Saturday, February 05, 2005

Guinea Pigs

Hell, maybe I should quit arguing for expanded V.A. medical care for returning troops. They may well live longer without it:
Carl M. Steubing, a decorated Battle of the Bulge veteran whose experience of war made him a pacifist but also instilled in him a zest for living life at full tilt, took his diagnosis of gastroesophageal cancer in 2001 as a challenge.

With a thatch of white hair and a rich baritone voice, Mr. Steubing, at 78, was not ready to succumb to illness. A retired music educator and wedding photographer, he remained active as a church choir director, expert cook, painter, golfer and fisherman. He was married to a woman 24 years his junior, and they had seven children and three grandchildren between them.

Mr. Steubing jumped at the chance to participate in an experimental drug study at the Stratton Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Albany, believing it offered him the hope of surviving longer. The research coordinator, Paul H. Kornak, told Mr. Steubing that he was "just a perfect specimen," with the body of a man half his age, according to Jayne Steubing, Mr. Steubing's widow.

He was not, though. Because of a previous cancer and poor kidney function, Mr. Steubing was not even eligible to participate in the experiment, according to government documents. Mr. Kornak, however, brushed that obstacle aside. He altered Mr. Steubing's medical records, according to prosecutors, and enrolled him in the study. He also posed as a doctor.

In 2001, Mr. Steubing endured about six periodic treatments with an aggressive three-drug chemotherapy combination. Each infusion made him violently ill and forced his hospitalization. He died in March 2002.

"Research violations were a way of life at Stratton for 10 years," said Jeffrey Fudin, a pharmacist at the hospital. "Stratton officials turned a blind eye to unethical cancer research practices and punished those who spoke out against them. The whole Kornak episode could have been prevented."

According to Mr. Kornak's lawyer, E. Stewart Jones, there was a "clear systems failure," permitting a research culture where "rules weren't followed, protocols weren't applied and supervision was nonexistent."

It was also a culture whose descent into criminality forced the Department of Veterans Affairs nationwide to reckon with what an internal memorandum in 2003 described as "systemic weaknesses in the human research protections program, especially in studies funded by industry."

Excluding simple chart reviews, about 80 percent of the department's human research is financed by industry. The private sector pumps considerable cash into the system. In Albany, it accounted for $500,000 of the $1.15 million in research funding in 2004.

On second thought, I'll still argue in favor of massive government spending on V.A. healthcare, so as to keep industry money out of it...



The military have apparently turned to stalker tactics out of desperation to recruit. Parents, watch over your children. From the Alternet Newslog:
History has shown that general strikes and boycotts are some of the most effective ways of forcing the status quo to change. So here's a thought: what if the working families of America stepped up and said to the military, in one voice, "NO. You may not have our children for your war machine any longer." Well, it's a nice dream. Some parents, however, mindful of high wartime casualties, are trying to persuade their sons and daughters not to join up, which accounts for the Marine Corp's lowest enlistment numbers in a decade. The nerve of those parents. In response, the Marines are ratcheting up their sales pitch. One Marine Corps recruiting official says that a single visit to the folks used to suffice. Now recruiters have to visit "two, three, four" times to convince mom and dad of the rightness of sacrificing their kid. Oh to be a fly on the wall during one of those visits.


Closing the Borders against Homophobes

Ah, the Netherlands:
Can two men marry? That is one of the questions that would-be immigrants may be asked as part of a new exam for prospective immigrants to The Netherlands.

Draft legislation for the new examination, or inburgeringsexamen, was unveiled by Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk.

Other questions ask if it OK to sunbathe topless on the country's North Sea beaches and whether Holland has a king or a queen.


Friday, February 04, 2005

Friday Video Catblogging

With thanks to watertiger for sending this on to me for posting, and apologies for being so late in the day with catblogging, given that I tend to be pre-emptive.

The video is hilarious, to me at least, though best watched without volume, as it is accompanied by music and a laugh track...

Here it is.


Huge Victory in New York

Thank you again, New Paltz, for getting this ball rolling! And thanks to the couples involved in this lawsuit!

A New York State court ruled Friday that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry.

State Supreme Court Judge Doris Ling-Cohan said that the New York State Constitution guarantees basic freedoms to lesbian and gay people, and that those rights are violated when same-sex couples are not allowed to marry.

The ruling said the state Constitution requires same-sex couples to have equal access to marriage, and that the couples represented by Lambda Legal must be given marriage licenses.

"This is a historic ruling that delivers the state Constitution's promise of equality to all New Yorkers," said Susan Sommer, Supervising Attorney at Lambda Legal and the lead attorney on the case.

"The court recognized that unless gay people can marry, they are not being treated equally under the law. Same-sex couples need the protections and security marriage provides, and this ruling says they're entitled to get them the same way straight couples do."

Equal protection lives on...



Even when doing something good, such as trying to help equip soldiers in harm's way, Republicans can't resist being pricks:

Marquette University administrators shut down a table set up by the school's College Republicans this week to take orders for bracelets and other trinkets so money could be raised to buy special equipment for American snipers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brandon Henak, the group's chairman and a Marquette junior, said the College Republicans chose to promote the "Adopt a Sniper" program based in Pulaski after their request for setting up a general "support the troops" table at the school's Alumni Memorial Union had been approved.

"We thought that it was the most direct possible way to help the troops," Henak said. "What really touched us and was one of the big deciding factors on choosing them was the fact that they give (the snipers) the very body armor that enables them to stay safe."
Sounds good, right?

But then, there's this:
But Marquette leaders were unhappy they had not been told of the exact nature of the College Republicans' efforts, and the wording on some of the signs and the merchandise was bothersome, the statement said.

The university said one slogan was "1 Shot, 1 Kill, No Remorse, I Decide."

"In the context of the university's Jesuit, Catholic mission, we could not allow fund raising in the student union for a group whose rhetoric regarding 'snipers' could be widely misinterpreted as having a cavalier attitude toward the taking of a human life," the statement said. "In this case the display of the materials that promote the use of violence without appropriate background information was unacceptable."


Civil Rights Coalition

Now, this is a heartening development:
More than 50 black clergy and theologians from metro Atlanta published a letter recently in the Atlanta Daily World calling on African-American churches to be more sympathetic to the political and spiritual struggles faced by gay men and lesbians.
It has always depressed me to witness the continued success of the divide-and-conquer tactics by the elite, and so such solidarity is a big step in the right direction.


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Worth a Thousand Words

And this picture is from the GOP website!


So Long, Recourse

One of the last remaining bastions of the individual's right to strike back at corporate abuse of power is quietly dying on the vine:
Efforts to curb class action lawsuits advanced Thursday as backers of legislation pushed by the Bush administration and the business community foiled initial attempts to alter a carefully crafted compromise.


Sometimes, You Just Have to Put the Dog Down

Hallelujah! This thing was a blot from the first moment its wretched theme song stained the airwaves:

Yesterday, UPN announced that in the face of weak ratings it is canceling ''Star Trek: Enterprise," which is the last surviving spinoff of the famed 1966 science-fiction series.

Thanks to attaturk for the keen nerd radar.


Listen to Him!

What will it take for the U.S. to have such leaders? Or at least to have leaders who will listen to wisdom when it is spoken?

It's enough to make you weep, to realize that Mandela is sowing seeds on asphalt, at least when it comes to this country:
In front of a packed crowd in Trafalgar Square, the former South African president said the international community had to live up to the promise to make 2005 a year in which it worked to end global inequality.

"In this new century, millions of people in the world's poorest countries remain imprisoned, enslaved and in chains," Mr Mandela told the rally. "They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free."
"Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times - times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation - that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils," he said to applause.

"Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is manmade, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life."
"I entrust it to you. I will be watching with anticipation," he told the crowd. "Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom."


Sorcha Rocks

More specifically, her cookies do. More specifically, the cookies she just sent to us as we while away the days in a hotel room do.

Gratitude and love!


If We Can Make It There...

In my most "Nelson-from-the-Simpsons" voice, I must say "ha ha":
A proposed amendment to the Idaho Constitution to ban gay marriage failed to get the two-third majority it required for Senate passage Wednesday.

The amendment would have banned same-sex marriages and civil unions, inserting a clause in the constitution stating that marriage consists of a union between a man and a woman.

The measure was defeated 14-21. Eight Republican senators joined with six Democrats to ensure the amendment did not get the required "super majority".


A Complementary Post

Well, my last post was about the approaching government smackdown on universities that refuse to toe the militarist line.

And this post? About a school boldly refusing to toe the anti-militarist line:
A Cookeville (Tenn.) High School administrator said Veterans for Peace and a Quaker group can't come back into his school with materials considered ''anti-American'' and ''anti-military.''


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Fertile Fields of Academia

Universities that don't much like the notion of having their kids recruited on campus are being set up for some serious penalties:
The House of Representatives strongly rebuked US colleges and universities which forbid military recruiting on their campuses, at a time when the Pentagon (news - web sites) is struggling find new potential soldiers.

Lawmakers by a vote of 327 to 84 approved a resolution endorsing aggressive White House enforcement of a law already allowing the Pentagon the power to deny federal funding to any college or university which prevents military recruitment on its campus.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay accused the academic institutions which bar military recruiters of snobbery.

"It's about them not liking the military, or the values our men and women in uniform represent," he said.

It's not enough now that people who cannot afford college often resort to the armed forces or the guard for money. Now, you're gonna have to pay skyrocketing tuition at schools principled enough to reject recruiters?

The militarization of the United States proceeds apace.


Good Fun!

If you still wonder why we are not exactly winning hearts and minds...
At a panel discussion in San Diego Tuesday, a top Marine general tells an audience that, among other things, it is "fun to shoot some people."

The comment, made by Lt. Gen. James Mattis, came in reference to fighting insurgents in Iraq. He went on to say, "Actually, its a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. I like brawling."

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for 5 years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis continued. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

About 200 people gathered for the discussion, held at the San Diego Convention Center. While many military members laughed at the comments, a military expert interviewed by NBC 7/39 in San Diego called the comments "flippant."

"I was a little surprised," said Retired Vice Adm. Edward H. Martin. "I don't think any of us who have ever fought in wars liked to kill anybody."
I personally believe that incarceration is always preferable to execution. I also recognize that sometimes violence, and even killing, are necessary. But enjoyable?

This sort of sadism is now the face of America seen by the world.


A None-Too-Subtle Parallel

Thanks to American Leftist, we can see just how good an indicator "successful elections" are when it comes to a nation's future:
Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

Pending more detailed reports, neither the State Department nor the White House would comment on the balloting or the victory of the military candidates, Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, who was running for president, and Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, the candidate for vice president.

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began in January, 1966, to which President Johnson gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu, the chief of state, in Honolulu in February.

The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Deim was overthrown by a military junta.

Few members of that junta are still around, most having been ousted or exiled in subsequent shifts of power.

Thank goodness those elections went so well, or else we might have lost Vietnam to the Communists!


In Case You've Not Noticed...

Rather light on the blogging today. I know, I'm just at work, researching a paper, planning our rehearsal dinner, and talking with the contractor about my wreck of a house, so I have no excuse.

And yet I have the temerity to ask that you bear with me...


Homophobic License Plates on the March

As I reported here a while back, Virginia is seeking to attain new heights of idiocy.

And they appear to be succeeding:
Cars in Virginia could soon have license plates extolling traditional marriage. The House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday allowing the state to print the plates. The legislation now moves to the Senate where it must be approved before the scheduled adjournment on Feb. 26.

The House voted 62 - 35 to approve the bill. The special issue plates would have interlocking gold wedding bands superimposed over a red heart and have the phrase "Traditional Marriage."

The bill was authored by Delegate Scott Limgamfelter (R-Prince William) a supporter of an amendment to ban gay marriage, also expected to pass this year.

"These plates wills send a message to the people of Virginia that we're not ashamed of traditional marriage," Limgamfelter said of the license plates.

In truth, I hope this stupid bill does become law. Because, if it does, there's a very real chance that it could come back to bite them on the ass:
Del. Brian Moran (D-Alexandria) warned that the plates could wind up in a court battle. He told the House that the plates would become a public forum and federal courts have repeatedly ruled that dissenting viewpoints must be given the same forum, opponents of the bill argued.

"So if we pass a traditional marriage license plate represented as a man and a woman, next year we're going to have `Gay Marriage' or `Marriage Equality' license plates, and I suspect you all won't want to pass those," Moran said.

"What we are about to buy is a lawsuit we clearly will lose," he said.


Homeland Insecurity

Of all the things not to be able to get right:
As its leadership changes for the first time, the Department of Homeland Security remains hampered by personality conflicts, bureaucratic bottlenecks and an atmosphere of demoralization, undermining its ability to protect the nation against terrorist attack, according to current and former administration officials and independent experts.

Although the 22-month-old department has vast powers over the lives of travelers, immigrants and citizens, it remains a second-tier agency in the clout it commands within President Bush's Cabinet, the officials said. Pockets of dysfunction are scattered throughout the 180,000-employee agency, they said.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Why Doesn't This Surprise Me?

And why doesn't it embarrass the living daylights out of the right?
President George W. Bush met with the Congressional Black Caucus Wednesday for the first time as a group in nearly four years, but what CBC members said stood out the most was the president's declaration that he was "unfamiliar" with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed in the history of the United States.

At the conclusion of yesterday's 40-minute meeting, Bush - who attended along with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - was asked by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) whether he would support the re-authorization of a portion of the Voting Rights Act that must be approved every 25 years (It will come up for consideration next year).

"I don't know anything about the 1965 Voting Rights Act," Jackson recalled the president saying in an interview with the Chicago Defender.

He said that a hurried Bush went on to say that "when the legislation comes before me, I'll take a look at it, but I don't know about it to comment any more than that, but we will look at it when it comes to us."

"It was so unbelievable to me that as soon as I walked out, I got Frank (Watkins, Jackson's top legislative aide) on the telephone, put (Congresswomen) Maxine (Waters, D-Calif.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), so that I could confirm what he just said is what I heard," Jackson said. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) said he recalled the president saying he was "unfamiliar" with the Voting Rights Act.

"I was surprised and astounded," Rush told the Defender.


The Fix Is In

Opposition to Bush's plans to gut your ability to seek redress when the hospital amputates the wrong limb?

You ain't gonna hear it:
An advocacy group, USAction, said on Monday that four television networks had turned down its request to run an advertisement opposing President Bush's effort to clamp down on medical malpractice lawsuits.

The group wanted to run the spots just before Mr. Bush's State of the Union address on Wednesday. But networks said the advertisement violated their standards for advertising on controversial issues.

The NBC Universal Television Network, owned by General Electric, told the group, "We are sorry that we cannot accept your ad based on our network policy regarding controversial issue advertising."

As a general rule, the policy says, "time will not be sold on NBC Network facilities for the presentation of views on controversial issues." The policy does not apply to candidates for public office in election years.

ABC, CBS and the Fox Broadcasting Company said they had also turned down the advertisement.

So if Bush decides to tout his "tort reform" plans during the State of the Union, will they bleep it out? Somehow, one doubts it.


The Fight for Equality: Update

We're on the offensive in Oregon:
A lawsuit was filed Monday challenging Oregon's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The suit, by Basic Rights Oregon, argues that the amendment goes much further than just barring gays from marrying and revises the fundamental principles of the state Constitution.

And on the defensive in Kansas:
Holding signs and chanting, "Straight, gay, it's all OK," more than 100 students rallied Sunday near the Statehouse against a proposed state ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions for gay couples.

Only traditionally married couples would be entitled to benefits associated with marriage under a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution. The House expects to vote on it Wednesday, and supporters hope the measure will go on the ballot April 5.

Meanwhile, in that comparatively enlightened land to the north:
The Canadian government will introduce its same-sex marriage legislation in the House Commons today as the opposition Tories and conservative church groups ratchet up the rhetoric.

But, as the Catholic Church and evangelical Protestants flood Members of Parliament with postcards calling on them to support traditional marriage Prime Minister Paul Martin's parish priest says he supports gay marriage.

Rev. John Walsh, of St. John Brébeuf parish in Martin's Montreal riding of LaSalle-Émard says the Catholic Church has to open its arms to gays and lesbians, and that all he is being asked to do is to respect civil gay marriage.

"People aren't less human being because they're born gay. I open my heart and my church to them. We have to find a way so that these people never feel rejected," he told The Globe & Mail.


What Does This Guy Know About Fake Elections?

Oh, right:
Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev called the Iraqi parliamentary elections a profanation.

In an interview with the Interfax news agency, he said the elections are “very far from what true elections are. And even though I am a supporter of elections and of the transfer of power to the people of Iraq, these elections were fake.”

“I don’t think these elections will be of any use. They may even have a negative impact on the country. Democracy cannot be imposed or strengthened with guns and tanks,” the agency quoted Gorbachev as saying.


Does This Make Rumsfeld a "Strongman"?

A single paragraph in an 800-page bill, and Rummy's granted authority to start setting up death squads.

Did I say "death squads"? I meant "happy squads":
Congress has given the Pentagon important new authority to fight terrorism by authorizing Special Operations forces for the first time to spend money to pay informants and recruit foreign paramilitary fighters.

The new authority, which would also let Special Operations forces purchase equipment or other items from the foreigners, is spelled out in a single paragraph of an 800-page defense authorization bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in October. It was requested by the Pentagon and the commander of Special Operations forces as part of a broader effort to make the military less reliant on the Central Intelligence Agency, according to Congressional and Defense Department officials.


Monday, January 31, 2005

Abstinence Proved to Be Bullshit Policy, Again

How many times must this be scientifically verified before the right wingers get it through their thick skulls that abstinence-only programs have NO EFFECT on teens' sexual activities. How many times before they grudgingly admit that, yes, we need to provide condoms and education about condoms?
Abstinence-only sex education programs, a major plank in President Bush (news - web sites)'s education plan, have had no impact on teenagers' behavior in his home state of Texas, according to a new study.

Despite taking courses emphasizing abstinence-only themes, teenagers in 29 high schools became increasingly sexually active, mirroring the overall state trends, according to the study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University.

"We didn't see any strong indications that these programs were having an impact in the direction desired," said Dr. Buzz Pruitt, who directed the study.

The study was delivered to the Texas Department of State Health Services, which commissioned it.

The federal government is expected to spend about $130 million to fund programs advocating abstinence in 2005, despite a lack of evidence that they work, Pruitt said.

$130 million, flushed down the toilet. Abstinence-only programs are truly the Missile Defense System of all social initiatives.


Voter Turnout

Interestingly, all the crowing about how we've brought democracy to Iraq and such seems to have drowned out such stories as this:

Voting in Baghdad was linked with receipt of food rations, several voters said after the Sunday poll.

Many Iraqis said Monday that their names were marked on a list provided by the government agency that provides monthly food rations before they were allowed to vote.

”I went to the voting centre and gave my name and district where I lived to a man,” said Wassif Hamsa, a 32-year-old journalist who lives in the predominantly Shia area Janila in Baghdad. ”This man then sent me to the person who distributed my monthly food ration.”

Mohammed Ra'ad, an engineering student who lives in the Baya'a district of the capital city reported a similar experience.

Ra'ad, 23, said he saw the man who distributed monthly food rations in his district at his polling station. ”The food dealer, who I know personally of course, took my name and those of my family who were voting,” he said. ”Only then did I get my ballot and was allowed to vote.”

”Two of the food dealers I know told me personally that our food rations would be withheld if we did not vote,” said Saeed Jodhet, a 21-year-old engineering student who voted in the Hay al-Jihad district of Baghdad.

Hmm... Is this an idea we should import from Iraq to help remedy our own dismally low turnout in the US?


Threat to Democracy

The greatest threat, of course, is our own unwillingness to stand up for democracy, and the prospects for that changing don't look good:
The way many high school students see it, government censorship of newspapers may not be a bad thing, and flag burning is hardly protected free speech.

It turns out the First Amendment is a second-rate issue to many of those nearing their own adult independence, according to a study of high school attitudes released today.

The original amendment to the Constitution is the cornerstone of the way of life in the United States, promising citizens the freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly.

Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.

"These results are not only disturbing; they are dangerous," said Hodding Carter III, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which sponsored the $1 million study. "Ignorance about the basics of this free society is a danger to our nation's future."

The students are even more restrictive in their views than their elders, the study says.

I thought kids were supposed to be rebels...


About Bloody Time

What about this case took us so many months and years to finally state the obvious? How much more time will pass before these people are tried and sentenced or freed?
A federal judge ruled Monday that foreign terror suspects held in Cuba can challenge their confinement in U.S. courts and she criticized the Bush administration for holding hundreds of people without legal rights.

Judge Joyce Hens Green, handling claims filed by about 50 detainees at the U.S. Navy (news - web sites) base at Guantanamo Bay, said the Supreme Court made clear last year that they have constitutional rights that lower courts should enforce.

"Although this nation unquestionably must take strong action under the leadership of the commander in chief to protect itself against enormous and unprecedented threats," she wrote, "that necessity cannot negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over 200 years."

Green also ruled that hearings set up by the government to determine if the prisoners are "enemy combatants" are unconstitutional. Those hearings, called Combatant Status Review Tribunals, had been criticized by civil rights groups because detainees are not represented by lawyers and are not told of some of the evidence against them — including some information that the judge said may have been obtained by torture or coercion.

"Her opinion sends a message to the rest of the world that democracy is still here," said Barbara Olshansky, an attorney with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing detainees.


Let the Screwing of the American People Continue

I wonder if these people ever listen to themselves.
Emboldened by their success at the polls, the Bush administration and Republican leaders in Congress believe they have a new opportunity to move the nation away from the system of employer-provided health insurance that has covered most working Americans for the last half-century.

In its place, they want to erect a system in which workers — instead of looking to employers for health insurance — would take personal responsibility for protecting themselves and their families: They would buy high-deductible "catastrophic" insurance policies to cover major medical needs, then pay routine costs with money set aside in tax-sheltered health savings accounts.

Elements of that approach have been on the conservative agenda for years, but what has suddenly put it on the fast track is GOP confidence that the political balance of power has changed.

With Democratic strength reduced, President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Bakersfield) are pushing for action.

Supporters of the new approach, who see it as part of Bush's "ownership society," say workers and their families would become more careful users of healthcare if they had to pay the bills. Also, they say, the lower premiums on high-deductible plans would make coverage affordable for the uninsured and for small businesses.

Right. We'll be "more careful," because as it is, Americans just cannot think of anything they'd rather do than go sit around in a doctor's office to be frivolously poked and prodded...

"More careful" means we'll put off going because we cannot afford to go. And then our illness will fester, until we wind up in an emergency room, which will end up costing the government even more.


Sunday, January 30, 2005

A Bit of Sunday Morning Good News

The fight against AIDS goes on:
AIDS among infants, which only a decade ago took the lives of hundreds of babies a year and left doctors in despair, may be on the verge of being eliminated in the United States, public health officials say.

In 1990, as many as 2,000 babies were born infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS; now, that number has been reduced to a bit more than 200 a year, according to health officials. In New York City, the center of the epidemic, there were 321 newborns infected with H.I.V. in 1990, the year the virus peaked among newborns in the city. In 2003, five babies were born with the virus.

Across the country, mother-to-child transmission of H.I.V. has dropped so sharply that public health officials now talk about wiping it out.


Keeping Skeletons in the Closet

I, for one, would very much like to know what information is contained in the files kept so assiduously secret by the CIA:
The Central Intelligence Agency is refusing to provide hundreds of thousands of pages of documents sought by a government working group under a 1998 law that requires full disclosure of classified records related to Nazi war criminals, say Congressional officials from both parties.

Under the law, the C.I.A. has already provided more than 1.2 million pages of documents, the vast majority of them from the archives of its World War II predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services. Many documents have been declassified, and some made public last year showed a closer relationship between the United States government and Nazi war criminals than had previously been understood, including the C.I.A.'s recruitment of war criminal suspects or Nazi collaborators.

For nearly three years, the C.I.A. has interpreted the 1998 law narrowly and rebuffed requests for additional records, say Congressional officials and some members of the working group, who also contend that that stance seems to violate the law.

These officials say the agency has sometimes agreed to provide information about former Nazis, but not about the extent of the agency's dealings with them after World War II. In other cases, it has refused to provide information about individuals and their conduct during the war unless the working group can first provide evidence that they were complicit in war crimes.

The agency's stance poses a sharp test between the C.I.A.'s deep institutional reluctance to make public details about any intelligence operations and the broad mandate set forth in the law to lift the veil about relationships between the United States government and Nazi war criminals.

The dispute has not previously been made public. Critics of the C.I.A.'s stance, including all three private citizens who are members of the working group, said they were disclosing the dispute now in hopes of resolving the impasse by March, when the working group's mandate is to expire.

"I think that the C.I.A. has defied the law, and in so doing has also trivialized the Holocaust, thumbed its nose at the survivors of the Holocaust and also at Americans who gave their lives in the effort to defeat the Nazis in World War II," said Elizabeth Holtzman, a former congresswoman from New York and a member of the group. "We have bent over backward; we have given them every opportunity to comply."



Among the many egregious failures of this administration, this may be the one that truly comes back to haunt us. They ignore the realities of nuclear proliferation in the world (even while sending our present Secretary of State out to talk about smokingmushroomgunclouds to justify invading Iraq):
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog, by letting it slip through anonymous "Western diplomatic sources" earlier this month that it is "investigating undeclared nuclear work in Egypt" that may have been linked to an atomic weapons programme, has unleashed a new storm over covert proliferation in West Asia, easily the world's most volatile region today.

Initial reports quoted an unnamed diplomat as saying that Egypt "tried to produce various components of uranium" without declaring it to the IAEA, as that country is bound to do under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which it signed in 1981.

Most of the undeclared work was carried out in the 1980s and 1990s, but the IAEA is also examining "evidence that suggests some work was performed as recently as a year ago".

But coming as this does in the wake of the US upping its ante on Iran's nuclear programme, the implications of the IAEA's revelation are at once both profound and unsettling, not least because subsequent reports have mentioned a possible linkage between Pakistan's rogue nuclear scientist AQ Khan and what is being described as Egypt's basement nuclear operation.