wrong?
US and Iraqi troops will soon launch a major sweep in the Shi'ite militia bastion of Sadr City, military officials said today.

American-led forces have conducted targeted raids in the Mehdi Army militia stronghold of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr aimed at death squad leaders, but have so far held off from a concerted push into the teeming slum.

In the new campaign, US and Iraqi troops will set up joint checkpoints in Sadr City and conduct large-scale door-to-door operations on houses and buildings, a significant escalation in a plan regarded as the last chance to avert sectarian civil war.


Suing the Corps of Engineers

New Orleans is keeping its foot in the door, hoping to get some recompense for the criminal neglect of the levee system:
The city of New Orleans filed a $77 billion damage claim against the Army Corps of Engineers Thursday for flooding that inundated the city when levees failed after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

Under the Federal Tort Act, Thursday was the last day residents could file such a claim against the Corps. The claim is a required step before any lawsuit could be brought to recover damages.

City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields said uncertainty over which federal statute might govern the city's damage claims against the Corps made it "prudent" to file under the tort act "to preserve the city's claim."

The Corps has six months to either accept, settle or reject claims, after which claimants will be free to sue the federal government to recover damages.

Hat tip to Ruth of cabdrollery fame.


Man on Dog on Fox

FishbowlDC has learned that former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) has signed on to be a contributor to Fox News Channel.


North Dakota Is Going to Hell

Permitting non-married couples to live together legally! For shame:
The North Dakota Legislature voted Thursday to repeal a centuries old law that bans men and women from living together without being married.

Under the provision, which has passed the both the state House and state Senate, living together “openly and notoriously” while unwed would no longer be considered a sex crime.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Zora's Back!

She's back (with her pretty blue bandage!)! And unfortunately, she smells like vet, so the boys are quite distressed - they're running around the house hissing at everything, including each other (but not necessarily including Zora). Gramsci's far more upset about all the hissing than Zora is.


No Money, No Equipment, No Input

Sucks to be in the Guard and Reserves these days:
The National Guard and Reserves don't get enough money or equipment and are left out of important planning for national emergencies, an independent panel concluded Thursday, long after the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina exposed serious stresses on the services.


So Much for Dirty "Clean Coal" Deals

Eight out of eleven coal plants officially dead in the water:
TXU Corp. said Thursday it has suspended efforts to get permits to build eight coal-fired plants in Texas, a condition of the electric utility's proposed $32 billion sale to private buyers.

TXU said it filed a motion to end proceedings for seven plants that were being challenged in hearings before a state agency. The company said it also dropped plans for an eighth plant that wasn't part of the case.


Zora is Home!!


Further update (and picture - it's almost catblogging time, after all) will follow, once she has vacated my lap and I can move again. Not that I mind!


Ain't That America

More grand news
from the heartland:
Undercut with mine shafts and buried under bleak, gray mountains of lead waste, this Oklahoma town is in the middle of one of the nation's worst environmental nightmares.

Cave-ins and sinkholes have swallowed up homes and children. The creek runs a ghastly orange with acidic mine water. And the air and soil are polluted with lead dust.
Dust from mountains of lead-contaminated chat, or mine waste, blows through town. The chat piles, some 100 feet high, look like gray sand dunes. Before the dangers of lead were understood, locals used to hold parties on the piles, and kids used them as sledding hills.

High lead levels have been found in the blood of local children. Lead can lead to low IQs and behavioral problems. But no studies have been done on the effects of the lead on the youngsters around here.

Last year, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study found more than 100 homes in Picher were in danger of collapsing into old mines. A mine collapse in 1967 took in nine homes, said John Sparkman, a Picher native and executive director of the town's housing authority.

Sinkholes are so common that Picher's city park, one of the last green, open spaces here, was fenced off to the public for fear the ground would cave in, and the main highway leading into town has been closed to heavy trucks.

"We've had people drive dirt bikes into them. People have been injured sledding down chat piles. Kids have fallen into mine shafts," Sparkman said. "Luckily no one's been killed yet. They are just like warning shots being fired and telling us, `Let's wake up and smell the coffee."'



Prince Pickles might be endearing, but this is not:
Japan's nationalist prime minister denied Thursday that the country's military forced women into sexual slavery during World War II, casting doubt on a past government apology and jeopardizing a fragile detente with his Asian neighbors.

The comments by Shinzo Abe, a member of a group of lawmakers pushing to roll back a 1993 apology to the sex slaves, were his clearest statement as prime minister on military brothels known in Japan as ``comfort stations.''

Historians say some 200,000 women - mostly from Korea and China - served in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. Many victims say they were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops.

But Abe, who since taking office in September has promoted patriotism in Japan's schools and a more assertive foreign policy, told reporters there was no proof the women were forced into prostitution.

``The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion,'' Abe said.


A Boom Industry

Nothing like using prisoners as slave labor to replace illegal immigrants. It's the American Way:
Ever since passing what its Legislature promoted as the nation's toughest laws against illegal immigration last summer, Colorado has struggled with a labor shortage as migrants fled the state. This week, officials announced a novel solution: Use convicts as farmworkers.

The Department of Corrections hopes to launch a pilot program this month - thought to be the first of its kind - that would contract with more than a dozen farms to provide inmates who will pick melons, onions and peppers.

Crops were left to spoil in the fields after the passage of legislation that required state identification to get government services and allowed police to check suspects' immigration status.

"The reason this [program] started is to make sure the agricultural industry wouldn't go out of business," state Rep. Dorothy Butcher said. Her district includes Pueblo, near the farmland where the inmates will work.

Prisoners who are a low security risk may choose to work in the fields, earning 60 cents a day. They also are eligible for small bonuses.


That's Entertainment

It's always fun when stupid, racist organizations implode:
A behind-the-scenes power struggle over control of the Minuteman Project spilled into an Orange County courtroom Monday with ousted co-founder Jim Gilchrist asking a judge to give him back control of the citizen border patrol group.

Superior Court Judge Randell L. Wilkinson said he would issue a ruling within a few days.

Gilchrist, 58, a national figure in the fight against illegal immigration, was removed as president of the Minuteman Project this month by its board of directors, which accused him of abusing his power and leaving more than $400,000 of the organization's money unaccounted for.

Gilchrist, a retired accountant from Aliso Viejo, denied the allegations but said the controversy "could very well bring an end to the entire Minuteman Project. There are groups around the country with the name, but we are the most well known and the most powerful."


Voting with Their Feet

The number of soldiers turning their backs on Bush's War has grown to five a day:
Though the US Department of Defense does not keep figures on such cases, a strong indication of their frequency is the number who receive "Chapter 11" discharges through Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and Fort Knox, Kentucky, the main processing centers for those who go missing overseas and turn themselves in, or are arrested, back home. Between October 2002 and September 2005, the two made an annual average of 1,546 such discharges. Last year the number grew to 1,988, or more than five per day.



In Iraq, that is. Not for the Iraqi people, nor for our troops.

But Big Oil is sitting pretty:
US President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney might as well declare the Iraq war over and out. As far as they - and the humongous energy interests they defend - are concerned, only now is the mission really accomplished. More than half a trillion dollars spent and perhaps half a million Iraqis killed have come down to this.

On Monday, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's cabinet in Baghdad approved the draft of the new Iraqi oil law. The government regards it as "a major national project". The key point of the law is that Iraq's immense oil wealth (115 billion barrels of proven reserves, third in the world after Saudi Arabia and Iran) will be under the iron rule of a fuzzy "Federal Oil and Gas Council" boasting "a panel of oil experts from inside and outside Iraq". That is, nothing less than predominantly US Big Oil executives.

The law represents no less than institutionalized raping and pillaging of Iraq's oil wealth. It represents the death knell of nationalized (from 1972 to 1975) Iraqi resources, now replaced by production sharing agreements (PSAs) - which translate into savage privatization and monster profit rates of up to 75% for (basically US) Big Oil. Sixty-five of Iraq's roughly 80 oilfields already known will be offered for Big Oil to exploit. As if this were not enough, the law reduces in practice the role of Baghdad to a minimum.


War on Terror Creates Terror

Well done, Bush:
Innocent people across the world are now paying the price of the "Iraq effect", with the loss of hundreds of lives directly linked to the invasion and occupation by American and British forces.

An authoritative US study of terrorist attacks after the invasion in 2003 contradicts the repeated denials of George Bush and Tony Blair that the war is not to blame for an upsurge in fundamentalist violence worldwide. The research is said to be the first to attempt to measure the "Iraq effect" on global terrorism. It found that the number killed in jihadist attacks around the world has risen dramatically since the Iraq war began in March 2003. The study compared the period between 11 September 2001 and the invasion of Iraq with the period since the invasion. The count - excluding the Arab-Israel conflict - shows the number of deaths due to terrorism rose from 729 to 5,420.


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

1,000 Suicide Bombers

Heating up in northern Afghanistan
Steeling for a spring offensive, the Taleban said today they had sent 1,000 suicide bombers to relatively quiet northern Afghanistan, a day after a suicide blast targeted Vice President Dick Cheney.

The United States and some NATO nations, led by Britain, are pouring troops in to battle the offensive and to try to crush the insurgents in what analysts say is the crunch year for both sides after the bloodiest 12 months since the Taleban fell in 2001.

At least 23 people, including an American soldier and a South Korean serviceman, died in Tuesday's suicide car bombing at the main US base in Afghanistan, Bagram, 60 km north of Kabul in an area that has seen little violence since 2001.

"We reacted in a very short span of time to attack the base," Taleban commander Mullah Hayatullah Khan said.


Education, Higher

Ah, capitalism in the heartland:

A middle school principal was charged with dealing crystal methamphetamine after police found the drug in his school office in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

John Acerra, 50, of Allentown was arrested in his office at Nitschmann Middle School in Bethlehem on Tuesday, where police said they found meth on his desk.

There was no indication that Acerra sold the drug to students, but Acerra did allegedly sell the drug from his school office after hours and on weekends, said Dennis Mihalopoulos, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.


India's Missing Girls

India's making the same mistake as is China:
A preference for boys, who carry on the family bloodline and inherit wealth, has always existed in Indian society. But what has made being a girl so risky now, is the lethal cocktail of new money mixed with medical technology that makes it possible to tell the sex of a baby while it is still in the womb.

Although gender-based abortion is illegal, parents are choosing to abort female foetuses in such large numbers that experts estimate India has lost 10 million girls in the past two decades. In the 12 years since selective abortion was outlawed, only one doctor has been convicted of carrying out the crime.

This hidden tragedy surfaces not only in the statistics of skewed sex ratios, but also in the back yards of clinics that hoped to bury the evidence. Earlier this month police arrested two people after the discovery of 400 pieces of bones believed to be of female foetuses in the town of Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh. Last September, the remains of dozens of babies were exhumed from a pit outside an abortion clinic in Punjab. According to investigators, that clinic was run by an untrained, unqualified retired soldier and his wife. To dispose of the evidence, acid was use to melt the flesh and then the bones were hammered to smithereens.

Last year, in a series of reports entitled Kokh Me Katl, or Murder in the Womb, two journalists working for India's Sahara Samay television channel found 100 doctors, in both private and government hospitals, who were prepared to perform illegal terminations of girl foetuses. In the grainy TV pictures, doctors from four states and 36 cities talked with chilling casualness about how to dump the remains. Many weren't bothered about the foetus's age, just that it was a girl that could be got rid off. The average cost of the procedure was a few thousand rupees (around £30).

In Agra, one doctor told the reporters to get rid of the dead foetus in the Yamuna river, which curves past the Taj Mahal. "That is not a problem. Take a rickshaw and throw it in the river," he said. In Dholpur, a town in Rajasthan, a female medic said the fields were pitted with the unmarked graves of unborn girls. She told the undercover couple that if their foetus was too big to easily be disposed of, they should pay a street sweeper to get rid of the body.


Vietnam Redux

We're heading for an unwelcome replay of past defeat:
An elite team of officers advising the US commander, General David Petraeus, in Baghdad has concluded that they have six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.


Can't Argue with This Logic


A former Canadian defense minister is demanding governments worldwide disclose and use secret alien technologies obtained in alleged UFO crashes to stem climate change, a local paper said Wednesday.

"I would like to see what (alien) technology there might be that could eliminate the burning of fossil fuels within a generation ... that could be a way to save our planet," Paul Hellyer, 83, told the Ottawa Citizen.

Alien spacecrafts would have traveled vast distances to reach Earth, and so must be equipped with advanced propulsion systems or used exceptional fuels, he told the newspaper.

Such alien technologies could offer humanity alternatives to fossil fuels, he said, pointing to the enigmatic 1947 incident in Roswell, New Mexico -- which has become a shrine for UFO believers -- as an example of alien contact.

"We need to persuade governments to come clean on what they know. Some of us suspect they know quite a lot, and it might be enough to save our planet if applied quickly enough," he said.


Shut Up and Suffer

The Army's response to the negative reports about Walter Reed is utterly disgusting:

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.


Flipping, Flopping, Floundering

It's the Bush way:
The Bush administration gave up one of the central tenets of its Middle East strategy yesterday, reversing its much criticised effort to isolate Iran and Syria by inviting both states to negotiations on stabilising Iraq.


The proposed meeting was widely seen as an attempt to neutralise criticism of George Bush's strategy on the war - most notably his refusal to open talks with Tehran and Damascus.

The Bush administration has been under growing pressure for such a move since last December and accept the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group for direct talks with Iran and Syria.

Now an approximation of such talks could take place within weeks.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Bush cutting more funding from AIDS groups. Because they (gasp!) distribute condoms to sex workers:
A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Bush administration can deny funding to nonprofit AIDS groups that don't publicly disavow prostitution and sex trafficking.

Overturning a lower court's decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said that the AIDS groups' free speech rights would not be violated if the money was linked to a pledge to uphold government policy.

At issue is the case of DKT International Inc., which provides family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention programs in 11 countries.

The group has refused to sign a pledge to oppose the policies because it helps distribute condoms to prostitutes and other sex workers in Vietnam.


"A Bit Absurd"

How is it that this is apparent to all but those in charge?
The engineer stood aside as Iraqi and American soldiers rifled through his daughter's wardrobe and peered under her bed. He did not mind when they confiscated the second clip for his AK-47, because he knew it could be easily replaced. He demurred when asked about insurgent activity in the neighborhood, afraid to be stamped an informant and driven from his home of 14 years. Face to face with the Baghdad security plan, it seemed to him a bit absurd.

"Obviously, the soldiers lack the necessary information about where to look and who to look for," said the government engineer, who declined to give his name in an interview during a sweep through his western Baghdad neighborhood last Monday. "There are too many houses and too many hide-outs."


Target Rich

I'd never be one to advocate the assassination of our VP, of course. But these guys would:
A suicide attack at an Afghan air base where US vice-president Dick Cheney was staying shows that the Taliban and al-Qaeda have penetrated local intelligence agencies, analysts and officials said.

The blast early on Tuesday at Bagram air base near Kabul also highlights the increasing sophistication of the extremist outfits as they prepare for a feared spring offensive against Western troops, they said.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Zora Is Not A Happy Zora Tonight

I just got back from the kitty hospital where she has to spend the night - she needs an IV, among other things, and since we don't know what's wrong with her yet, she'll be under observation. (We're hoping she doesn't have pancreatitis again.) So if you're so inclined, send some healing thoughts over her way.

A Classic Zora picture for good measure.

UPDATE from ror: I just picked her up from the emergency vet. Her fever is down and her nausea has reportedly subsided. She's back home for the moment and will be going to see our regular vet when he opens.

UPDATE II from miriam: Unfortunately she's going to have to spend a second night at the vet's. No clear word on what's wrong; her pancreatic enzyme test was low, so it may be pancreatitis, but the definitive test can only be done at the lab at Texas A&M, evidently. Everything else tested normal. So, continued vet stay, continued IV feeding, continued observation, and hope she's feeling better tomorrow.

UPDATE III from miriam: And another night at the vet's. I really, really want her to get better soon. I hate to think of her in one of those little vet boarding cages, hooked up to IVs and miserable. The vet seemed to think she'd be well enough to go home tomorrow. Here's hoping.



First I've heard of this. Absolutely reprehensible that the Army would go to such lengths to avoid the truth of what happened to this soldier:

She was LaVena Johnson, private first class, and she died near Balad, Iraq, on July 19, 2005, just eight days shy of her twentieth birthday. She was the first woman soldier from Missouri to die while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The tragedy of her story begins there.

An Army representative initially told LaVena's father, Dr. John Johnson, that his daughter died of "died of self-inflicted, noncombat injuries" and initially added it was not a suicide -- in other words, an accidental death caused by LaVena herself. The subsequent Army investigation reversed this finding and declared LaVena's death a suicide, a finding refuted by the soldier's family. In an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dr. Johnson pointed to indications that his daughter had endured a physical struggle before she died -- two loose front teeth, a "busted lip" that had to be reconstructed by the funeral home -- suggesting that "someone might have punched her in the mouth."


Reporter Matt Sczesny spoke with LaVena's father and examined documents and photos sent by Army investigators. So far from supporting the claim that LaVena died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the documents provided elements of another scenario altogether:

  • Indications of physical abuse that went unremarked by the autopsy
  • The absence of psychological indicators of suicidal thoughts; indeed, testimony that LaVena was happy and healthy prior to her death
  • Indications, via residue tests, that LaVena may not even have handled the weapon that killed her
  • A blood trail outside the tent where Lavena's body was found
  • Indications that someone attenpted to set LaVena's body on fire.


Immigrant Veteran Held for 18 Months

"Travesty" is too tame a word for this:
For a year and a half, Luis Mejia, a U.S. Army veteran and permanent resident for nearly two decades, was held by immigration officials who were trying to deport him to Honduras, his native country.

Mejia, 33, whose mother and 5-year-old daughter are U.S. citizens, was detained two years ago in Miami after immigration agents at the airport discovered his criminal record. In 2001, Mejia had pleaded guilty to an assault charge for his part in a fight outside of a bar in Norwalk and received a one-year suspended sentence.

During his detainment at three facilities - in Florida, Texas and Arizona - Mejia said he was treated worse than a criminal, contracted tuberculosis and attempted suicide before being released last month.

"The whole thing was a nightmare," said Mejia, who now lives in Stamford with his cousin's family, who is helping him get back on his feet. "Everything I had, I lost. Even right now, I'm having trouble getting my life back together."

"Most people don't believe I was detained," he added. "I didn't think it could happen to me."
"What makes his case special is Luis is a veteran and so he has taken an oath to fight for this country," said Raja Jorjani, an attorney with the project who represented Mejia when he was transferred to Arizona. "This is someone who definitely paid lots of dues and has been an asset for this country."

"The government never had enough proof to detain and deport Luis, so in that sense, he was wrongfully detained," Jorjani added. "And the fact that it was so prolonged was absolutely wrong."


Bush Funding al-Qaeda

Sadly, this doesn't surprise me even the least little bit. If there is a way to screw up and make a bad situation worse, you can rest assured that Bush's administration will find it:

New Yorker columnist Sy Hersh says the “single most explosive” element of his latest article involves an effort by the Bush administration to stem the growth of Shiite influence in the Middle East (specifically the Iranian government and Hezbollah in Lebanon) by funding violent Sunni groups.

Hersh says the U.S. has been “pumping money, a great deal of money, without congressional authority, without any congressional oversight” for covert operations in the Middle East where it wants to “stop the Shiite spread or the Shiite influence.” Hersh says these funds have ended up in the hands of “three Sunni jihadist groups” who are “connected to al Qaeda” but “want to take on Hezbollah.”

Hersh summed up his scoop in stark terms: “We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same people that did 9/11.”


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Still Not Supporting the Troops

The lack of mental health care in the military is appalling:
Many Iraq war soldiers, veterans and their families are not getting needed psychological help because a stressed military's mental health system is overwhelmed and understaffed, a task force of psychologists found.

The panel's 67-page report calls for the immediate strengthening of the military mental health system. It cites a 40 percent vacancy rate in active duty psychologists in the Army and Navy, resources diverted from family counselors and a weak transition for veterans leaving the military.


The Vagaries of History

Sharpton's ancestors were owned by Strom Thurmond's:
In a revelation that will stun the nation, the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of America's most powerful black leaders, has unearthed a shattering family secret - his ancestors were slaves owned by relatives of the late South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond.

It is an ironic twist of fate that inexorably links one of the most vocal civil rights activists and an icon of Deep South segregation.

A team of some of the country's most trusted genealogists spent two weeks examining Sharpton's family background.

Sharpton learned the results of their work this week. Today, in the first part of a Daily News series, Sharpton talks about the emotional shock of learning how his family was so closely linked to a man who embodied everything he despises.

The Rev. Al Sharpton sat silently in the sanctity of his Manhattan radio studio as his family's roots were laid bare before him.

With each revelation, the feeling of disbelief grew. His lips drew thin and his face tightened as the findings, projected onto a beige wall, brought home the enormity of the moment.


Schools Have the Right and the Duty to Teach

Sorry about that, homophobic bigots:
A federal judge in Boston has dismissed a suit by two families who wanted to stop a Massachusetts town and its public school system from teaching their children about gay marriage, court documents show.

The families last year filed the suit asserting that the reading of a gay-themed book and handing out to elementary school students of other children's books that discussed homosexuality without first notifying parents was a violation of their religious rights.

Federal Judge Mark Wolf ruled on Friday that public schools are "entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy."

"Diversity is a hallmark of our nation. It is increasingly evident that our diversity includes differences in sexual orientation," he said.

He said the courts had decided in other cases that parents' rights to exercise their religious beliefs were not violated when their children were exposed to contrary ideas in school.


And Yet More Death

They've hit a college now:
A suicide bomber struck Sunday outside a college campus in Baghdad, killing at least 31 people and injuring dozens as a string of other blasts and rocket attacks left bloodshed around the city.

Most of the victims near the College of Business Administration and Economics were students, police said. At least 42 people were injured.


American Indifference

More evidence that we just really don't give a shit about the massive destruction that the Bushies have wrought upon Iraq. Most Americans can't even be bothered to know the extent of it, much less work to stop it:


Americans are keenly aware of how many U.S. forces have lost their lives in Iraq, according to a new AP-Ipsos poll. But they woefully underestimate the number of Iraqi civilians who have been killed…

Among those polled for the AP survey…the median estimate of Iraqi deaths was 9,890.


As many as 654,965 more Iraqis may have died since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003 than would have been expected under pre-war conditions, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.


Iran Enters the Space Age

I imagine this development will only serve to make Bush all the more twitchy:
Iran has successfully fired its first rocket into space, Iranian state television has announced.

It gave few details about the rocket or its range, but said that it had carried cargo intended for research.

Iran already has a civilian satellite programme but so far has relied on Russia to put its satellite into orbit.

The launch - if confirmed - comes at a time of mounting tension between Tehran and the West over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

"The first space rocket has been successfully launched into space," Iranian TV said.

It quoted the head of Iran's aerospace research centre, Mohsen Bahrami, as saying that "the rocket was carrying material intended for research created by the ministries of science and defence".


We Love Our Deadly Toys

Forty-six countries agreed Friday to push for a global treaty banning cluster bombs, a move activists hope will force the superpowers that oppose the effort — the U.S., China and Russia — to abandon the weapons.

Organizers said the declaration was needed despite the absence of key nations at a conference in the Norwegian capital to avoid a potential humanitarian disaster posed by unexploded cluster munitions.

Cluster bomblets are packed by the hundreds into artillery shells, bombs or missiles which scatter them over vast areas, with some failing to explode immediately. The unexploded bomblets can then lie dormant for years after conflicts end until they are disturbed, often by children attracted by their small size and bright colors.


Bingo and Limos

It's good to know that the Department of Homeland Security is spending its money so wisely:
In 2005, Kentucky won a $36,300 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to protect bingo halls from terrorist infiltration, and last year, the federal government granted $46,908 in homeland security funds to protect a limo and bus service that transports New Yorkers to the affluent Hamptons region in Long Island.



Is there any branch of the government that the Bushites won't politicize? The dismissal of attorney after attorney by Gonzales is a travesty:

An eighth U.S. attorney announced her resignation yesterday, the latest in a wave of forced departures of federal prosecutors who have clashed with the Justice Department over the death penalty and other issues.

Margaret Chiara, the 63-year-old U.S. attorney in Grand Rapids, Mich., told her staff that she was leaving her post after more than five years, officials said. Sources familiar with the case confirmed that she was among a larger group of prosecutors who were first asked to resign Dec. 7.


The firings have been criticized by lawmakers in both parties and have prompted proposals in Congress to restrict the ability of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to appoint interim prosecutors indefinitely.


U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell, the chief judge in Michigan's Western District, said in an interview yesterday that Chiara has an excellent reputation in Grand Rapids.

"This is a very classy, distinguished, highly regarded public servant," said Bell, who was appointed to the bench during the Reagan administration. "She's one of the best United States attorneys we've had in this district, and all of my colleagues agree. . . . To have her suddenly disappear without warning catches us all flat-footed."


Yet More Death

At least 39. Sunni infighting. Very bad.
A suicide truck bomber sent a deadly storm of metal, stone and jagged plaster through worshippers leaving a Sunni mosque Saturday, killing at least 39 in a possible sign of escalating internal Sunni battles between insurgents and those who oppose them.