Saturday, December 04, 2004

Time to Slap Texas Again

Of all the things to be sloppy about, capital punishment seems to me to be among the worst (along with, say, the invasion of another nation). Finally, the Supreme Court is agreeing with me consistently on this point:

In the past year, the Supreme Court has heard three appeals from inmates on death row in Texas, and in each case the prosecutors and the lower courts suffered stinging reversals.

In a case to be argued on Monday, the court appears poised to deliver another rebuke.

Lawyers for a Texas death row inmate, Thomas Miller-El, will appear before the justices for the second time in two years. To legal experts, the Supreme Court's decision to hear his case yet again is a sign of its growing impatience with two of the courts that handle death penalty cases from Texas: its highest criminal court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans.

Perhaps as telling is the exasperated language in decisions this year from a Supreme Court that includes no categorical opponent of the death penalty. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in June that the Fifth Circuit was "paying lip service to principles" of appellate law in issuing death penalty rulings with "no foundation in the decisions of this court."

In an unsigned decision in another case last month, the Supreme Court said the Court of Criminal Appeals "relied on a test we never countenanced and now have unequivocally rejected." The decision was made without hearing argument, a move that ordinarily signals that the error in the decision under review was glaring.


The Next Generation

capitol banter has posted a striking image of just how beloved American troops are in Iraq:


The Un-Embedded View

Dahr Jamail tells a very anti-hegemonic story as one of the very few un-embedded journalists in Iraq. You should read the whole thing, but here's a small sample:
Baghdad remains in shambles 19 months into this illegal occupation. Bombed buildings sit as insulting reminders of unbroken promises of reconstruction.

Bullet ridden mosques with blood stained carpets inside where worshippers, unarmed, have been slaughtered by soldiers.

Entire families living on the street. 70% unemployment with no hope of this changing. Chaotic, clogged streets of Baghdad and 5 mile long petrol lines in this oil rich country.

Engineers and doctors, unemployed, driving their cars as a taxi to try to feed their families.

The seething anger in the eyes of people on the streets as US patrols rumble past.

Iraqis now cheering when another US patrol or base is attacked. Dancing on the burning US military hardware.

Dead and maimed US soldiers. The wounded screaming and writhing in agony. Their shattered families.

The mass graves of innocent Fallujans after the utter destruction of their city.

Children deformed by Depleted Uranium exposure lying in shattered hospitals, suffering from lack of treatment, or even pain medications.

Dead, rotting bodies in the streets of Fallujah of women and children being eaten by dogs and cats because the military did not allow relief teams into the city for nearly two weeks.


More Propaganda

We are so much better at producing propaganda for the other side than for our own; not the best situation, I have to say:

A U.S. military official says new pictures showing abuse of Iraqi prisoners will be undoubtedly be used to tarnish the entire U.S. military.

Gen. Mark Kimmitt, who is now based at U.S. Central Command's Qatar headquarters after working in Iraq, described the photos Saturday to the al-Jazeera satellite news station as the work of an isolated few.

While in Iraq, Kimmitt was a spokesman for the U.S. military during the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal that erupted in the spring.

"The two scandals confirm the image about the Americans known in the Middle East: That the Americans are not a charity or a humanitarian organization that is leading an experiment of democracy," Sateh Noureddine, managing editor of the Lebanese leftist newspaper As-Safir, told The Associated Press.

"Rather, (the U.S. government) is leading a retaliatory operation following the Sept. 11 attacks."

Some militant Islamist websites have also posted the latest photos.

The new photos showing possible abuse of Iraqi prisoners predate the huge Abu Ghraib scandal.

They involve military personnel who appear to be members of the elite Navy SEALs commando team.


Who Does She Think She Is?

How brazen, demanding that Bush tell the truth about Iraq. Doesn't she know such talk is treasonous?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, fresh from what she called a "very sobering'' one-day trip to Iraq, challenged President Bush on Friday to "tell the American people the truth'' that large numbers of U.S. forces would have to stay in Iraq for several years.

Feinstein was one of four senators who flew to Baghdad and Fallujah on Thursday to meet with American commanders and soldiers and Iraqi leaders. She said the experience of being shuttled around Baghdad by heavily armed guards while wearing an armored vest inside an armored vehicle and flown to and from Fallujah at 100 feet above ground in a Blackhawk helicopter showed that security in the Sunni heartland of Iraq remained a major challenge 1 1/2 years after Saddam Hussein was ousted.

Feinstein, who voted in October 2002 for the resolution authorizing Bush to begin military operations in Iraq, said the president's decision this week to increase U.S. forces in Iraq from 138,000 to 150,000 before the scheduled Jan. 30 Iraqi elections was "long overdue.''

But she said the president must tell the American people that troops would have to stay in Iraq "for a substantial period of time.''

"The rumor in the souk (the marketplace in Iraqi towns) is that we'll start to pull out after the elections," the Democrat said. "I believe the American people have to be told the truth.

"Every military person says it will take two, three or five years at least. It's really true,'' added Feinstein, who was joined on the trip by Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware and Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.


They're on DRUGS!

Okay, we go in and smash up Afghanistan causing a resurgence of opium trade. And now we're going to spread the notion that the anti-American forces in Iraq must be hopped up to do the things they are doing. Based on small amounts of drugs found in Fallujah. Toss one of our barracks, and I bet you find more:

Some suicide bombers who battled U.S. troops in Fallujah were doped up on heroin and speed, the Pentagon's top general said yesterday.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his aides said the suicidal jihadists used the drugs for courage or to motivate them into martyrdom.

Myers said some of the suiciders in Fallujah "are foreign fighters, but not exclusively."

But when asked to account for the fanaticism of some of the fighters, Myers said, "The other thing you need to understand is...the number of drugs found there as well."

A top Pentagon source told the Daily News there were "numerous reports" out of the battle of U.S. soldiers stumbling onto small amounts of drugs and paraphernalia in insurgent safehouses around Fallujah.

"They found heroin and speed," said the senior military official. "They're using it to bolster their courage and get up the nerve and make them braver in the face of what they're getting ready to do."

Asked if young Iraqis were convinced to blow themselves to bits after getting stoned or wired by insurgents, the official replied, "That is the reporting we're seeing."


Friday, December 03, 2004

Still Fighting in Fallujah

Contrary to what you may have heard, it's not over there:
The Christian Science Monitor reports that resistance forces are returning to Falluja even as U.S. forces conduct their final sweeps: "US forces sweep through one neighborhood after another, only to find insurgents popping up in 'cleared' areas." It looks like the U.S. is going to have to burn the whole village to save it.


Dictatorial America

When Putin calls something "dictatorial," he knows whereof he speaks:
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Friday of pursuing a dictatorial foreign policy and said mounting violence could derail progress toward bringing peace and democracy to Iraq.
Unilateralism increased risks that weapons of mass destruction might fall into the hands of terrorists, and would stoke regional conflicts, Putin said in a hard-hitting speech to an invited audience.

"Even if dictatorship is packaged in beautiful pseudo-democratic phraseology, it will not be able to solve systemic problems," Putin said. "It may even make them worse."

Putin did not name the United States, but clearly had the administration of President Bush in mind when he said policies "based on the barrack-room principles of a unipolar world appear to be extremely dangerous."


They Should Have Known Better

Silly BBC. How could they believe such an unlikely story as a corporation taking responsibility for the destruction it has wrought?

The BBC has been tricked into broadcasting a false report that the US company Dow Chemical admitted blame for the Bhopal disaster and set up a massive compensation fund.

BBC World news channel twice screened an interview this morning with a man claiming to be from Dow Chemical but the broadcaster later said it was an "elaborate deception."

The hoax coincides with today's 20th anniversary of the disaster, when the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal unleashed 40 tonnes of lethal gas, killing more than 3,500 in one of the world's worst environmental disasters.


Torture Statements Okay

Obscene injustice continues at Guantanamo:
Evidence gained by torture can be used by the U.S. military in deciding whether to imprison a foreigner indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an enemy combatant, the government concedes.

Statements produced under torture have been inadmissible in U.S. courts for about 70 years. But the U.S. military panels reviewing the detention of 550 foreigners as enemy combatants at the U.S. naval base in Cuba are allowed to use such evidence, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle acknowledged at a U.S. District Court hearing Thursday.

Some of the prisoners have filed lawsuits challenging their detention without charges for up to three years so far. At the hearing, Boyle urged District Judge Richard J. Leon to throw their cases out.

Attorneys for the prisoners argued that some were held solely on evidence gained by torture, which they said violated fundamental fairness and U.S. due process standards. But Boyle argued in a similar hearing Wednesday that the detainees "have no constitutional rights enforceable in this court."

Leon asked whether a detention based solely on evidence gathered by torture would be illegal, because "torture is illegal. We all know that."

Boyle replied that if the military's combatant status review tribunals "determine that evidence of questionable provenance were reliable, nothing in the due process clause (of the Constitution) prohibits them from relying on it."


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Deadly Misinformation

This is grotesque, and probably has a lot to do with the renewed rise in AIDS this year:

Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," a congressional staff analysis has found.

Those and other assertions are examples of the "false, misleading, or distorted information" in the programs' teaching materials, said the analysis, released yesterday, which reviewed the curricula of more than a dozen projects aimed at preventing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.


Let's Send Babies to Iraq

The desperation grows, as the GOP requires more and more bodies:
Nia Salakielu , a 28-year-old former Army sergeant and single mother, left active military duty in April 2003 because she needed to care for her infant son, Noa. Now, the administrative specialist is being recalled for Operation Iraqi Freedom and must report to Fort Jackson, S.C., on Jan. 2 possibly with Noa.

If she doesn't show up, she will be considered absent without leave and could be court-martialed.

''Is America going to step up and watch my child while I'm off fighting for our freedom?'' asked Salakielu, who lives in Clarksville and is studying to be a nurse.

Salakielu said because she is divorced and Noa's father also is on reserve, and the grandparents cannot care for Noa, she has no choice but to take Noa along.


Better Living Through Science

If it has done nothing else, the Iraq War has provided a magnificent testing ground for next-stage crowd control technology:

"It's there, it's ready,'' said Heal, who has felt the weapon's beam and compares it to having a hot iron placed on the skin. "It will likely be in Iraq in the next 12 months. They are very, very close.''

The weapon, mounted on a Humvee vehicle, projects a "focused, speed-of-light millimeter wave energy beam to induce an intolerable heating sensation,'' according to a U.S. Air Force fact sheet. The energy penetrates less than 1/64 of an inch into the skin and the sensation ceases when the target moves out of the beam.

The weapon could be used for crowd control and is effective beyond the range of bullets fired by small arms, Karcher said. The effective range of an AK-47 assault rifle is as far as 273 yards, while an M16A2 rifle has a range of 400 meters.


Worse News

The very day after World AIDS Day, there is this:
AIDS experts yesterday issued chilling warnings that India, China and Russia were on the brink of epidemics to parallel those in Africa.

The virus was “perilously close to a tipping point” where it would explode across the population and spread “like wildfire”. The result would be “tens of millions of infections,” said Peter Piot, executive director of the United Nations agency UNAIDS.

Speaking in Washington on the eve of World Aids Day, Mr Piot said that “no country on Earth will escape the impact” of the economic cost if the virus marched on at its current rate. By 2010, it would reach £8.8 billion a year.

High-risk groups still dominate the Aids problem in Russia and China. But allowing the virus to leapfrog into the wider population as it has elsewhere could swallow up resources for African countries. HIV infections in Africa remain far higher than those in the Asia-Pacific nations. In China, 0.1 percent of people aged 15 to 49 are infected, compared with 7.5 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa.

But that picture could change quickly. Mr Piot recalled that in South Africa the population affected doubled to 1 per cent in five years and then rocketed to 20 per cent in just seven years. India’s infection rate is also relatively low but the number of people infected, at 5.1 million, is second only to South Africa.

Given this information, the United States must contribute more to the global fight against AIDS. Playing politics with anti-AIDS funding is murderous.


Gun Crimes Are AOK

Congress has cut money for fighting gun crimes, while retaining money for such important things as "detaining illegal immigrants":
Congress has eliminated direct financing for a Justice Department program that has been the centerpiece of the Bush administration's efforts to prosecute black-market gun crimes.

The move, which Congressional officials attributed to competing budget priorities, cuts federal grants to local and state law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting crimes committed with guns. It also raises questions about the administration's ability to persuade the Republican-controlled Congress to support its legislative priorities, after Republicans last month blocked an intelligence overhaul backed by the White House.

The administration had sought $45 million for local grants under the gun prosecution program, Project Safe Neighborhoods. That would have represented a sharp increase in grants for a program that President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft have hailed as a critical way to crack down on gun trafficking and gun-related crimes.

"If you use a gun illegally, you will do hard time," Mr. Bush is quoted as saying on the Web site for the neighborhoods program, www.

But in passing a $388 billion spending bill on Nov. 20, Congress erased all the direct money sought for the program. A related program to track and intercept illegal purchases of guns by youngsters, for which the administration sought an additional $106 million, also received nothing in the final spending package, although the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which administers it, received an overall increase of $20 million.

"We didn't specifically set aside any money for the program," a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, John Scofield, said. "But we think we've taken care of the need because we provided $900 million over what the administration asked for in other general assistance for states and locals."

Most of those broader programs are not specifically tied to gun enforcement, but instead provide money for a variety of law enforcement problems like detaining illegal immigrants and gang violence and could be used to supplement gun programs, Mr. Scofield said, adding that the reduction in direct financing for the gun program "is the reality of a lean budget."


Texas Reprieve

Now, those are two words that you don't put together very often:

Frances Newton, 39, was to become the first black woman executed in Texas since the US Civil War ended in 1865.

Newton, convicted in 1987 of killing her husband and two children, was in a holding cell when Texas Governor Rick Perry granted a reprieve.

He said although there was "no evidence of innocence", new tests would be carried out on gunpowder residues.

Newton had refused to take a final meal and was waiting to be taken into the execution chamber when news of her reprieve came through.

She reportedly smiled when told the news, and said: "I'm was hopeful someone would hear us. I'm relieved for my family."


Wednesday, December 01, 2004


After one student was sent home for wearing a pro-gay T-shirt at a school where anti-gay shirts and bumper stickers are common and unremarked, many others rallied to support him. Good for them:
A dozen high school students were disciplined Wednesday after wearing homemade gay-pride T-shirts to school in support of a gay student who is suing the school district for wearing a similar shirt.

The Webb City High School students were given the option of either removing the T-shirts or going home. Seven students walked out while the remainder took off the shirts and remained in class.

"It was their choice," said school superintendent Ron Lankford. "I think our administrators handled it correctly."

The students made the shirts to support of Brad Mathewson. The 16-year-old has filed a federal lawsuit against the school district for disciplining him twice in October for wearing t-shirts supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. He was later suspended after school officials refused to meet with his mother without the Mathewsons’ attorney present.

Although Mathewson had worn one of the shirts to school at least six times before without incident, Principal Stephen P. Gollhofer later claimed he was concerned the t-shirts might offend other students. Students with opposing beliefs on the same issues are allowed to express their views, as anti-gay t-shirts and bumperstickers are common in the hallways at Webb City High School, according to the ACLU which is representing the teen.

The T-shirts made by Mathewson's supports said on the front, "If this shirt offends you, look the other way."


Completely Ass-Backwards

Child goes to school. Child tells another child his mother is gay. Child is told "gay" is a bad word and forced to write "I will never use the word 'gay' in school again." Mother is upset.

Teacher sues mother for defamation:
A lesbian mother who alleges her son was reprimanded and forced to repeatedly write “I will never use the word ‘gay’ in school again” is being sued by the boy's teacher.

Ernest Gallet Elementary School teacher Terry L. Bethea is seeking $50,000 damages for defamation.

Last year Sharon Huff charged that Bethea had scolded her 7 year old son in front of his classmates and sent to a school behavioral clinic for answering another child’s questions about his lesbian mothers. (story)

Huff said the incident began when her son, Marcus McLaurin, was waiting in line to go to recess when a classmate asked him about his mother and father. He responded that he didn’t have a mother and father; instead he has two mothers. When the other child asked why, Marcus told him that it was because his mother is gay. The other child then asked what that meant, and Marcus explained, “Gay is when a girl likes another girl.”

Huff said that Marcus’s teacher scolded him in front of his classmates, telling him that “gay” is a bad word and he should never say it at school, then sent him to the principal’s office instead of letting him go to recess.

The following week the school required Marcus to attend a special behavioral clinic at 6:45 in the morning, where he was forced to repeatedly write “I will never use the word ‘gay’ in school again.”

On a student behavior contract form that Marcus had to fill out and give to his mother about the incident, Marcus wrote that the thing he did wrong was that he “sed bad wurds.”

An investigation carried out by the school board that according to Huff was little more than a whitewash, found that the Bethea had done nothing wrong.

"The child was not singled out because his parent is gay." Easton said the grade two student was disciplined for behavior problems," Superintendent James Easton said. (story)

Huff has threatened to sue the board for discrimination, and is represented by the ACLU.

This week, Bethea moved first, serving Huff with a lawsuit accusing Huff of defaming her..


Anti-Choicers Gathering Their Forces

Here's what looks to be their opening salvo:

Abortion opponents say there is particularly strong support for one of their newest legislative initiatives, the proposed Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which would require women seeking abortions after 20 weeks to be told that Congress has determined that the fetus can feel pain and to be offered pain-relieving medication for it.

"It would be my hope that a number of women, once informed of the pain in the womb that the child will experience, will hopefully say, 'I just don't want to do this,' " said Mr. Brownback, a sponsor of the legislation. "But if they do choose to move forward, at least it's more humane for the child."

Another interesting thing about this article is its depiction of Coburn:
As a result of November's election, the next Senate will have a bigger, more conservative Republican majority and several new opponents of abortion - including some of the most intense abortion foes in politics, like Tom Coburn, a doctor and newly elected senator from Oklahoma, who campaigned as "a committed defender of the sanctity of life in all of its stages."

Interesting how they leave out his calls for the death penalty for people who perform or receive abortions and just describe him in his own terms. Oh, and they could also have delved into his beliefs about where pro-choicers come from:
"The gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power. ... That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think we see the rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners? That's a gay agenda.'" - Tom Coburn, republican US Senate candidate from Oklahama, Oklahoma Gazette.


War on Religion

The right wingers are continuing their war on (some) religions. If you thought that the use of traditional sacraments was protected after the fight over peyote in the seventies, you were wrong. The Bushies are all about Christianity, and pagans can sod off:
The Bush administration on Wednesday won a Supreme Court stay that blocks a New Mexico church from using hallucinogenic tea that the government contends is illegal and potentially dangerous

The government has been in a long-running legal fight with the Brazil-based O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal over hoasca tea, brewed from plants found in the Amazon River Basin.

The church won a preliminary injunction in a lower court, and the Supreme Court was asked to intervene.

Justice Stephen Breyer (news - web sites), acting on behalf of the full court, granted a temporary stay to give both sides time to file more arguments with the court.

"Compliance with the injunction would force the United States to go into violation of an international treaty designed to prevent drug trafficking worldwide, which could have both short- and long-term foreign relations costs and could impair the policing of transnational drug trafficking involving the most dangerous controlled substances," acting Solicitor General Paul Clement wrote in a court filing.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (news - web sites) in Denver found that the church probably has a religious-freedom right to use the tea. The Bush administration plans to appeal, but wants the church barred from using the tea in the meantime.


World AIDS Day

As America fails in the fight worse than we have since Reagan's days of indifference, we must recommit to this fight, both here and abroad. And women's rights are central to this struggle:

In light of sobering statistics showing that women now account for nearly half all people living with HIV or AIDS, health experts and activists from across the globe Wednesday highlighted women's vulnerability as they commemorated World AIDS Day.

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the leading international agency in the fight against the epidemic, said that gender inequalities have resulted in poor education among women, scarce possibilities to practice safe sex, and a lack of access to proper treatment, which in turn have fueled the spread of HIV infections.

"We must put women at the center of the response to AIDS," said UNAIDS executive director Peter Riot at a news conference Wednesday. He said women were "the backbone of society" and they needed to be "empowered" to protect themselves.


Methodists Intent On Purging the Lesbian

They have pretty much sealed her fate:
The presiding judge in the church trial of a Methodist minister who declared she is a lesbian in a committed relationship ruled Wednesday that the cleric's defense could not call witnesses who would challenge the denomination's ban on sexually active gay clergy.

The decision by Joseph Yeakel, the retired bishop of Washington, D.C., will make it harder for the Reverend Irene Elizabeth Stroud to mount a successful defense. After the ruling, Stroud said, "To win a verdict would be an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit. I don't expect that."


Dirty Tricks 2002

I'm sure they didn't pull anything like this in 2004 though:
A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted James Tobin, President Bush's former New England campaign chairman, on four counts related to the jamming of get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002.

State Democrats, who have filed a lawsuit over the jamming, had accused Tobin in October of involvement in the conspiracy. Tobin, 44, stepped down Oct. 15, but released a statement calling the allegations "without merit."

The 2002 jamming consisted of computer-generated calls to get-out-the-vote phones run by Democrats and the nonpartisan Manchester firefighters' union. More than 800 hang-up calls tied up phones for about 1½ hours.
The indictment charges Tobin with conspiracy to commit telephone harassment and aiding and abetting of telephone harassment. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.


More GOP Idiocy

So long Gore Vidal; farewell Truman Capote, goodbye Allen Ginsberg:
An Alabama lawmaker who sought to ban gay marriages now wants to ban novels with gay characters from public libraries, including university libraries.

A bill by Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, would prohibit the use of public funds for "the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle." Allen said he filed the bill to protect children from the "homosexual agenda."

Damn that "homosexual agenda!" It's like they are everywhere!


Tuesday, November 30, 2004


The Pentagon is using the media as its tool to disseminate disinformation. In a democracy, a form of government presumably requiring an informed electorate, this is more than a little problematic:
CNN, which had been alerted to expect a major news development, reported that the long-awaited offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Fallujah had begun.

In fact, the Fallujah offensive would not kick off for another three weeks. Gilbert's carefully worded announcement was an elaborate psychological operation -- or "psy-op" -- intended to dupe insurgents in Fallujah and allow U.S. commanders to see how guerrillas would react when they believed U.S. troops were entering the city, according to several Pentagon officials.

In the hours after the initial report, CNN's Pentagon reporters were able to determine that the Fallujah operation had not, in fact, begun.

"As the story developed, we quickly made it clear to our viewers exactly what was going on in and around Fallujah," CNN spokesman Matthew Furman said.

Officials at the Pentagon and other U.S. national security agencies said the CNN incident was not just an isolated feint -- the type used throughout history by armies to deceive their enemies -- but part of a broad effort under way within the Bush administration to use information to its advantage in the war on terrorism.

The Pentagon in 2002 was forced to shutter its controversial Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), which was opened shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, after reports that the office intended to plant false news stories in the international media. But officials say that much of OSI's mission -- using information as a tool of war -- has been assumed by other offices throughout the U.S. government.


Inclusiveness Is Too Radical

Two major networks are offended that a church actually wants to welcome non-straight people:
The CBS and NBC television networks are refusing to run a

30-second television ad from the United Church of Christ because its
all-inclusive welcome has been deemed "too controversial."

The ad, part of the denomination's new, broad identity campaign set to
begin airing nationwide on Dec. 1, states that -- like Jesus -- the United
Church of Christ (UCC) seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability,
age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation.

According to a written explanation from CBS, the United Church of Christ is
being denied network access because its ad implies acceptance of gay and
lesbian couples -- among other minority constituencies -- and is,
therefore, too "controversial."

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other
minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an
explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently
proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a
man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and
UPN] networks."

Similarly, a rejection by NBC declared the spot "too controversial."


The War on Drugs

Apparently, after having smashed Afghanistan, leading to the resurgence of the opium trade there, we now need to poison Afghani farmers:

British officials in Kabul have been questioned by President Hamid Karzai after fields were reportedly sprayed with chemicals from the air two weeks ago, leaving farmers sick. The Kabul government is keen to find out who could have carried out the alleged spraying, which it considers illegal, despite a stated desire by the US and United Nations to wipe out the opium crop.

The Afghans set up an inquiry into claims by villagers near the eastern city of Jalalabad that mystery aircraft had sprayed crops. The British ambassador was called in for questioning and a protest was lodged with the US after Afghan officials concluded that fields had been crop-dusted despite Mr Karzai being opposed to spraying.

Britain, which takes a lead role in drug eradication, is opposed to aerial spraying, which is credited with massive reductions in cocaine output in Colombia but at a heavy cost in damage to human health and the environment. Many in Washington have been pressing for aerial eradication to begin in Afghanistan, however.

Advocates have lined up private US contractors who have already scoured the region looking for planes and pilots to hire for large-scale operations as early as next spring, before the poppy harvest begins.


Failing Again

In Bush's America, we are failing in so many ways that it's hard to keep track of them all. But this is a massive, deadly failure.

Note the years during which the spread of AIDS declined tremendously, and ask yourself who was in the White House then:

The United States (US) is losing ground again in its fight against Aids with blacks, particularly African-American women, suffering most from the resurgent spread of the virus.

Health experts blame a lack of education resources while American adults are showing growing complacency to the risks they run.

The number of cases Aids fell by 50 percent from 1993 to 2001 before rising two percent in 2002, according to figures from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which releases its latest figures on Wednesday.


Guinea Pigs

Once again, the poor have been exploited in horrific ways:
Jacklyn Hoerger's job was to treat children with HIV at a New York children's home.

But nobody had told her that the drugs she was administering were experimental and highly toxic.

"We were told that if they were vomiting, if they lost their ability to walk, if they were having diarrhoea, if they were dying, then all of this was because of their HIV infection."

In fact it was the drugs that were making the children ill and the children had been enrolled on the secret trials without their relatives' or guardians' knowledge.

As Jacklyn would later discover, those who tried to take the children off the drugs risked losing them into care.
We asked Dr David Rasnick, visiting scholar at the University of Berkeley, for his opinion on some of the experiments.

He said: "We're talking about serious, serious side-effects. These children are going to be absolutely miserable. They're going to have cramps, diarrhoea and their joints are going to swell up. They're going to roll around the ground and you can't touch them."

He went on to describe some of the drugs - supplied by major drug manufacturers including Glaxo SmithKline - as "lethal".


American Mengeles

Torture continues at Guantanamo, and doctors are lending a hand:
The International Committee of the Red Cross has charged in confidential reports to the United States government that the American military has intentionally used psychological and sometimes physical coercion "tantamount to torture" on prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The finding that the handling of prisoners detained and interrogated at Guantánamo amounted to torture came after a visit by a Red Cross inspection team that spent most of last June in Guantánamo.

The team of humanitarian workers, which included experienced medical personnel, also asserted that some doctors and other medical workers at Guantánamo were participating in planning for interrogations, in what the report called "a flagrant violation of medical ethics."

Doctors and medical personnel conveyed information about prisoners' mental health and vulnerabilities to interrogators, the report said, sometimes directly, but usually through a group called the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, or B.S.C.T. The team, known informally as Biscuit, is composed of psychologists and psychological workers who advise the interrogators, the report said.


War Crimes Charges

It's about time:
A U.S. human rights group urged German prosecutors Tuesday to investigate accusations that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and senior U.S. officers are guilty of war crimes over the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.

In an unusual legal move, the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has filed a criminal complaint with Germany's Federal Prosecutors along with four Iraqis who say they were tortured and humiliated alongside other prisoners by U.S. soldiers at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

CCR is taking advantage of a 2002 German law allowing prosecutions for human rights and war crimes regardless of where the acts took place or the nationalities of the perpetrators.

The group says Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, a senior defense official and seven U.S. military officers, including the former top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, were ultimately responsible for the torture and humiliation of the Iraqis by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib.


More Troops

And there seems to be no end in sight:
Faced with the real threat of terrorist attacks during Iraqi elections next month, U.S. military officials tell NBC News the Pentagon is now planning to raise the number of American troops in Iraq by 10,000-11,000 to provide additional security. That's twice the number of needed reinforcements first anticipated and will temporarily raise the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to about 150,000.

That means soldiers from the Army's 1st Infantry and 1st Cavalry and some U.S. Marines who were scheduled to leave Iraq this month may be ordered to stay longer, while soldiers from the 3rd Infantry and 82nd Airborne could be ordered into Iraq earlier than scheduled.

Even then, it would seem impossible to protect all 9,000 polling places in Iraq from terrorist attack.

"We could probably see 10, 20, 30, 50 people killed on Election Day in Iraq, including some American forces, some Iraqi security forces and some innocent voters," says Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution.


So Long

Ridge is heading out:
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge announced Tuesday that he is stepping down from his post.

Ridge, 59, told his senior staff of the decision Tuesday morning, after which an e-mail was sent to the department's 180,000 employees, the officials said.

The former two-term governor of Pennsylvania said he will remain at the helm of the agency until February 1, unless a successor is confirmed before then.


Fleeing Bigotry

It's happening in Arkansas, and will surely happen elsewhere:

At least one gay couple has decided to leave the state as an amendment to the Arkansas constitution goes into effect Thursday that bans gay marriage. And more same-sex couples are expected to follow.
"The law does not respect me the way I respect it," said Deborah New, who along with partner Kristy Seaton has decided to move from North Little Rock to Oregon. "So I'm taking my money and my disposable income and my education and my charitable volunteering and everything else I contribute to this economy with me."


Monday, November 29, 2004

Pentagon Report Calls Bullshit on Neocon Agenda

And it's hardly surprising that this report was released with little fanfare, the day before Thanksgiving:

Late on the Wednesday afternoon before the Thanksgiving holiday, the US Defense Department released a report by the Defense Science Board that is highly critical of the administration's efforts in the war on terror and in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

'Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies [the report says]. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.'

MSNBC notes that the report, in a comment that directly goes against statements made by President Bush and senior cabinet members, says the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have united otherwise-divided Muslim extremists and given terrorists organizations like Al Qaeda a boost by "raising their stature."

In fact, Wired News reported the board as saying, the US has not only failed to separate "the vast majority of nonviolent Muslims from the radical-militant Islamist-Jihadists," but American efforts may have "achieved the opposite of what they intended."


Terror Town, NM

Simply bizarre:
This former company town on the edge of New Mexico's economically depressed Hidalgo County is about to become the first U.S. community devoted wholly to the war on terror.

In late September, without much fanfare, the Department of Homeland Security helped a subcontractor, the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, buy Playas root and branch for $5 million to convert it to a fully integrated counterterrorism training center.

Since the whole town is now in the hands of homeland security experts, they will be able to use it to stage mock bombings, hostage takings and water supply poisonings, as well as anthrax and chemical weapons attacks, officials said.

They can even explode a make-believe "dirty bomb" to see how "radiation" could spread over still-impeccable lawns, adobe-colored houses and the outlying rattlesnake-inhabited plain.

The first exercise featuring simulated suicide bombings, scheduled for Thursday, will involve all of the largely abandoned town, which boasts more than 250 homes, a community center, a clinic, an independent water supply system and the local pride and joy: the Playas bowling alley.

"Nobody expected this turn of events," says a laughing Tommy Townsend, the jovial former city manager and one of the local old-timers. "But everybody is happy we are getting the jobs back."


Two Americas

One goes into the military; the other goes to college. This is policy:
Military recruiting saturates life at McDonough High, a working-class public school where recruiters chaperon dances, students in a junior ROTC class learn drills from a retired sergeant major in uniform, and every prospect gets called at least six times by the Army alone.

Recruiters distribute key chains, mugs, and military brochures at McDonough's cafeteria. They are trained to target students at schools like McDonough across the country, using techniques such as identifying a popular student -- whom they call a "center of influence" -- and conspicuously talking to that student in front of others.

Meanwhile, at McLean High, a more affluent public school 37 miles away in Virginia, there is no military chaperoning and no ROTC class. Recruiters adhere to a strict quota of visits, lining up behind dozens of colleges. In the guidance office, military brochures are dwarfed by college pennants. Posters promote life amid ivy-covered walls, not in the cockpits of fighter jets.

Students from McDonough are as much as six times more likely than those from McLean to join the military, a disparity that is replicated elsewhere. A survey of the military's recruitment system found that the Defense Department zeroes in on schools where students are perceived to be more likely to join up, while making far less effort at schools where students are steered toward college.


More War Crimes

And more shadows of Vietnam. We are using napalm:
US troops are secretly using outlawed napalm gas to wipe out remaining insurgents in and around Fallujah.

News that President George W. Bush has sanctioned the use of napalm, a deadly cocktail of polystyrene and jet fuel banned by the United Nations in 1980, will stun governments around the world.

And last night Tony Blair was dragged into the row as furious Labour MPs demanded he face the Commons over it. Reports claim that innocent civilians have died in napalm attacks, which turn victims into human fireballs as the gel bonds flames to flesh.

Outraged critics have also demanded that Mr Blair threatens to withdraw British troops from Iraq unless the US abandons one of the world's most reviled weapons. Halifax Labour MP Alice Mahon said: "I am calling on Mr Blair to make an emergency statement to the Commons to explain why this is happening. It begs the question: 'Did we know about this hideous weapon's use in Iraq?'"

Since the American assault on Fallujah there have been reports of "melted" corpses, which appeared to have napalm injuries.
Last August the US was forced to admit using the gas in Iraq.

Via American Leftist.


Supremes Say "Nah"

A bit of good news: The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the decision of Massachusetts to permit gay marriage:
The Supreme Court on Monday sidestepped a dispute over gay marriages, rejecting a challenge to the nation's only law sanctioning such unions.

Justices had been asked by conservative groups to overturn the year-old decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. They declined, without comment.

In the past year, at least 3,000 gay Massachusetts couples have wed, although voters may have a chance next year to change the state constitution to permit civil union benefits to same-sex couples, but not the institution of marriage.


The Real Drug War

Given that both my mother and my fiance have taken Vioxx, I find this personally infuriating. Somebody needs to go to jail for this:

Just days before a medical journal was to publish a Food and Drug Administration-sponsored study that raised concerns about the safety of the arthritis drug Vioxx, an FDA official took the unusual step of calling the editor to raise questions about the findings' scientific integrity, suggests e-mail obtained by USA TODAY.

Lead author David Graham says the call was part of an effort to block publication of his research, an analysis of a database of 1.4 million Kaiser Permanente members showing that those who took Vioxx were more likely to suffer a heart attack or sudden cardiac death than those who took Celebrex, Vioxx's rival. Graham had reported his study in August at an epidemiology meeting in France, but publication in a medical journal would have exposed it to a wider audience.


They Haven't Gotten the Memo

These silly folk apparently haven't heard that climate change is good for people:
The weather predictions for Asia in 2050 read like a script from a doomsday movie.

Except many climatologists and green groups fear they will come true unless there is a concerted global effort to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

In the decades to come, Asia -- home to more than half the world's 6.3 billion people -- will lurch from one climate extreme to another, with impoverished farmers battling droughts, floods, disease, food shortages and rising sea levels.

"It's not a pretty picture," said Steve Sawyer, climate policy adviser with Greenpeace in Amsterdam. Global warming (news - web sites) and changes to weather patterns are already occurring and there is enough excess carbon dioxideand other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to drive climate change for decades to come.
Already, changes are being felt in Asia but worse is likely to come, Sawyer and top climate bodies say, and could lead to mass migration and widespread humanitarian crises.


Sunday, November 28, 2004

Our Libyan Success

This is amazing. Libya is the "victory" that Bush has touted so often, asserting that that nation dismantled its nuclear programs in accordance with US demands.

Well, maybe not so much:

Authorities hunting traffickers in nuclear weapons technology recently uncovered an audacious plan to deliver a complete uranium enrichment plant to Libya.

The discovery provides fresh evidence of the reach and sophistication of the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's global black market in nuclear know-how and equipment. It also exposes a previously undetected South African branch of the Khan network.

Details of the plot began to emerge in September, when police found the elements of a two-storey steel processing system for the enrichment plant in a factory outside Johannesburg. They were packed in 11 freight containers for shipment to Libya.

South African officials will say only that they discovered nuclear components. It appears, however, that the massive system was designed to operate 1000 centrifuges for enriching uranium.

Once assembled in Libya, the plant could have produced enough weapons-grade uranium to manufacture several nuclear bombs a year. Delivery of the plant would have greatly accelerated Libya's efforts to develop nuclear weapons.


More Debt!

Is there a single thing that Bush has done or wants to do that doesn't add to the national debt? The planned privatization is an idiotic nightmare:
The White House and Republicans in Congress are all but certain to embrace large-scale government borrowing to help finance President Bush's plan to create personal investment accounts in Social Security, according to administration officials, members of Congress and independent analysts.

The White House says it has made no decisions about how to pay for establishing the accounts, and among Republicans on Capitol Hill there are divergent opinions about how much borrowing would be prudent at a time when the government is running large budget deficits. Many Democrats say that the costs associated with setting up personal accounts just make Social Security's financial problems worse, and that the United States can scarcely afford to add to its rapidly growing national debt.
Proponents say the necessary amount of borrowing could vary widely, from hundreds of billions to trillions of dollars over a decade, depending on how much money people are permitted to contribute to the accounts and whether the changes to Social Security include benefit cuts and tax increases.

The proponents say it could cost trillions?? Madness.


Anti-Environmental Propaganda

The neocons, underwritten by the oil industry, continue to live in a state of denial about global climate change. In fact, climate change is a good thing!
Climate change is 'a myth', sea levels are not rising and Britain's chief scientist is 'an embarrassment' for believing catastrophe is inevitable. These are the controversial views of a new London-based think-tank that will publish a report tomorrow attacking the apocalyptic view that man-made greenhouse gases will destroy the planet.

The International Policy Network will publish its long-awaited study, claiming that the science warning of an environmental disaster caused by climate change is 'fatally flawed'. It will state that previous predictions of changes in sea level of a metre over the next 100 years were overestimates.

Instead, the report will say that sea level rises will reach a maximum of just 20cms during the next century, adding that global warming could, in fact, benefit mankind by increasing fish stocks.

The report's views closely mirror those held by many of President George Bush's senior advisers, who have been accused of derailing attempts to reach international agreement over how to prevent climate change.

The report is set to cause controversy. The network, which has links with some of the President's advisers, has received cash donations from the US oil giant ExxonMobil, which has long lobbied against the climate change agenda. Exxon lists the donation as part of its 'climate change outreach' programme.

Environmentalists yesterday said the network report was an attempt by American neo-conservatives to sabotage the Prime Minister's attempts to lead the world in tackling climate change.