Saturday, March 24, 2007

Another Bloody Day

47 dead. How's that crackdown going?
A suicide bomber driving a truck with explosives hidden under bricks destroyed a police station Saturday in Baghdad — the largest in a series of insurgent strikes against the American-led security crackdown. At least 47 people died in the attacks, including 20 at the police station.


India Reaps the Boons of Global Capitalism

A wealth of brown smoke:

India’s entrance into world markets has meant bigger profits for multinational corporations and cheaper shirts and software for Western consumers.

It is also helping to brew a dark stew of air pollution that may bring widespread drought and hunger to South Asia.

Mile-and-a-half-thick “atmospheric brown clouds” composed of sulfates, nitrates and old-fashioned soot now blanket most of the subcontinent and the northern Indian Ocean from October to May each year.

Visible from space and from Earth as a dull haze, the clouds choke off precipitation by shading and cooling the ocean, while retaining moisture rather than releasing it as rain.

Most ominously, says an international team of scientists led by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.N. Environment Program, the brown clouds may weaken the offshore weather system that brings monsoon rains to South Asia.

These scientists’ models project that droughts in the region could go from the current two to three years per decade up to six or more years per decade, imperiling the food supply of almost 2 billion people.


Life in Texas Is Worth $500

Another brilliant idea
is produced by the Texas Legislature's 80th Regular Session:
A Texas legislator has proposed that pregnant women considering abortion be offered $500 not to end their pregnancies.

Republican State Sen. Dan Patrick, who also is a conservative radio talk show host, said on Friday the money might convince the women to go ahead and have babies, then give them up for adoption.

He said during a legislative conference in New Braunfels, 45 miles south of Austin, there were 75,000 abortions in Texas last year.

"If this incentive would give pause and change the mind of 5 percent of those woman, that's 3,000 lives. That's almost as many people as we've lost in Iraq," Patrick said.


Vatican Intervenes in Mexico

Seems as though Ratzi is feeling a little desperate, as abortion edges toward legalization:
The Vatican's top anti-abortion campaigner kicked off the Roman Catholic Church's aggressive campaign against plans to legalize abortion in Mexico Friday.

Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo inaugurated an international anti-abortion conference by giving a Mass at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the most important Catholic shrine in the Americas.

The campaign pushes the limit of Mexico's constitutional ban on political activity by religious groups. It is also drawing President Felipe Calderon, a conservative who opposes abortion, into a showdown with leftists spearheading the bills to legalize abortion.

While the church has always been against abortion, the Vatican especially does not want to lose its anti-abortion fight in Mexico, which has the second-largest Catholic population in Latin America.

"In the name of Jesus Christ and his Gospel, we ask, we implore they do not approve an unjust and bloody law that kills the innocent," said the Rev. Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City.


Standing Up for the Liar

One of the few things Bush is good at is standing up at the wrong time for the wrong people:
Bush is standing firmly behind his embattled attorney general despite Justice Department documents that show Alberto Gonzales was more involved in the decisions to fire U.S. attorneys than he previously indicated.

Gonzales said last week he was not involved in any discussions about the impending dismissals of federal prosecutors. On Friday night, however, the department disclosed Gonzales' participation in a Nov. 27 meeting where such plans were discussed.

That e-mail only added to the calls for Gonzales' ouster.


More Work Trying to Fix the TYC

It's another good step:
The records of most inmates in Texas' scandal-rocked juvenile prison system will be reviewed to determine whether their sentences were unfairly extended, an official investigating the system said Friday.

Time has been added to the sentences of about 90 percent of Texas Youth Commission inmates, commission special master Jay Kimbrough said. Inmates' families and advocates claim that prison officials often extended sentences for capricious reasons or in retaliation for filing grievances.

"I have no confidence in the integrity of that entire system," Kimbrough said as he announced the probe Friday.

A panel of community activists, prosecutors and juvenile prison officials will review the records on each inmate's sentencing extension and make a suggestions to a retired judge who will decide whether the inmate should be immediately released, Kimbrough said.


Colleges Kicking the Baptists to the Curb

Hardly surprising that the policies of the Baptist Church work scare off the best and the brightest.

Smart move:
Five colleges and universities affiliated with the Baptist State Convention are preparing to leave, saying they restrictive rules of the denomination are preventing them from attracting the best students and faculty.

The convention voted last year to ban gay-friendly churches and several universities in the South have been dropped over gay inclusion.

Campbell University, Chowan University, Gardner-Webb University, Mars Hill College and Wingate University also say they want the freedom to pick trustees from other denominations and other states.


Closing the Gulag?

Not because it is an atrocity, but because it's embarrassing and ineffective.

Whatever works to get it closed, I suppose:

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is questioning whether the CIA's secret prison program - which he fears has become a black eye to the United States - should continue.

The review led by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., comes as the Bush administration deliberates an executive order, called for by Congress, that will establish new guidelines for the CIA's system for detaining and interrogating suspected terrorists. It is the agency's most publicly controversial intelligence collection program.

Rockefeller says there is no doubt that intelligence from detainees has been valuable. Yet he says he wonders whether the CIA needed to create a system outside of long-standing FBI and military interrogation programs.

Rockefeller's spokeswoman, Wendy Morigi, said he has not been convinced that the CIA prisons produce better intelligence than the FBI and military systems.

"The real question is whether the administration's decision to pursue an alternate system (at the CIA) was the right approach," Rockefeller said in a statement Friday.


"The widespread reports about secret prisons and torture, whether accurate or not, have damaged the United States' reputation around the world and hindered counterterrorism efforts with our allies," he said.


Plus c'est la meme chose, plus ça change

This all seems very familiar:
Russia's next parliament is likely to have no genuine opposition after a court in Moscow yesterday banned a leading liberal party from standing in elections.

Russia's supreme court announced that it had liquidated the small Republican party, claiming that it had violated electoral law by having too few members. The party is one of very few left in Russia that criticises President Vladimir Putin.

The move against Russia's opposition came as pro-democracy activists prepared for the latest in a series of anti-government rallies that have infuriated Russia's hardline authorities.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Perhaps the Least Evil Thing Bush Has Done

Sad to say:
The three Democrats on the Federal Election Commission revealed yesterday that they strongly believe President Bush exceeded legal spending limits during the 2004 presidential contest and that his campaign owes the government $40 million.


Caption Suggestions?


More Brilliant Health Policy

Charge college students more for birth control.

Sheer genius:
Millions of college students are suddenly facing sharply higher prices for birth control, prompting concerns among health officials that some will shift to less preferred contraceptives or stop using them altogether.

Prices for oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, are doubling and tripling at student health centers, the result of a complex change in the Medicaid rebate law that essentially ends an incentive for drug companies to provide deep discounts to colleges.

"It's a tremendous problem for our students because not every student has a platinum card," said Hugh Jessop, executive director of the health center at Indiana University.

There, he said, women are paying about $22 per month for prescriptions that cost $10 a few months ago. "Some of our students have two jobs, have children," Jessop said. "To increase this by 100 percent or more overnight, which is what happened, is a huge shock to them and to their system."

At some schools women could see prices rise several hundred dollars per year.


Boots off the Ground

A Marine unit has been kicked out of Afghanistan:
Marines accused of shooting and killing civilians after a suicide bombing in Afghanistan are under U.S. investigation, and their entire unit has been ordered to leave the country early, officials said Friday.


Whistleblowing at Los Alamos

More Bush administration ineptitude about to be revealed?
A group of current and former employees at the site office managing the contract for Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is asking Congress to investigate health, safety, security and management problems, according to a government watchdog group.

It is unclear how many employees are asking for the investigation because they are not publicly revealing their involvement.

"Due to fear of retaliation by the Department of Energy management, we are sending you an anonymous letter and requesting that Congress initiate an investigation into mismanagement at the Los Alamos Site Office of the Department of Energy," according to an undated letter to Congress widely distributed Wednesday by the Project On Government Oversight.



Let's just hope this is a snafu that can be resolved quickly:
Iranian naval vessels today seized 15 British sailors and marines who had boarded a merchant ship in Iraqi waters of the Persian Gulf, British and U.S. officials said. Britain immediately protested the detentions, which come at a time of high tension between the West and Iran.

In London, the British government summoned the Iranian ambassador to the Foreign Office: "He was left in no doubt that we want them back," Britain's Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said after the meeting.

The U.S. Navy, which operates off the Iraqi coast along with British forces, said the British sailors appeared unharmed and that Iran's Revolutionary Guard naval forces were responsible.



It's passed the House:
The House narrowly passed a $124 billion spending bill Friday that sets an Aug. 31, 2008 date for withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq, but only after nearly a month of lobbying by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to convince enough of their party's members to go along.


It's Friday, Therefore Zora!

And her tests show she does not have diabetes, so while we're not sure where the pancreatitis came from, it does mean that she is otherwise healthy!

And, of course, clean.


This Has to Have the Bushies Sweating a Bit

What "substantial assistance" has Abramoff provided, and about what scandal?
Federal prosecutors took the first steps toward reducing the prison sentence of former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, currently scheduled for release in 2011 for a Florida fraud conviction.

Documents filed in federal court say Abramoff has provided ``substantial assistance'' in a separate Washington corruption scandal investigation and continues to work with investigators from his prison cell in Cumberland, Md.


Gates Wanted to Close Gitmo

But you can imagine how well that notion went over with the junta:
Soon after becoming defense secretary, Robert Gates argued the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be closed because the international community would view any trials there as tainted, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

Instead, Gates, who became Pentagon chief in December, argued that terrorism suspects should be tried in the United States to make the proceedings more credible, the Times said.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and others argued against bringing detainees into the United States, and the discussion ended when President George W. Bush agreed with them, the newspaper quoted administration officials as saying.


A Novel Approach

Germans have devised a new way of reducing greenhouse gases:
According to scientific estimates, the methane gas produced by cows is responsible for 4% of greenhouse gas emissions. And now, German scientists have invented a pill to cut bovine burping.

"Our aim is to increase the wellbeing of the cow, to reduce the greenhouse gases produced and to increase agricultural production all at once," said Winfried Drochner, professor of animal nutrition, who has led the ground-breaking project at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart. "It is an effective way of fighting global warming."

Prof Drochner wants to use the pill to trap some of the energy from the methane, which is naturally produced in the fermentation process when a cow digests grass and is later mostly burped out through their mouths. Until now it has been wasted.

"We could use the energy to boost the cow's metabolism," he said. The idea is that the cows would use the methane to produce glucose instead of passing it as wind. In turn this should help them to produce more milk.

"The fist-sized tablets mean that microbiotic substances can slowly dissolve in the cow's stomach over several months," said Prof Drochner.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Completely Foreseeable Trouble on the Northern Border

Turkey is preparing to attack the Kurds in Iraq:
The US is scrambling to head off a "disastrous" Turkish military intervention in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq that threatens to derail the Baghdad security surge and open up a third front in the battle to save Iraq from disintegration.


Scientists Call for Common Sense

In Britain, a bit of agitation for a realistic classification of drugs by the harm they cause:
Some of Britain's leading drug experts demand today that the government's classification regime be scrapped and replaced by one that more honestly reflects the harm caused by alcohol and tobacco. They say the current ABC system is "arbitrary" and not based on evidence.

The scientists, including members of the government's top advisory committee on drug classification, have produced a rigorous assessment of the social and individual harm caused by 20 substances, and believe this should form the basis of any future ranking.

By their analysis, alcohol and tobacco are rated as more dangerous than cannabis, LSD and ecstasy.


The Perils of Illiteracy

Hilarious. DeLay denies words from the book he supposedly wrote:
Appearing on Hardball with Chris Matthews to promote his new book, No Retreat, No Surrender, it's clear former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) didn't write it and perhaps never even read it before it was published.

Matthews asked DeLay about passages in his book where described former Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX) as "drunk with ambition." Amazingly, DeLay denied writing that, even after Matthews showed him the underlined passage in his own book.


First Come the Lies, Then Comes the Intimidation

Typical GOP thuggishness:
A Justice Department official threatened to take the "gloves off" and "retaliate" against the eight United States attorneys who were abruptly removed from their posts if they continued to speak publicly about the circumstances behind their dismissals, according to an email released late Monday sent to the fired prosecutors by one of their colleagues.

The email, a portion of which had been discussed during a Senate judiciary hearing two weeks ago, was written by H.E. "Bud" Cummins on February 20 and sent to US Attorneys Dan Bogden, John McKay, Carol Lam, David Iglesias and Paul Charlton immediately after Cummins had a somewhat heated exchange with Mike Elston, a top aide to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, about comments Cummins had made that were published in the Washington Post on February 18.


Problem: A Politicized EPA

Bush solution: Downsize the auditors that might catch EPA shenanigans!
Without waiting for congressional approval, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is moving this month to significantly downsize its Office of Inspector General (IG), according to agency memos released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The cutbacks will reduce the ability of the IG to audit Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contracting, investigate EPA enforcement actions and review allegations of political manipulation of agency science.


Both Senate and House Approve Subpoenas

More bad news for Rove and Gonzales:
Senators joined the House on Thursday in approving subpoenas to force President Bush's political adviser and other aides to testify about the firings of federal prosecutors, setting off new efforts to avoid a dragged-out court fight.


Bush Killing Africans

I reported on the travesty that is Bush's policy regarding AIDS in Africa a year and a half ago. And the fears unfortunately were all warranted:
The Bush administration undermines its vaunted AIDS efforts in Africa by tying aid dollars to contracts for American firms, and barring funds to groups that deal with sex workers - a primary vector of the disease. Such political-religious restrictions have led to the growth of epidemics centered among sex workers, and a critical shortage of condoms in Uganda - a country that was once touted as an AIDS success story but is now on a backward slide.


"Purity Balls"

Once again, conservative Christians manage to come up with an idea that is simultaneously creepy and hilarious:

It's Friday night, and teenage girls are full of excitement as they primp for a dance at the local Holiday Inn. But for this group of girls in Sioux Falls, S.D., the night's dream date is not a teenage boy.

"I'm going with my dad instead of a boyfriend," explains 15-year-old Angela Merkle.

She and her two sisters are about to be escorted by their father to what's called a Purity Ball.

The event shares all the hallmarks of a wedding: Vows are exchanged, a white cake is served and there is even a first dance. But at the beginning of the event instead of fathers giving away their daughters' hand, they're holding on tight.

The event's purpose is to celebrate father-daughter bonding, but the main focus of the evening is for the fathers and daughters to exchange pledges in an elaborate ceremony. Fathers vow to protect the girls' chastity until they marry, and the daughters promise to remain abstinent.


Radioactive Racism

Once again, Native Americans suffer the legacy of America's nuclear programs:

Two Hopi villages and their wells lie in the path of a radioactive plume of water

A plume of radioactive water is moving toward two Hopi villages, threatening to contaminate wells and spring-fed drinking water for about 1,000 residents.

Nothing has been done to contain or remove the waste.

Hydrologists, geochemists and consultants have said the radioactive waste appears to have been taken from a Cold War-era uranium milling site near Tuba City and buried at a public dump 1 mile east of the communities.


More Neglect of Veterans Alleged

It just gets worse and worse:

Reports of a rising death rate and rooms spattered with blood, urine and feces at the Armed Forces Retirement Home prompted the Pentagon yesterday to begin investigating conditions at the veterans facility in Northwest Washington.

The Government Accountability Office warned the Pentagon this week that residents of the home "may be at risk" in light of allegations of severe health-care problems. Residents have been admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center with "the most serious type of pressure sores" and, in one case, with maggots in a wound, according to a GAO letter sent to the Defense Department.


No More Ideas

They're apparently too expensive:
In almost 20 years of research, it has been the home of some of the most daring ideas to aid exploration: space elevators, crops that could grow on Mars and a shield to protect our planet from global warming. But now Nasa's Institute for Advanced Concepts (Niac) has fallen victim to a very down-to-earth problem - a lack of money.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007


The crackdown, it would seem, is driving insurgents to embrace sickening tactics such as this:
US commanders in Baghdad said yesterday that they were investigating an incident in which two children appeared to be used as decoys to get past an American checkpoint in a car that was then blown up with the pair still inside.

The attack, which was reported to have happened last weekend in the mainly Sunni neighbourhood of Adhamiya, killed the children and three bystanders. It comes amid concern that insurgents are adopting headline-grabbing tactics to counter the Baghdad security offensive.

If confirmed, the incident is thought to be the first time children have been used in such a way in a suicide bombing in Iraq.


One More Reason Not to Vote McCain

He's pledged to continue the longstanding arrogant policy of meddling in the domestic affairs of South American nations:
Republican presidential candidate John McCain warned on Wednesday against the spread of socialism in Latin America and pledged to give the region renewed U.S. attention if elected.

Appearing in Little Havana, McCain carefully avoided criticism of President Bush but said the Iraq war ``has diverted attention from our hemisphere and we have paid a penalty for that'' in the form of a growing leftism embodied by leaders Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia.


Pringles Are Not the Work of Satan

Given how tasty they are, it's hard to believe (gratuitous cute photo thanks to spinoza):
Procter & Gamble Co. has won a jury award of $19.25 million in a civil lawsuit filed against four former Amway distributors accused of spreading false rumors linking the company to Satanism to advance their own business.

The U.S. District Court jury in Salt Lake City on Friday found in favor of the Cincinnati-based consumer products company in a lawsuit filed by P&G in 1995. It was one of several the company brought over rumors alleging a link with the company's logo and Satanism.

Rumors had begun circulating as early as 1981 that the company's logo — a bearded, crescent man-in-moon looking over a field of 13 stars — was a symbol of Satanism.

The company alleged that Amway Corp. distributors revived those rumors in 1995, using a voice mail system to tell thousands of customers that part of Procter & Gamble profits went to satanic cults.
P&G is the world's largest consumer products company. Its products include Pampers diapers, Tide detergent, Pringles chips and Folgers coffee.


Mugabe on the Way Out?

Here's hoping:
The US envoy to Zimbabwe has said he believes opposition to President Robert Mugabe has reached a turning point.

Ambassador Christopher Dell said Zimbabweans were "losing their fear" despite the violence carried out against them by the security forces.

He added that there was discontent with Mr Mugabe's rule within the ruling party, the military and the police.

The government has been conducting a crackdown that has included arresting and beating opposition leaders.

Mr Dell said Mr Mugabe had used violence and intimidation to stay in power for 27 years.

"What I think we have seen in the last week is that people have turned a corner," he added.

"They're not afraid any more."

Mr Dell said the violence directed against Zimbabweans was causing a split in the security forces.

He said rank-and-file police officers were increasingly reluctant to carry out such attacks.

The US envoy said this could prompt other leaders in the region to change their attitude towards President Mugabe.

"I think a lot of eyes have been opened in the region in the last couple of weeks and so what we are witnessing is perhaps the beginning of a change on the part of the African neighbours of Zimbabwe as well."


The Global War on the Indigenous

Masquerading as the "War on Terror" and/or the "War on Drugs," of course:
"(Indigenous) communities are on the brink of destruction, of dispersal," Stavenhagen said. "Not enough is being done to protect their rights."

The Mexican sociologist said he feared commercial and political pressures, including attempts by some governments to block indigenous land-rights claims, were "weakening these communities to such an extent that they can no longer survive".

There are about a quarter of a billion indigenous people. They make up some four percent of the world's population, but their numbers are shrinking as many assimilate into popular culture.

Such populations have also come under pressure in Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines and large swathes of Latin America as a result of the expansion of mining, oil exploration and other extractive activities, Stavenhagen said.

He cited reports from Chile, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico that said government forces were applying anti-terrorism laws that would allow leaders of indigenous groups seeking to make claims on the state to be detained.

"Anti-terrorist legislation provides some countries with an alibi to persecute," he said, citing recent arrests of Mapuche tribal leaders in Chile.

Indigenous communities along the Colombia-Ecuador border have also suffered health problems and struggle to find food because of fumigation operations against illegal drugs, he said.


Drug-Resistant TB

Among the more frightening phrases around:
The spread of a particularly virulent form of tuberculosis in South Africa illustrates a breakdown in the global program that is supposed to keep the disease, one of the world’s deadliest, under control.

The program was intended to detect tuberculosis cases, make sure patients were taking their antibiotics, test patients for resistance to those drugs and monitor the spread of the disease.

But international tuberculosis experts say the system is in deep trouble for an array of reasons: misuse of antibiotics; other bad medical practices, like failing to segregate high-risk patients in hospitals and clinics; and cuts in government spending for such basics as adequate supplies of drugs and laboratories to do the testing.

Such factors have led to the rise of drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria, a menace the world has only begun to appreciate.


Shot Up, Drugged Up, Dead

More unpleasant truths about how this administration "supports the troops":
The poor conditions uncovered at Walter Reed Army Hospital may be only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sub-standard treatment of veterans. At the Veterans Administration hospital in West Los Angeles, hospital administrators confirmed to NEWSWEEK and NBC News last week that five veterans there died of overdoses of illegal and prescription drugs in less than three months this winter. After learning that family and friends of a dead Iraq War veteran were about to go public, VA administrators ordered major policy changes at the 660-bed facility.

Toxicology reports and multiple investigations are still pending, and Dr. Dean Norman, chief of staff of the hospital, says that details of the five overdose deaths vary by case. But veterans treated at the hospital say that lax supervision of prescription drugs was a serious problem, particularly in the domiciliary, the dorm-like residential halls the VA uses to help veterans make the transition to life outside the hospital. “They were handing the meds out like candy,” said Joe Romo, a member of the local AMVETS post.


Subpoenas Handed Down

Bush's tantrum did him no good
, it would seem:
A House panel on Wednesday defied the White House and authorized subpoenas for President Bush’s political adviser, Karl Rove and other top aides, setting up a constitutional showdown over the firings of eight federal prosecutors.

By voice vote and without objection, the House Judiciary subcommittee on commercial and administrative law decided to compel the president’s top aides to testify publicly and under oath about their roles in the firings.

The White House has refused to budge in the controversy, standing by embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and insisting that the firings were appropriate. White House spokesman Tony Snow said that in offering aides to talk to the committees privately, Bush had sought to avoid the “media spectacle” that would result from public hearings with Rove and others at the witness table.


Keep 'Em Alive

That is precisely what the Dems can and should do these next two years:

Investigate, investigate, investigate. That's one of key tools given to Democrats since they won back the Congress. And thus far they are using it to impressive effect.

Because of slim majorities, internal discord and Presidential Bush's veto pen, Democrats are unlikely to pass many major pieces of legislation in the next two years. But they can sure make the Bush Administration's life unpleasant. To paraphrase Jesse Jackson, they can keep scandals alive. From Walter Reed to pre-war fabrications to global warming to less glamorous subjects, like the FCC and FDA, the new Congress is performing much-needed oversight.


Poland: Strike Two

First they fail to provide access to abortion, and now they're planning to try to turn the entire EU against gay rights? And banning discussions of homosexuality will, I am sure, eradicate queerness entirely. Yes.

Good luck with that:
The Polish government is to ban discussions on homosexuality in schools and educational institutions across the country, with teachers facing the sack, fines or imprisonment.

Poland's education minister, Roman Giertych, has said he hopes to introduce a similar ban across the entire EU.

Mr Giertych, the leader of the ultra-conservative League of Polish Families, a junior coalition partner in the government of prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said the aim of the proposed law would be to "prohibit the promotion of homosexuality and other deviance".


Fitzgerald: Undistinguished

I'm sure they'd judge him rather more harshly if they had it to do over again:

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald was ranked among prosecutors who had "not distinguished themselves" on a Justice Department chart sent to the White House in March 2005, when he was in the midst of leading the CIA leak investigation that resulted in the perjury conviction of a vice presidential aide, administration officials said yesterday.

The ranking placed Fitzgerald below "strong U.S. Attorneys . . . who exhibited loyalty" to the administration but above "weak U.S. Attorneys who . . . chafed against Administration initiatives, etc.," according to Justice documents.


Poland Censured

A good outcome for women's rights in Europe:
The European court of human rights ruled yesterday that Poland was failing to guarantee access to lawful abortions in a test case hailed as a victory for women across Europe and a blow to the deeply conservative government in Warsaw.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Little Good News

American crocodiles
are coming back:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declassified the American crocodile as an endangered species Tuesday, saying the animal has rebounded from the edge of extinction.


Dems: Push It to a Showdown!

This little prick doesn't get to warn you about anything anymore, Dems. Show him that his petty dictatorship is at an end, I beg you:
A defiant Bush warned Democrats Tuesday to accept his offer to have top aides speak about the firings of federal prosecutors only privately and not under oath, or risk a constitutional showdown from which he would not back down.


A Demand for International Corporate Justice

Which will, of course, go nowhere. But it's good at least to see someone standing up and demanding that justice be done in the face of gross capitalist malfeasance:
Colombia's chief prosecutor said Tuesday he will demand the extradition of eight people employed by Chiquita allegedly involved with the company's payments to right-wing paramilitaries and leftist rebels to protect its banana-growing operation.

The prosecutor also said his office had opened a formal investigation into allegations that Alabama-based coal producer Drummond Co. Inc. collaborated with paramilitaries to kill union members. A civil lawsuit in the U.S. makes similar allegations, which the company has denied.


Another Frank Booth Moment

Don't you fucking look at me!

President George W. Bush Tuesday vowed to resist any attempt by Congress to compel testimony under oath by top aides in a row over fired prosecutors, warning against a "partisan fishing expedition."

"I will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials," Bush said in a statement from the White House.

The administration earlier agreed to let key figures in the drama like Bush's key political advisor Karl Rove meet congressional investigators, but not to testify under oath.

But Bush vowed "we will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition."


Hilarious Idiocy

Oh, thank you Mitt Romney, for giving me a laugh today:
Cubans in Miami are steaming mad at former Gov. Mitt Romney for shooting his mouth off in stumbling Spanish, mispronouncing names and erroneously associating a notorious Fidel Castro-spewed Communist catch phrase with freedom fighters.
Politicians in South Florida have lashed out at the former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential hopeful for describing the socialist saying “Patria o muerte, venceremos” as “inspiring” and for claimingthe phrase was swiped from liberty-seeking Cubans by leftist admirers of Castro.
The phrase, which means “Fatherland or death, we shall overcome,” was bellowed as a political speech sign-off by the dictator for decades.

At another point in the speech to the Miami-Dade Republican Party, Romney bungled the names of prominent Cuban GOP politicians, referring to Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio as “Mario.”
Romney also garnered criticism for his hard-line stance on immigration and ending the talk with the phrase “Libertad, Libertad, Libertad,” a revolutionary saying made famous in the gangster movie “Scarface,” which many Cubans feel plays on cultural stereotypes.



First they admit that Americans are vulnerable to illness; next, they'll be surrendering to the terrorists because they have the sniffles:
Joined by 22 other members of the Democratic caucus, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has introduced legislation that will provide some degree of paid sick leave for all Americans and force employers to allow workers to take a minimal amount of time off to care for themselves or a sick child.

"As members of Congress, we don't lose our pay or risk our jobs if we stay home because of illness. But millions of our fellow citizens are not so fortunate," said Kennedy, in introducing the legislation late last week. "Every parent knows what it's like to care for a sick child, and every child knows the importance of a parent taking care of them when they are ill. Yet, every day, countless Americans find their paychecks or even their jobs at risk when illness strikes."

The Healthy Families Act (S.910) will provide all American workers who work an average of at least 20 hours per week or 1,000 hours per year, up to seven paid sick days that can be used for "an absence resulting from a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition of the employee."


Bush Administration Wants to Kill Nature

There's really just no other explanation for such an insanely destructive rewriting of federal law (and one they're trying to get away with without any vote or chance to appeal):
Tired of losing lawsuits brought by conservation groups, the Bush administration issued a new interpretation of the Endangered Species Act that would allow it to protect plants and animals only in areas where they are struggling to survive, while ignoring places they are healthy or have already died out.

The opinion by U.S. Department of Interior Solicitor David Bernhardt was posted with no formal announcement on the department's Web site on Friday.


But Kieran Suckling, policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, said the new policy was a sophisticated effort by the Bush administration to gut the Endangered species Act by ignoring the loss of species from their historical range, making it easier to deny endangered species listings.

If upheld by the courts, Suckling estimated the new policy would remove 80 percent of the roughly 1,300 species from threatened and endangered lists — because most species have at least one stronghold where they are doing well.

"It's just so clearly illogical and anti-wildlife that I can't wait to get this before a federal judge," Suckling said. "They are rewarding industry for driving populations extinct. Because as soon as you drive a population extinct (in a certain area) it is no longer on the table. It no longer counts toward whether a species is endangered."


Better Living through Science?

The notion that GM mosquitoes might wipe out malaria is tremendously appealing.

But the Law of Unintended Consequences looms large in my mind when I think about this plan:
The multimillion-dollar effort to eradicate one of the world's deadliest diseases received a significant but controversial boost yesterday when scientists announced the creation of genetically modified mosquitoes that cannot pass on malaria.

Trials revealed that the GM mosquitoes could quickly establish themselves in the wild and drive out natural malaria-carrying insects, thereby breaking the route through which humans are infected.

The strategy is likely to prove contentious as it would require the unprecedented release of tens of thousands of GM organisms into the wild. But it has raised hopes among scientists, some of whom believe it may be powerful enough to finally bring under control a disease which strikes 300 million people a year and causes more than 1 million deaths, mostly of children in sub-Saharan Africa.


Tista Just Wants To Say Hello


Making Way for Europe

Bush's utter waste of American prestige has opened the path for other nations to set the course of history. Perhaps not such a bad thing, at this point:
The Bush administration has forfeited legitimacy and credibility in the eyes of most of the world, crippling its capacity to engineer a breakthrough on the gravest problems on the international agenda, a senior German official argues today.

In an unusually robust public critique of US foreign policy, Wolfgang Ischinger, the German ambassador to Britain, says the widespread collapse in confidence in the Bush administration offers Europe an opportunity to step up to the plate, setting a new agenda on the Middle East, global warming, the spread of nuclear weapons and other pressing matters.

Writing in the Guardian, Mr Ischinger, a former ambassador to the US and ex-political director of Germany's foreign ministry, says a "European moment" is needed over the next several months, a period that coincides with Germany's presidency of both the EU and the G8 group of industrialised countries.


Monday, March 19, 2007

There's a "Fresh 'n' Fruity" Joke in Here Somewhere

More absurdity in the heartland:

Just one kiss. That’s all it took — to get thrown out of the IHOP in Grandview.

“It was a kiss I would share with my uncle,” Blair Funk told me. Except it wasn’t her uncle she kissed. It was her honey, Eva Sandoval.

Two young women sharing a kiss didn’t seem inappropriate to the other couple in the restaurant booth that night, Jackie Smith and the woman with whom she shares her life, Toni Smith. But someone watching the scene was offended.

So later, the manager confronted them in the lobby and told them to get out.

The way Blair tells it, “He said, ‘I have to tell you, we’ve had some complaints about public displays of affection, and we’re a family restaurant. We can’t accept it, and we won’t accept it.’

“The way he worded it was like: We don’t accept you.”


You May Say He's a Dreamer

And you'd be right:

Tony Blair faces the prospect of an International Criminal Court investigation for alleged coalition war crimes in Iraq.

The court's chief prosecutor told The Sunday Telegraph that he would be willing to launch an inquiry and could envisage a scenario in which the Prime Minister and American President George W Bush could one day face charges at The Hague.


Ten Years

How, exactly, this is not premeditated murder rather escapes me:

A soldier accused of ordering subordinates to kill three Iraqi detainees should be sentenced to 10 years in prison, a military jury decided Monday.

Staff Sgt. Ray Girouard, who was found guilty Friday of negligent homicide in his court-martial, could have received up to 21 years in prison. He avoided a life sentence when he was found not guilty of premeditated murder.

Girouard was also found guilty of obstruction of justice for lying to investigators, of conspiracy for trying to conceal the crime and of failure to obey a general order.

He was accused of telling his soldiers to release detainees they captured during the May 9 raid near Samarra, Iraq, and then shoot them as they fled. He is the last and most senior soldier from the 101st Airborne Division to face trial in the killings.

The panel also recommended a reduction in his rank, a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of pay, with a recommendation that the money go to his wife and 4-year-old son.

Girouard showed no emotion during the reading of the sentence, but afterward, he hugged his attorney. His family filed out of the courtroom without speaking to him.


Good for Leahy

It's high time that we insist on open hearings, under oath, not settle for back-room confessions:
The Democratic senator leading the inquiry into the dismissal of federal prosecutors insisted Sunday that Karl Rove and other top aides to President Bush must testify publicly and under oath, setting up a confrontation between Congress and the White House, which has said it is unlikely to agree to such a demand.

ome Republicans have suggested that Mr. Rove testify privately, if only to tamp down the political uproar over the inquiry, which centers on whether the White House allowed politics to interfere with law enforcement.

But Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, seemed to rule out such a move on Sunday. He said his committee would vote Thursday on whether to issue subpoenas for Mr. Rove as well as Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel, and William K. Kelley, the deputy White House counsel.

“I do not believe in this ‘We’ll have a private briefing for you where we’ll tell you everything,’ and they don’t,” Mr. Leahy said on “This Week” on ABC, adding: “I want testimony under oath. I am sick and tired of getting half-truths on this.”


Governor Goodhair Is Riding the Gravy Train

He's not even trying to appear ethical any longer:
Gov. Rick Perry's Middle East journey, coming in the middle of a heated legislative session, is being funded by numerous corporations whose interests may be affected by bills passed or rejected by lawmakers.

Perry, his wife, Anita, and two aides to the governor — communications director Eric Bearse and general counsel Brian Newby — left Tuesday and are to return March 21 after visits to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

Spokesman Robert Black said he didn't know yet how much the trip will cost, but that it is being financed through TexasOne, a privately financed program controlled by the governor's office to bring more business to the state.

Some of the biggest contributors to TexasOne — $25,000 to $50,000 a year — include AT&T, Verizon, the Vinson & Elkins law firm, the Associated General Contractors of Texas, CenterPoint Energy, TXU, the BNSF Railway and Williams Brothers Construction Co.

Many do business with the state, represent clients before state agencies and the Legislature or support or oppose specific bills.


Circling the Wagons around Rove

How many times has this administration had to protect Rove?

What percentage of our military budget is spent building wagons to circle? Inquiring minds want to know:
As more Republicans called last week on Alberto R. Gonzales to resign, President Bush's aides began to look beyond the attorney general and focus on preventing the controversy over the firing of federal prosecutors from spreading — and endangering Karl Rove, the president's top political advisor.


Goodbye Gonzales

The countdown apparently has begun:

White House officials on Saturday mulled their strategy in a mushrooming controversy over federal prosecutor firings, after they changed key details in their defense of the dismissals.

The increasingly sharp dispute adds to the headaches in a White House already laboring under the unpopular Iraq war, grim reports of poor health care for veterans, and the conviction of a former top aide in a CIA leak case.

And CBS News late Friday quoted unnamed informed sources as saying that the firing of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales over the controversy was just "a matter of time."



These neocons. I mean, I knew they were hell-bent on dismantling America's social welfare system, but they went the extra mile and starting taking apart our national defenses too! They must get up very early in the morning:
Four years after the invasion of Iraq, the high and growing demand for U.S. troops there and in Afghanistan has left ground forces in the United States short of the training, personnel and equipment that would be vital to fight a major ground conflict elsewhere, senior U.S. military and government officials acknowledge.

More troubling, the officials say, is that it will take years for the Army and Marine Corps to recover from what some officials privately have called a "death spiral," in which the ever more rapid pace of war-zone rotations has consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand.

The risk to the nation is serious and deepening, senior officers warn, because the U.S. military now lacks a large strategic reserve of ground troops ready to respond quickly and decisively to potential foreign crises, whether the internal collapse of Pakistan, a conflict with Iran or an outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

She's Back!

I confess myself pleasantly surprised by this development.

Faced with a choice between CNN and Fox for front row seats, the White House took both of them and gave Helen Thomas the boot.

Now, she's got her seat back... and at Fox's expense!


Pro-Confederate Flag Types Are Such Delicate Flowers

When artist John Sims sees the Confederate flag, he sees "visual terrorism," and a symbol of a racist past. When Robert Hurst sees the flag, he is filled with pride as the descendant of a soldier who fought for the South during the Civil War.

Their differences have flared into a war of words, catching a local museum in the middle.

Hurst walked into the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science this past week and saw an exhibit by Sims, including a Confederate flag hung from a noose on a 13-foot gallows in a display titled "The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag."

Hurst asked the museum to remove the display, along with 13 other pieces by Sims.


Performance-Related Issues

Right. Fire McKay for "performance-related issues" and then suggest as his replacement... a man who can't actually practice law.

Those firings weren't political at all

Former Republican congressman Rick White, one of three candidates the Republicans have submitted to replace John McKay as U.S. attorney for Western Washington, cannot practice law in the state.

White's license was suspended by the state Supreme Court in August 2003 for failure to pay his bar dues. He was reinstated to the bar in 2005 after paying a small fee, but currently holds an "inactive" status.

White said late Friday that he was working toward reactivating his status as an attorney in the state of Washington. He said he needs to complete about "20 to 30 hours" of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) before he can reclaim his license.

"I understand I'm in a bad position," he said.


McKay is one of eight U.S. attorneys fired by the Justice Department late last year for "performance-related issues." Accusations that the firings were politically motivated have resulted in congressional hearings.