Friday, February 01, 2008


Sure, the scientists involved here include plenty of caveats and conditions, but still, this seems profoundly irresponsible:
Swiss AIDS experts said Thursday that some people with HIV who meet strict conditions and are under treatment can safely have unprotected sex with non-infected partners.

The proposal astonished AIDS researchers in Europe and North America who have long argued that safe sex with a condom is the single most effective way of preventing the spread of the disease - apart from abstinence.



This is exactly the sort of man who should not be running a school:
A Florida student has taken her school to federal court in defense of her First Amendment rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of Heather Gillman and an unnamed classmate, filed Gillman v. Holmes County School District in federal court on Thursday, seeking an injunction against Ponce de Leon High School. Gillman has accused the school of retaliating against her, her lesbian classmate, and others who rallied behind said classmate after she was harassed by other students over her sexual orientation.

Students say that instead of addressing the harassment itself, Principal David Davis personally targeted and questioned students showing pro-gay sentiment, claiming they were part of a "secret organization." Davis is said to have actively suppressed speech, such as rainbow-themed insignias and pro-gay statements on clothing, on the grounds that such expressions were disruptive. Part of Davis' course of action was a five-day suspension of Gillman and her unnamed classmate, which was upheld by the school board. Davis was said to have personally admonished Gillman's unnamed classmate, in particular, for her homosexuality, and called homosexuality "against the Bible" in front of at least one other student.


A Match Made in Hell

If true, this is yet one more reason to avoid a certain "news" channel:
ICN hears that Karl Rove will join Fox News Channel as a contributor and will likely be used throughout Super Tuesday coverage…


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Collateral Damage

Bush's wars are driving more and more soldiers to suicide:
As many as 121 Army soldiers committed suicide in 2007, a jump of some 20 percent over the year before, officials said Thursday.

The rise comes despite numerous efforts to improve the mental health of a force stressed by a longer-than-expected war in Iraq and the most deadly year yet in the now six-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.


Free Pass

The Corps of Engineers is off the hook for Katrina:
A federal judge threw out a key class-action lawsuit Wednesday against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over flooding from a levee breach after Hurricane Katrina.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval ruled that the Corps should be held immune over the failure of a wall on the 17th Street Canal that caused much of the flooding of New Orleans in August 2005.

The suit led to 350,000 separate claims by businesses, government entities and residents, totaling billions of dollars in damages against the agency.

The fate of many of those claims was pinned to that lawsuit and a similar one filed over flooding from a navigation channel in St. Bernard Parish. It was unclear how many claims could still move forward.

The ruling relies on the Flood Control Act of 1928, which made the federal government immune when flood control projects like levees break.


The Case of Obscene v. Satisfactory

Winner: Obscene:

Shell was today accused of making "obscene" profits at a time when pensioners, motorists and industry are struggling with higher energy prices when it unveiled annual earnings of $27.6bn (£13.9bn).

The oil major has made British corporate history with the record figures, which are equivalent to more than £1.5m an hour and come at the end of a three month period when crude prices have averaged over $90 a barrel.

Jeroen van der Veer, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, described the performance as "satisfactory" and admitted that overall production for the year had actually dropped 2%.


The War on Choice, Cont'd

I've already mentioned the fact that Kansans are using the law to harass this doctor.

They are not relenting in their persecution:
One of the nation's few late-term abortion doctors was ordered Wednesday to turn over about 2,000 patient medical records to a Kansas grand jury investigating his practice.

Abortion opponents hope that the records will lead to further criminal charges against Dr. George Tiller, who already is facing 19 misdemeanor counts stemming from late-second and third-trimester abortions at his clinic in Wichita.

Tiller's lawyers say he scrupulously follows the law. They plan to ask the Kansas Supreme Court to overturn a state district court judge's ruling that Tiller begin handing over files as early as today.

"It's an unprecedented encroachment upon a woman's right to privacy," attorney Dan Monnat said.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008


More good news:

HOME foreclosures spiked across the United States during 2007 leaving more than 1 per cent of all households in danger of losing their homes, an industry report shows.

RealtyTrac, a California-based research company, said 2.2 million foreclosure filings were issued by banks and lenders during 2007, marking a 75 per cent increase compared with the prior year.

The percentage of American households in foreclosure almost doubled from 0.58 per cent in 2006, signaling the slump in the US housing market has yet to abate.


About Time

Australia set to apologize to the stolen generations:

Australia's government said Wednesday it would formally apologize to the so-called "stolen generations" next month, as the first item of business of the new Parliament.

The issue has divided Australians for decades, and an apology would be a crucial step toward righting injustices many blame for the marginalized existence of Australia's original inhabitants — its poorest and most deprived citizens.

UPDATE: Of course, they will inevitably hedge their bets:

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said the final wording had not yet been decided, but the apology would be made on behalf of the Government without attributing guilt to the current generation of Australians.

Aboriginal activists are planning to protest outside Parliament House as the apology is delivered, despite the decision by Rudd to lift a national "sorry" to the head of the new Labor Government's packed agenda.

He will also face criticism from the Liberal Opposition - which is itself divided over the apology so long refused by former Leader John Howard - and increasingly strident calls for financial compensation.

Indigenous groups have also called for lifetime free private health and medical care for victims of the Stolen Generations of Aborigines, taken from their families as children and raised in white society, often as domestic menials. And the wording of the apology will be crucial to its acceptance, with many indigenous groups demanding that it extend beyond the Stolen Generations to embrace the much broader sufferings of indigenous Australia since European occupation.


Alas, He's Out

The most progressive major candidate has withdrawn:
Democrat John Edwards bowed out of the race for the White House on Wednesday, saying it was time to step aside "so that history can blaze its path" in a campaign now left to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

"With our convictions and a little backbone we will take back the White House in November," said Edwards, ending his second campaign in a hurricane-ravaged section of New Orleans where he began it more than a year ago.

(Minor addendum: That authoritarian GOP freak from NYC is also quitting.)


Bush Ignores Congress Again

, but true:
President Bush yesterday signed the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after initially rejecting Congress’s first version because it would have allegedly opened the Iraqi government to “expensive lawsuits.”

Even though he forced Congress to change its original bill, Bush’s signature yesterday came with a little-noticed signing statement, claiming that provisions in the law “could inhibit the President’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations.” CQ reports on the provisions Bush plans to disregard:

One such provision sets up a commission to probe contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another expands protections for whistleblowers who work for government contractors. A third requires that U.S. intelligence agencies promptly respond to congressional requests for documents. And a fourth bars funding for permanent bases in Iraq and for any action that exercises U.S. control over Iraq’s oil money.

In his “Memorandum of Justification” for the waiver, Bush cited his Nov. 26 “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship” between Iraq and the United States. This agreement has been aggressively opposed by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress as not only unprecedented, but also potentially unconstitutional because it was enacted without the agreement of the legislation branch.

Today on CNN, Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) voiced concern that this declaration may indefinitely commit U.S. troops to fighting Iraq’s civil wars:

Involved in those declaration of principles, there is an implicit potential for the United States military forces, years from now, being involved in a full-blown civil war in Iraq. And I don’t believe that’s where the American people want us and I don’t think that’s in the best interest of our national security.


Throughout his presidency, Bush has issued more than 151 signing statements challenging 1149 provisions of laws.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Number 16

Well done
, Arizona:
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) is telling the Bush administration that the state does not want $1 million in federal funding for abstinence-only education because the programs don't work.

The move makes Arizona the 16th state to reject the federal money.

A raft of studies have shown that abstinence only programs in schools have done nothing to reduce teen sex and can actually harm LGBT students. The most recent was released in November. (story)


Bush Lies Again...

People will die, again:
President Bush in his final State of the Union address called for an additional $30 billion over the next five years to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa - an amount AIDS activists say is less than he has already pledged and far less than what is needed.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) was critical for the lack of any mention of domestic HIV/AIDS spending in the State of the Union.

"Even more incomprehensible, President Bush has flat-lined funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative and our domestic HIV/AIDS programs, even as data shows communities of color are increasingly bearing the brunt of the disease," said Lee.

"Over 188,000 African-Americans were living with AIDS at the end of 2005, representing 44 percent of all cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."


As the T-Shirt Says...

"Fixed Everything My Ass!"

The Federal Emergency Management Agency manipulated scientific research in order to play down the danger posed by formaldehyde in trailers issued to hurricane victims, according to an investigation by congressional Democrats released Monday.

FEMA "ignored, hid and manipulated government research on the potential impact of long-term exposure to formaldehyde" on Katrina and Rita victims now living in FEMA trailers, Democrats on a House Science and Technology subcommittee wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. FEMA is part of the Homeland Security Department.

In a separate letter, lawmakers said the federal health agency that provided guidance to FEMA was "complicit in giving FEMA precisely what they wanted."


Running Scared

It's what cowards do, after all:
Following protests from students, former presidential adviser Karl Rove has withdrawn as this year's commencement speaker at a prestigious prep school, the school's headmaster said Monday.

The choice of Rove as speaker for the June commencement at Choate Rosemary Hall had led some students to plan to walk out of the ceremony. Others had sought to bring comedian Stephen Colbert to campus for an alternate speech.


Monday, January 28, 2008

The "Watching Rorschach Watch the SotU" Drinking Game

Sure, lots of people have SotU drinking games. But how many can fuel a full drinking game by watching someone else watch the SotU?


...curses Bush: 1 sip, or else you will get ripped in no time flat

...curses audience for applauding: 1 sip – ditto

...curses current presidential candidates, for standing/clapping: 1 sip

...pounds floor in anger: 2 sips enraged at what one can only call “rhetoric as usual”: 1 sip

...asks rhetorical questions suggesting that perhaps he has not understood that Bush sold his soul to the devil years ago, is evil, and in fact has been evil for years: 2 sips

...inhales so sharply you initially suspect a heart attack: 2 sips

...has same bitter, angry expression on face as Condi Rice: 1 shot


Sunday, January 27, 2008

New Orleans

I don't quite know what do with it all, still.

Just look at what Miriam has to show, and do what you can.


Still Waiting

At least one man
won't be jumping up to applaud Bush's every inane and disingenuous statement tomorrow night:
As President George W. Bush gives his State of the Union speech Monday, there will be one man in the audience who plans to sit quietly and watch, his very presence a form of protest.

Joseph Libretti, 51, is sick. He has been diagnosed with chronic lung disease since volunteering after Sept. 11, 2001, to cut through steel to remove bodies from the gritty, smoking pile of detritus of the World Trade Center. Now, too weak to return to his job as an ironworker, he mostly keeps close to his Pennsylvania home.


Our Man in Indonesia

Once again, the U.S. demonstrates its absolute, unrepentant willingness to use brutal dictators to extend its own geopolitical power:
President Bush offered his "condolences" on Sunday on the death of Suharto, a Cold War ally whose 32 years of brutal rule saw up to a million political opponents killed.

Cameron Hume, the U.S. ambassador in Jakarta, said Suharto was a close ally who led his country through a period of "remarkable" development.

"Though there may be some controversy over his legacy, President Suharto was a historic figure who left a lasting imprint on Indonesia and the region," Hume said.

Others were less forgiving.

"General Suharto has died in bed and not in jail, escaping justice for his numerous crimes in East Timor and throughout the Indonesian archipelago," said the rights group East Timor Action Network.

The bulk of killings occurred in 1965-1966 when alleged communists were rounded up and slain during his rise to power. Estimates for the death toll range from a government figure of 78,000 to 1 million cited by U.S. historians Barbara Harff and Ted Robert Gurr, who have published books on Indonesia's history.


"The former president was also a controversial figure in respect of human rights and East Timor and many have disagreed with his approach," (Australian PM Rudd] added.

More than 180,000 people died due to killings, disappearances, hunger and illness during Indonesia's 1975-1999 occupation of East Timor.


Unintended Consequences

The successes of Indian rights movements in Mexico have left women marginalized still:
Women in this Indian village high in the pine-clad mountains of Oaxaca rise each morning at 4 a.m. to gather firewood, grind corn, prepare the day's food, care for the children and clean the house.

ut they aren't allowed to vote in local elections, because — the men say — they don't do enough work.

It was here, in a village that has struggled for centuries to preserve its Zapotec traditions, that Eufrosina Cruz, 27, decided to become the first woman to run for mayor — despite the fact that women aren't allowed to attend town assemblies, much less run for office.

The all-male town board tore up ballots cast in her favor in the Nov. 4 election, arguing that as a woman, she wasn't a "citizen" of the town. "That is the custom here, that only the citizens vote, not the women," said Valeriano Lopez, the town's deputy mayor.

Rather than give up, Cruz has launched the first serious, national-level challenge to traditional Indian forms of government, known as "use and customs," which were given full legal status in Mexico six years ago in response to Indian rights movements sweeping across Latin America.

"For me, it's more like 'abuse and customs,'" Cruz said as she submitted her complaint in December to the National Human Rights Commission. "I am demanding that we, the women of the mountains, have the right to decide our lives, to vote and run for office, because the constitution says we have these rights."


In Mexico, many local governance rules date to before the Spanish conquest and weren't given national legal recognition until a 2001 Indian rights reform was enacted in the wake of the Zapatista rebel uprising in Chiapas.

The law states that Indian townships may "apply their own normative systems ... as long as they obey the general principles of the Constitution and respect the rights of individuals, human rights, and particularly the dignity and well-being of women."

Despite this specific protection, about a fourth of the Indian villages operating under the law don't let women vote, putting human rights groups in a dilemma: Most actively supported recognition for Indian governance systems, and few have therefore taken up the women's cause.


Very Classy

Calling Obama a "radical Muslim." Nice:
Three federal employees are being investigated for unlawful political activities after they allegedly sent an e-mail falsely accusing Barack Obama of being a "radical Muslim," the Globe has learned.

he US Office of Special Counsel - the independent federal agency responsible for enforcing a law banning civil service workers from engaging in political activism while performing their official duties - has launched investigations of two employees at one agency and one employee at another agency. All three are believed to have forwarded the erroneous chain e-mail about Obama from their government e-mail accounts.

Doing so would be a violation of the Hatch Act, a 1939 law designed to help protect career government employees and the government workforce from the influence of partisan politics. The act bans civil servants from taking "any active part" in political campaigns while on the job.

If a special oversight board finds the three employees in violation of the act, punishment could range from suspension from work without pay to termination from their jobs and disqualification from any future government employment.