Saturday, April 23, 2005

Oh Hell, Not Again

Back in the day before (as my friend Franci says) Indians discovered Columbus wandering around the Americas all lost, many tribes respected same-sex relationships, or had gender systems that had more than two genders, which made it difficult to define what "same-sex" relationships were. All of this, of course, blew missionaries' minds, and one of the Christian missionaries' goals was to eliminate tolerance of everything but church-sanctioned marriages between one man and one woman. (Respect for same-sex relationships etc. was not the case everywhere, of course; as with most issues of Native American cultures, it varies greatly from tribe to tribe.) These days, however, traditionalists who argue in favor of the historical record are likely to lose to the inroads of Christian fundamentalism.

The Navajo Nation has outlawed same-sex marriages on its sprawling Indian reservation. The Tribal Council voted unanimously Friday in favor of the Dine Marriage Act of 2005....The act restricts a recognized union to a relationship between a man and a woman... and prohibits plural marriages as well as any marriage between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, brothers and sisters and other close relatives...

Critics of the legislation have said its sponsor, Delegate Larry Anderson of Fort Defiance, is attempting to rewrite cultural history to parallel conservative Christian backlash against gay rights across the United States...

As an aside, if you're interested in reading a novel that is not only captivating but also deals with just these conflicts, allow me to recommend Creek novelist Craig Womack's brilliant Drowning In Fire.


So Much for Faith-Based "Science"

Of course, the Bushies all know that the universe is only six thousand years old, so they will not be likely to be influenced by this:
An Italian expedition to the Antarctic has taken a sample of ice which is more than 900,000 years old and could give scientists evidence of past climate changes which would discredit global warming doubters.

The ice core, which is double the age of previous samples, will show how much carbon dioxide there was in the atmosphere during previous warm and cold phases in the climate and whether the current concentrations caused by burning fossil fuels are likely the lead to catastrophic global warming later this century.

The new core could be enough to discredit the fast diminishing band of climate sceptics, who have the ear of the Bush administration and who say that the climate has always fluctuated and man's destruction of forests and use of oil has nothing to do with the current rising temperatures and increased storminess across the world.


Microsoft Can Go to Hell

AmericaBlog has been all over the betrayal of gays and lesbians in Washington by Microsoft. Here's the latest:
In response to Microsoft's withdrawal of support for legislation that would have outlawed discrimination against gay and lesbian people in Washington, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, which presented Microsoft with its Corporate Vision Award in 2001, is asking the company to return the award.

"We honor companies that, among other things, set a high standard for others by exhibiting leadership in advancing the cause of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual equality," said L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Chief of Staff Darrel Cummings. "Because of Microsoft's apparent capitulation to the demands of anti-gay extremists and withdrawal of support for a bill that would do nothing more than protect gay and lesbian people from discrimination, we believe it's no longer worthy of our highest corporate honor."


Friday, April 22, 2005

Beer Goggles

I deem this a bad sign of things to come. Buffett is a savvy business man, and if he thinks the next few months or years will involve events that will foster--or require--drunkenness, I have to say he's probably right:
Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. said today that billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has acquired a "significant" stake in the nation's largest beermaker. The brewer's shares soared more than 6 percent on the news.


The Bastards Go Free

I confess myself to be rather less than shocked:
The Army has cleared four top officers — including the three-star general who commanded all U.S. forces in Iraq — of all allegations of wrongdoing in connection with prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and will not be punished, officials said Friday.
After all, what are grunts for, other than to take the blame for the brass?


The Economics of AIDS

The good news:
Scientists have identified good bacteria already living in some humans that target and trap HIV and may protect against infection. They reported their findings at the 2005 American Society for Microbiology Beneficial Microbes Conference, at Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

"I believe every life form has its natural enemy, and HIV should not be the exception," says Dr. Lin Tao, Associate Professor of the Department of Oral Biology, College of Dentistry, University of Illinois at Chicago. "If we can find its natural enemy, we can control the spread of HIV naturally and cost-effectively, just as we use cats to control mice."

The bacteria are strains of lactobacillus, commonly found colonizing the oral and vaginal cavities of humans. They do not cause disease. They target HIV because the virus is coated with the sugar mannose, which they use as a food source.

"Different bacteria have different sugar preferences," says Tao. "To block HIV, however, we needed to find bacteria that prefer the unusual sugar mannose and thus can capture it."

To identify bacteria that target mannose, Tao and his colleagues isolated oral and vaginal lactobacilli from healthy humans and tested the ability of different strains to bind to baker's yeast, another microorganism coated with mannose-rich sugars. They found a small group of lactobacilli that bound to mannose and further testing against HIV revealed two strains that specifically trapped the virus and blocked infection.

Due to high rates of mutation, repeated attempts at developing a vaccine to protect against HIV have failed. Inoculating the major mucosal surfaces where HIV transmission occurs with the HIV-capturing lactobacilli may provide a safe and cost-efficient method for preventing the spread of HIV, says Tao.

"This method can protect infants against HIV in breast milk and women against HIV upon sexual contact unobtrusively and inconspicuously via fermented foods or feminine products," says Tao. "If the method can be successfully developed and applied, the global spread of HIV can be controlled rapidly, effectively and safely."

The sadly predictable bad news:
"The major roadblock in the development of this technology is the lack of financial support. Drug companies and venture capitalists are not interested because the beneficiary populations are infants and womenin poor countries," says Tao. He is currently seeking sponsorship from charities or philanthropists to develop this technology.



Navajo Nation has outlawed uranium mining. It'll be interesting to see how the courts behave in regard to this issue of sovereignty:
The Navajo Nation has outlawed uranium mining and processing on its reservation, which sprawls across parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah and contains one of the world's largest deposits of uranium ore.

Tribal President Joe Shirley Jr. must give the bill final approval. His spokesman said Thursday that Shirley "strongly" supports it.

Mining companies began blasting holes on the reservation, which covers 27,000 square miles, in the 1940s and continued for nearly 40 years until decreased demand closed the operations.

By then, the Navajos were left with radiation sickness, contaminated tailings and abandoned mines. To avoid repeating the past, Navajo leaders and grassroots organizations have been working for years to keep mining from starting again.

The Navajo Nation Council voted 63-19 Tuesday in favor of the mining ban. Several council delegates predicted the legislation will be challenged in court — possibly as far as the Supreme Court.


Withdrawal Pains

I can feel the shakes coming on already:

The one thing that international bankers don't want to hear is that the second Great Depression may be round the corner. But last week, a group of ultra-conservative Swiss financiers asked a retired English petroleum geologist living in Ireland to tell them about the beginning of the end of the oil age.

They called Colin Campbell, who helped to found the London-based Oil Depletion Analysis Centre because he is an industry man through and through, has no financial agenda and has spent most of a lifetime on the front line of oil exploration on three continents. He was chief geologist for Amoco, a vice-president of Fina, and has worked for BP, Texaco, Shell, ChevronTexaco and Exxon in a dozen different countries.

"Don't worry about oil running out; it won't for very many years," the Oxford PhD told the bankers in a message that he will repeat to businessmen, academics and investment analysts at a conference in Edinburgh next week. "The issue is the long downward slope that opens on the other side of peak production. Oil and gas dominate our lives, and their decline will change the world in radical and unpredictable ways," he says.

Campbell reckons global peak production of conventional oil - the kind associated with gushing oil wells - is approaching fast, perhaps even next year. His calculations are based on historical and present production data, published reserves and discoveries of companies and governments, estimates of reserves lodged with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, speeches by oil chiefs and a deep knowledge of how the industry works.

"About 944bn barrels of oil has so far been extracted, some 764bn remains extractable in known fields, or reserves, and a further 142bn of reserves are classed as 'yet-to-find', meaning what oil is expected to be discovered. If this is so, then the overall oil peak arrives next year," he says.
If he is correct, then global oil production can be expected to decline steadily at about 2-3% a year, the cost of everything from travel, heating, agriculture, trade, and anything made of plastic rises. And the scramble to control oil resources intensifies. As one US analyst said this week: "Just kiss your lifestyle goodbye."


Brave New Iraq

Tell me again why it's so great that we invaded? What is it that we have brought? Because from here it looks a lot more like chaos and death than like freedom and liberty:
ABU QADDUM lays out the pictures of mutilated bodies dredged from the Tigris River like a player dealing cards.

Some had their hands cut off, others are headless or burnt. Another was strangled, with his tongue lolling out. He thinks one bloated, slime-covered corpse might be his younger brother.

The shocking images come from Iraq’s new killing fields — the small town of Madain just 20 miles from Baghdad.

In other times the massacre might have prompted calls for international intervention. But there are already 150,000 US and British troops in Iraq and this was done under their noses. Abu Qaddum’s pictures are a terrifying testament to the chaos of Iraq.

Madain has had no police force since a mob of criminals and insurgents burnt down the police station last year. The police fled.

Sunni guerrillas quickly took over, running the town as their own criminal fiefdom and randomly killing Shia residents, whom they considered infidels and US sympathisers. Then they launched an all-out attempt to purge the town of its Shias.


The War on (People with) AIDS

Disgusting and heartless goings-on in Minnesota:
The latest attack on homosexuals from the Christian fundamentalist tribe at the state Capitol pops up in the house health committee's budget bill.

Rep. Tim Wilkin, a Republican from Eagan, has inserted a rider explicitly prohibiting funding for Minnesota AIDS Project (MAP), the state's largest nonprofit HIV service organization. This year MAP is receiving $403,000--or nearly 10 percent of its overall budget--in state funds for various prevention and education efforts.

Wilkin also introduced language enjoining the state health agency from funding “web sites, pamphlets, or other communications that contain sexually explicit images or language.”

This is, of course, a knock on MAP's work targeting gay and bi-sexual men. For years the nonprofit group has effectively utilized explicit materials to warn men at high-risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases about health risks.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

Hurray for Spain!

Congratulations. And yet another embarrassment as our own soi-disant Land of Liberty is once again left behind:

Spain has become the third country in Europe to legalise gay marriage, with parliament also giving same-sex couples the right to adopt children.

The move by the Socialist government of this traditionally Roman Catholic country yesterday provoked the ire of the church, which has found itself increasingly at odds with the prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, since he took power a year ago.

A petition signed by half a million opponents of gay marriage had earlier been handed in to the parliament.

UPDATE: As reader TheaLogie anticipated in Comments, the new pope is none too pleased.


Pre-emptive Catblogging

Once again I fear that work shall overwhelm me, so I don't know when next I can blog, plus my beloved wife has just provided these pics, so here they are:


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Reactionary Madness Wins!

How many deaths will be on this one's hands, as he continues to forbid condom use in the age of AIDS?
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger alienated some Roman Catholics in Germany with his zeal enforcing church orthodoxy. But in the conservative Alpine foothills of Bavaria where he grew up, he remains a favorite son who many think will make a good pope.

Ratzinger, a rigorously conservative guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy who turned 78 on Saturday and was chosen the Catholic Church's 265th pontiff Tuesday, went into the Vatican conclave a leading candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II.

And how much misery will he cause to those who are gay and unfortunate enough to be Catholic? Here's a bit from a 1986 Letter to the Bishops authored by Ratzinger, to give you a hint:
To chose someone of the same sex for one's sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator's sexual design. Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent.
Nevertheless, increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity. Those within the Church who argue in this fashion often have close ties with those with similar views outside it. These latter groups are guided by a vision opposed to the truth about the human person, which is fully disclosed in the mystery of Christ. They reflect, even if not entirely consciously, a materialistic ideology which denies the transcendent nature of the human person as well as the supernatural vocation of every individual.


The Quarter-Million Dollar Bigot

This is what Bush deems a fit use of our taxes:
An investigation by Education Department's inspector general has castigated the department for hiring conservative commentator Armstrong Williams to promote No Child Left Behind.

The inspector general said Senior Bush administration officials showed poor judgment and wasted money in hiring Williams and noted that two Education Department officials had warned the White House last summer over concerns about the Williams contract.

Williams was paid nearly a quarter million dollars by the White House to promote the President's agenda in his columns and nationally syndicated talk show. (story)

Williams is a former aide to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and has a long history of using his columns to attack gays.

In a column following the November 2 election Williams linked gay rights advocates with organized crime.

"Despite the rhetoric that you hear from the homosexual Cosa Nostra, the lack of support for the gay marriage amendment has nothing to do with prejudice," he wrote.

"It's not about trying to dictate to adults what they should do in the privacy of their own homes. Let's be clear about that. Opposition to the gay marriage amendment isn't about disallowing homosexuals the same basic rights we extend to everyone else. It is about recognizing that marriage between man and woman is the bedrock of our society. It is about the citizens of this country saying, en masse, that they are unwilling to deconstruct certain basic and essential norms in our culture and society."

A relevant quote from our old friend Goebbels: "It is the Absolute Right of the State to Supervise the Formation of Public Opinion."


Wonder Mom

It isn't often that I get to do feel-good stories, so enjoy:
The best mother in Britain could be a gay man.

Simon Ryder was nominated for the 'Wonder Mom' competition being run by a chain of English super stores. He was then picked from hundreds of entries to represent Shropshire in the finals to be held in London.

Ryder has fostered nearly a dozen children with his partner Chris Newton . All of the children were listed by the government as "troubled" - some with emotional problems, others with physical difficulties. They were all between the ages of three and 11.

Currently he is foster parent to a seven-year-old and a 10-year-old. He also helps run a schools project called Shropshire Sexual Health Awareness Workshops.

Ryder and Newton have been together for eight years.

Their friend Rachael Brown nominated Ryder for contest. In her application to the store she said that men should be recognized for the "mothering" they do in the same way as women.

"If I had children Simon would be the one person who I could entrust them to," she told a local newspaper. "We try to build up children in a diverse society and men should be recognized for the role they play."


America Loves Poverty!

For them, of course. Isn't it obvious that helping people, like, hurts them? Or something...
The United States issued its strongest attack to date on Monday on a U.N. plea that rich countries like America meet a fixed global target every year for the development aid they give poor countries.

By pressing for more aid, developing nations have fallen into an "aid trap" they must escape through private investment and trade, not more donations, said Sichan Siv, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Economic and Social Council.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Anti-Choice Bastards

An anti-abortion crusader in Texas says his organization provided the evidence that led to Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline's controversial investigation of two abortion clinics.

Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher said he had callers pretending to be 13-year-old girls call abortion clinics across the country, including four clinic offices in Kansas. The group says its tapes from the telephone conversations prove the clinics are operating illegally.

"The tapes from our investigation clearly prove that these people (abortion providers) are running a pedophile protection racket," Crutcher said.

But abortion-rights groups say the apparent link between Life Dynamics and Kline, which Kline denies exists, is evidence that the attorney general is using the power of his office to advance an anti-abortion agenda and appease his conservative political base.

First of all: "pedophile protection racket"? If you're looking for that, you should be harassing the Catholic Church.

Second of all: If these allegations are true, Kline needs to be run out of office immediately.


Monday Levity Blogging

Let's try this again. Just because I can, here's an audio file that amuses me.

Take that you stupid corn!


The Kids: Not All Right

So says the United States government:

LETTERS written by the children of a Bahraini detainee at Guantanamo Bay were censored by US forces before being delivered to him.

It has prompted accusations from his lawyers that there are not enough checks on the power being exercised by his American captors.

Detainee Essa Al Murbati showed the letters to his attorney during a visit to the high security prison last month.

"He explained to me that the letters were from his children, but were censored by the US forces before they were given to him," lawyer Joshua Colangelo-Bryan told the GDN.

Mr Colangelo-Bryan is part of a team from the New York-based legal firm Dorsey and Whitney, which is acting on behalf of the six Bahrainis.

"It struck me as strange to censor something written by children to their father," he said.



Another instance of "don't ask, don't tell" from the Bush administration, courtesy of the King of Zembla. Just as they cannot report the number of Iraqi civilians killed because they don't count them, they will from here on in be unable to report their progress in the "War on Terror":
The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.

Several U.S. officials defended the abrupt decision, saying the methodology the National Counterterrorism Center used to generate statistics for the report may have been faulty, such as the inclusion of incidents that may not have been terrorism.

Last year, the number of incidents in 2003 was undercounted, forcing a revision of the report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism."

But other current and former officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office ordered "Patterns of Global Terrorism" eliminated several weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush's administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.

"Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public," charged Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who first disclosed the decision to eliminate the report in The Counterterrorism Blog, an online journal.
. . .
According to Johnson and U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the issue, statistics that the National Counterterrorism Center provided to the State Department reported 625 "significant" terrorist attacks in 2004.

That compared with 175 such incidents in 2003, the highest number in two decades.

The statistics didn't include attacks on American troops in Iraq, which President Bush as recently as Tuesday called "a central front in the war on terror."

The intelligence officials requested anonymity because the information is classified and because, they said, they feared White House retribution. Johnson declined to say how he obtained the figures.

UPDATE: Thanks to Tena and Thersites, I've located a list of reports cancelled by Bush because they reflected poorly on his maladministration.


Fifty Years Ago Today

Continue to R.I.P., Albert.


And It's Reactionary Madness by a Furlong

Latest from the papal horse race:
Weeks of feverish speculation and intrigue in Rome will enter their final phase tomorrow when 115 cardinals begin to elect a new pope in the most exclusive and secret ballot in the world.

With no obvious successor, the bookmaker William Hill yesterday put Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian-born enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy under the old pope, known as God's rottweiler, in front at 7-2.



String him up. Embezzling from an AIDS organization? Time to add a new ring of hell to Dante's Inferno, just for guys like this one. Imagine the number of people who will suffer and die as a result of this:
A confession of embezzlement by the former chief financial officer of AIDS Project Florida has prompted the suspension of $1.5-million in government funding and an audit.

William Diamond acknowledged earlier this month through his lawyer that, during his two years on the job, he took tens of thousands of dollars from the nonprofit social service agency. He left his job three weeks ago.

Broward County officials are examining that period, from February 2003 to March 2005. Until the audit is complete, AIDS Project Florida will not be eligible for taxpayer funding. The agency has an annual budget of $5.2-million.


The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Will we learn something of worth from this? Somehow, I doubt it:
A US study has found that the number of cancers caused by hydrogen bomb testing in the Marshall Islands is set to double, more than half a century after the tests were conducted in the tiny Pacific nation.

The study by the US government's National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimated 530 cancers had already been caused by the tests, particularly the explosion of a 15 megaton hydrogen bomb code-named Bravo on March 1, 1954.

It said another 500 cancers were likely to develop among Marshall Islanders who were exposed to radiation more than 50 years ago.


Don't Ask, Don't Tell

No, I'm not referring to the idiotic anti-gay policy of the military. I'm referring to the general govenmental policy of this administration, as enacted by the man nominated to be our ambassador to the United Nations:
John R. Bolton -- who is seeking confirmation as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations -- often blocked then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and, on one occasion, his successor, Condoleezza Rice, from receiving information vital to U.S. strategies on Iran, according to current and former officials who have worked with Bolton.

In some cases, career officials found back channels to Powell or his deputy, Richard L. Armitage, who encouraged assistant secretaries to bring information directly to him. In other cases, the information was delayed for weeks or simply did not get through. The officials, who would discuss the incidents only on the condition of anonymity because some continue to deal with Bolton on other issues, cited a dozen examples of memos or information that Bolton refused to forward during his four years as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

Fucking brilliant.