Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Meth Generation

Of all the drugs to be catching on all of a sudden, methamphetamine has to be one of the worst:
Drug treatment centers have seen a substantial rise in the number of people seeking help for methamphetamine abuse, a new report said.

As trafficking in the highly addictive drug has spread across the country, the number of meth users admitted to substance abuse clinics more than quadrupled from 1993 to 2003, according to a review by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


More Parents with Too Little to Do

Seriously, these people need to get a life, or at least take a long, hard look at their priorities as parents:
A children's book about two male penguins that raise a baby penguin has been moved to the nonfiction section of two public library branches after parents complained it had homosexual undertones.

The illustrated book, "And Tango Makes Three," is based on a true story of two male penguins, named Roy and Silo, who adopted an abandoned egg at New York City's Central Park Zoo in the late 1990s.

The book, written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, was moved from the children's section at two Rolling Hills' Consolidated Library's branches in Savannah and St. Joseph in northwest Missouri.


Staying... and Staying...

And staying. As a result of the recent violence which our presence couldn't stop. Makes perfect military sense:
The top U.S. commander in Iraq said yesterday that he hopes to make an assessment this spring about whether to reduce the number of American troops in Iraq. But Pentagon officials speaking anonymously said a recent surge in violence there has dampened hopes that force levels can be cut anytime soon.

The expectation now is that U.S. force levels will remain the same for the foreseeable future, according to a senior military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity. Another Pentagon official said that with violence continuing in Iraq, the current number of American troops would likely be maintained at least through the end of 2006.

"They're planning for the long haul this year," the official said. "The numbers will be sustained or slightly increase to provide for trainers."


BoBo's World

True family values here. Thank goodness gay marriage is still illegal, or this incident could have gotten really nasty:
ORLANDO, Fla. - An man accused in the death of his ex-girlfriend by setting her hair on fire was arrested, authorities said.

Dane Abdool, 19, was charged with first-degree murder after police said he admitted killing Amelia Sookdeo, 17, it was reported Friday.

Abdool said the two got into an argument Feb. 25 because he thought she was pregnant.

Medical examiners found no evidence of pregnancy, Winter Garden police said.

The charging affidavit said Abdool forced Sookdeo from a car, wrapped her arms in tape, poured gasoline on her and flicked a lighter.

Thanks to Terry C.


Oh, Misery

Once again, Missouri is getting up to some stupid shit:
Missouri legislators in Jefferson City considered a bill that would name Christianity the state's official "majority" religion.

House Concurrent Resolution 13 has is pending in the state legislature.

Many Missouri residents had not heard about the bill until Thursday.

Karen Aroesty of the Anti-defamation league, along with other watch-groups, began a letter writing and email campaign to stop the resolution.

The resolution would recognize "a Christian god," and it would not protect minority religions, but "protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs.

The resolution also recognizes that, "a greater power exists," and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, "justified recognition."


Mailer Granted Legion of Honor

He is, it must be admitted, a towering literary figure, though his works tend to annoy me more than anything else ("The White Negro"? Come on.). At any rate, there it is:
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer received France's most prestigious award, the Legion of Honor, at a Friday evening ceremony.


Poisoned Nation


Bush Wishes...

and not for the first time, that he had X-ray vision.


It's True

Sometimes, you just wanna slap him. And President Musharraf of Pakistan is not immune.


Manly, Virile Bush

U.S. President George W. Bush drops the bat after being hit by a cricket pitch during a cricket workshop with players from the Islamabad College for Boys at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, March 4, 2006.

Rather a pathetic spectacle, really.


Childhood's End

We truly need to grow the fuck up:
A publicity stunt in which a golf ball will be whacked into orbit from the International Space Station (ISS) has met a chilly reception from scientists, who say the scheme is risky and adds to the growing problem of space junk.

Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov is to take on the role of a celestial Tiger Woods under a deal between a Canadian golf club manufacturer and the cash-strapped Russian Space Agency (RSA).

In one of three space walks planned from the ISS over the next six months, Vinogradov will climb aboard a special platform and swing a special gold-plated six iron and seek to enter the record books for the longest-ever golf drive.


Out of Business

Rather astonishing that this happened in Texas. I guess these cops will have to find a different place to deal their drugs:

TROUP, Texas - The police chief and a sergeant in this eastern Texas town were arrested on drug and evidence tampering charges and the department shut down

Police Chief Chester Kennedy was charged Friday with tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. He was released from jail on a $400,000 bond.

Sgt. Mark Turner, last year's chamber of commerce Officer of the Year, was booked into Smith County Jail late Thursday on a misdemeanor delivery of marijuana charge and a third-degree felony charge of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

Turner was being held on bonds totaling $500,000.


So Long, Dukestir

Time for the payback:
Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham began his first day in prison after being sentenced to eight years and four months for taking $2.4 million in homes, yachts and other bribes in a corruption scheme unmatched in the annals of Congress.


Common Sense and Common Decency

Of course, as usual, Wal-Mart had to be coerced into doing this, but at least the outcome is the right one:
Officials of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Friday the company will reverse its earlier policy and stock emergency contraception pills in all of its pharmacies effective March 20, saying the giant retailer could not justify being the country's only major pharmacy chain not to carry the morning-after pill.

The announcement comes after Massachusetts last month ordered the world's largest retailer to stock the so-called Plan B pill, following a lawsuit by three Boston women against Wal-Mart.


Venezuela Arms Itself

As the United States continues to wear its own military capability away in Iraq, Venezuela is taking a different route:
Around 500,000 Venezuelans will start a four-month military training programme today to turn them into members of the country's territorial guard. They are the first group of a total of 2m Venezuelan civilians who have so far signed up to become armed reservists.

By the summer of 2007, Venezuela is likely to have the largest military reserve in the Americas, which is expected to be almost double the size of that in the United States.


The Minister's All Right

Quite frankly, though I'm obviously pleased, I'm rather surprised at this acquittal:
A longtime Presbyterian minister who was the first of her faith to be tried for officiating at the unions of gay couples was acquitted Friday of violating her denomination's position on same-sex marriage.

A regional judicial commission of the Presbyterian Church (USA) ruled 6-1 that the Rev. Jane Spahr of San Rafael acted within her rights as an ordained minister when she married two lesbian couples in 2004 and 2005.

Because the section of the faith's constitution that reserves marriage for a man and a woman "is a definition, not a directive," Spahr was "acting within her right of conscience in performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples," the tribunal said in a written ruling.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Lonely Planet Warming

Once again, a surprising instance of corporate responsibility. Good for them:
They are the gurus of globetrotting, the men who built publishing empires from their adventures and wrote guidebooks encouraging millions to venture further afield than ever before. Now the founders of the Rough Guides and Lonely Planet books, troubled that they have helped spread a casual attitude towards air travel that could trigger devastating climate change, are uniting to urge tourists to fly less.

Mark Ellingham, the founder of Rough Guides, and Tony Wheeler, who created Lonely Planet after taking the hippie trail across Asia, want fellow travellers to "fly less and stay longer" and donate money to carbon offsetting schemes. From next month, warnings will appear in all new editions of their guides about the impact of flying on global warming alongside alternative ways of reaching certain destinations.

And not to mention that these companies produce just about the best guidebooks around.


Chertoff Is Headed for "Time with His Family"

Farewell, failure:
In the aftermath of the public revelation of the presidential "teleconference" and mounting criticism of the performance of Michael Chertoff, Administration sources told HUMAN EVENTS today that the secretary of Homeland Security has "only a few days left" in the Bush Cabinet.
As one source acquainted with the former federal prosecutor and U.S. appellate judge said under promise of anonymity, "They will give [Chertoff] a little time so it won't hurt his reputation too much, but he's probably got only a few days left."


We Just Elected the Wrong Chimp

Because I can't see W behaving well in such circumstances:
New studies on chimpanzees suggest that co-operation exists in our animal cousins.
The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig set up a series of experiments to prove that observed co-operation in the wild wasn't coincidental.

The results were published in Science.

In one experiment they placed an adult chimpanzee in a cage, with food outside. A chimp in an adjacent cage - connected by a door - was able to help reach the food, not always accessible to the first chimp.

The scientists found that the chimpanzees opened the door to their neighbour's cage if it could not get the food themselves. When the scientists gave the chimpanzees a choice between two partners, they almost always chose the more efficient one. Also, the chimps were willing to help when not getting a direct reward.


Bone Dumb

It seems to me that it's been quite a while since Nation of Islam has done anything that's caught my attention in a good way. Today doesn't change that:
Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad, director of community outreach for the Nation of Islam, was named to the Governor's Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes in August. Her presence was unknown to most people - including Gov. Rod Blagojevich - until last month, when she invited members of the commission to attend a speech by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

In the speech, Farrakhan accused ``Hollywood Jews'' of ``promoting lesbianism, homosexuality'' and other ``filth.'' That angered some commission members who publicly complained Muhammad's work for Farrakhan clashed with the panel's goals.


Lagniappe Cats!


Getting Warmer

Not a good sign, I have to say:
The Antarctic ice sheet is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year in a trend that scientists link to global warming, according to a new paper that provides the first evidence that the sheet's total mass is shrinking significantly.


Friday Catblogging!


AIDS Tourism

This just strikes me as, in a word, sick:
Press reports from India following a meeting between President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggest the US is considering outsourcing some HIV/AIDS care to that country.

The reports cite a joint statement issued following the meeting on trade, security and HIV/AIDS that said health tourism from the US to India was an area with "enormous potential for collaboration".

Given India's "world-class medical care facilities at reasonable costs, the two countries could leverage Indian expertise for their economic and social benefit" the Times of India quotes the joint statement as saying.

The two countries agreed to harmonize their healthcare systems and develop specialized medical insurance and legal packages for US patients to boost health tourism.


Deadly Ignorance

If this is true, convict this man of homicide:
A small-town police chief was accused in a federal lawsuit Thursday of stopping a would-be rescuer from performing CPR on a gay heart attack victim because he assumed the ailing man had HIV and posed a health risk.

Claude Green, 43, died June 21 after being stricken yards from City Hall in Welch, a community of about 2,400.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of his mother.
The lawsuit accuses Bowman of pulling off Green's friend Billy Snead as Snead was performing chest compressions on the man. Snead was a passenger in Green's pickup truck when Green collapsed; Snead had managed to pull over the vehicle.

Snead said in an interview that he didn't realize at first it was Bowman giving the order and continued working on his friend. Bowman repeated his command to get away, saying that Green was HIV positive, then grabbed Snead by the shoulders and told him to sit on the curb, Snead said.

"He was a police officer so I got out the way. I assumed he would help. I didn't want to be a hindrance," Snead said. "He also told the ambulance drivers that he was HIV positive and to be careful."

Green was pronounced dead at the hospital after about 30 minutes of attempts to revive him.
Rose Saxe, a lawyer with the ACLU's AIDS Project, said Bowman's alleged actions contributed to Green's death and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, equal protection laws and due process rights.

Saxe said Green's death was "tragically senseless" because he did not have the AIDS virus, but added that he should have received lifesaving care even if he was HIV-positive.

"He was simply a gay man in Welch, West Virginia. And because of that we can only assume that Chief Bowman assumed he had HIV and it was unsafe to even touch him," Saxe said.


High Literature

Buy these books:
The winner of the Bookseller magazine award for the year's oddest book title is the US volume, People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders - and What to Do About It, by Gary Leon Hill, which is said to have sold 15,000 copies.

The runner-up was Rhino Horn Stockpile Management: Minimum Standards and Best Practices from East and Southern Africa, by Simon Milledge.

Another contender was Nailing: Best Practice Guidance.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

You Have Got to Be Kidding Me

What the hell is Harper's thinking?
The latest issue of Harper's Magazine contains a stunning 15-page article by well-known AIDS denialist Celia Farber (formerly of Spin magazine) that extensively repeats UC Berkeley virologist Peter Duesberg's discredited theory that HIV does not cause AIDS. Among the claims that Duesberg makes (and Farber recounts approvingly) are:

AIDS is actually a "chemical syndrome, caused by accumulated toxins from heavy drug use."
"Many cases of AIDS are the consequence of heavy drug use, both recreational (poppers, cocaine, methamphetamines, etc.) and medical (AZT, etc.)"

"HIV is a harmless passenger virus that infects a small percentage of the population and is spread primarily from mother to child, though at a relatively low rate."

"75 percent of AIDS cases in the West can be attributed to drug toxicity. If toxic AIDS therapies were discontinued...thousands of lives could be saved virtually overnight."

"AIDS in Africa is best understood as an umbrella term for a number of old diseases, formerly known by other names, that currently do not command high rates of international aid. The money spent on anti-retroviral drugs would be better spent on sanitation and improving access to safe drinking water."

The best rebuttals to Duesberg's hypothesis are here, here and here. Over at Slate science writer Jon Cohen has a piece examining the wave of "pharmanoia" afflicting mass media.


Killing Iraq

Just great. While Bush is visiting Brave New Afghanistan, in which the Taliban are executing teachers and destroying schools, Iraq's professionals are being wiped out, ensuring that reconstruction will remain but a dream:
White-collar professionals such as doctors and academics are being targeted in the violence sweeping Iraq.

"Really we don't know exactly who they are, but I am sure these criminals are not normal and they get training in other countries," said Ali al-Obeidi, a doctor in Mosul. "They know very well what they are doing ... Their purpose is to destroy Iraq from the inside."

Dr Isam al-Rawi, a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars and head of the Teachers Association of Iraqi Universities, suggests that both Iran and United States-led occupying forces are responsible for the killing of educated and influential Iraqis.


The Secret to a Long Life...

Is knowing when it's time to go:
Faik Bakir, the director of the Baghdad morgue, has fled Iraq in fear of his life after reporting that more than 7,000 people have been killed by death squads in recent months, the outgoing head of the UN human rights office in Iraq
has disclosed.
"The vast majority of bodies showed signs of summary execution - many with their hands tied behind their back. Some showed evidence of torture, with arms and leg joints broken by electric drills," said John Pace, the Maltese UN official. The killings had been happening long before the bloodshed after last week's bombing of the Shia shrine in Samarra.



These people just keep getting sillier all the time. And I feel so sorry for the kids whose parents are going to be stupid enough to listen to this crap:
A report released Thursday says that the so-called ex-gay movement is turning from attempting to convert gay adults to heterosexuality and is now focusing on gay teens.

Called 'Youth in the Crosshairs' the report was prepared by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. It says that groups such as Exodus International and Focus on the Family now recommend "prevention" and conversion therapy "treatments".

Such efforts have been discredited by medical experts including the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association.

In targeting teens the report says "ex-gay" groups are targeting parents.

"Whether through ex-gay teen programs or traveling ex-gay conferences like Focus on the Family's Love Won Out ex-gay programs are recommending that parents commit their children to treatment of 'prehomosexuality' even if it is against their children's wishes. Heterosexual youth are also being recruited in schools and churches to spread the message that homosexuality is a treatable mental illness," the report says.

"One of the most disturbing accounts in this report is a case involving a 5-year-old boy who was subjected to conversion therapy to address 'prehomosexuality.' The case involves a psychologist who claims that his theories and treatments are scientific," said study co-author Jason Cianciotto, the Policy Institute's research director. "To the contrary, conversion therapy is opposed by nearly every medical and mental health professional association, including the American Academy of Pediatrics."

Every last person involved in what was done to that five-year-old boy should be arrested for child abuse immediately.


Mississippi Follows South Dakota

Try not to get raped in either state:
Gov. Haley Barbour said Wednesday he would probably sign a bill under consideration in the state House that would ban most abortions in Mississippi.

The measure, which passed the House Public Health Committee on Tuesday, would allow abortion only to save a woman's life. It would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.

Barbour, a Republican, said he preferred an exception in cases of rape and incest, but if such a bill came to his desk: "I suspect I'll sign it."


Brave Bush

What a load of bullshit. First there's this, evoking an image of a swaggering hero:
Bush seemed unfazed by the security risks as he moved quickly around Kabul for four hours, meeting with President Hamid Karzai, U.S. Embassy workers and American and foreign forces at Bagram Air Base.

Eight weeks in the planning, Bush's visit to Afghanistan was not announced in advance to reduce chances of an assassination attempt. Heavily armed combat-assault teams shadowed Bush's moves.
Streets were locked down and there was a heavy show of security along Bush's brief motorcade route. There was no other traffic. At one intersection, pedestrians gawked from behind military and security forces.

Um, yeah. I'd be "unfazed" too...


Sound Advice

Why the hell didn't we think of this? We just need to save more!
Vice President Dick Cheney urged Americans Thursday to do a better job of saving and challenged policymakers to strengthen pensions and fix Social Security to help people in their golden years.

``The American dream begins with saving money and that should begin on the very first day of work,'' Cheney told a conference here exploring how to encourage people to boost savings and be better prepared for retirement.

Too often, workers are living paycheck to paycheck and are not saving sufficiently, Cheney said.

I'm not usually a fan of Cheney, but it takes a bold, resolute man to call upon the proletariat to give up their caviar and start behaving responsibly for a change.


Sharks Shall Save Us

Remote control sharks, of course. One wonders if the administration will make use of them to attack Missing White Women when the news cycle turns against them...
Pentagon scientists are planning to turn sharks into "stealth spies" capable of tracking vessels undetected, a British magazine has reported.

They want to remotely control the sharks by implanting electrodes in their brains, The New Scientist says.

It says the aim is "to exploit sharks' natural ability to glide through the water, sense delicate electrical gradients and follow chemical trails".


Alito Feels Prayers

A letter from newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to Focus the Family founder James Dobson thanking him for his organization's support during Senate confirmation hearings is drawing fire.

"As I said when I spoke at my formal investiture at the White House last week, the prayers of so many people from around the country were a palpable and powerful force," Alito said in the letter.

"As long as I serve on the Supreme Court I will keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me."

The letter went on to say, "I hope that we’ll have the opportunity to meet personally at some point in the future."

Dobson, who opposes LGBT civil rights - especially same-sex marriage - and an abortion opponent, had urged listeners to his radio program to contact their Senators to support the nomination of Alito.


Catholics with Principles

It's nice to see people on the pro-life side actually displaying a commitment to children who have been born:
Seven members of the Catholic Charities board resigned Wednesday to protest a request by the state's Roman Catholic bishops to exempt Catholic social service agencies from a law requiring them to place some adoptive children in gay households.

In a statement, the seven board members said they were "deeply troubled" by the course set by the four bishops, and said it "undermines our moral priority of helping vulnerable children find loving homes.

"We also cannot participate in an effort to pursue legal permission to discriminate against Massachusetts citizens who want to play a part in building strong families," the statement read.

"The course the Bishops have charted threatens the very essence of our Christian mission. For the sake of the poor we serve, we pray they will reconsider."


Shoddy Security

I applaud our correctional facilities for protecting us from dangerous pregnant women, but I am appalled that these criminal fetuses are permitted to remain unshackled throughout gestation. Something must be done:
Shawanna Nelson, a prisoner at the McPherson Unit in Newport, Ark., had been in labor for more than 12 hours when she arrived at Newport Hospital on Sept. 20, 2003. Ms. Nelson, whose legs were shackled together and who had been given nothing stronger than Tylenol all day, begged, according to court papers, to have the shackles removed.

Though her doctor and two nurses joined in the request, her lawsuit says, the guard in charge of her refused.

"She was shackled all through labor," said Ms. Nelson's lawyer, Cathleen V. Compton. "The doctor who was delivering the baby made them remove the shackles for the actual delivery at the very end."

Despite sporadic complaints and occasional lawsuits, the practice of shackling prisoners in labor continues to be relatively common, state legislators and a human rights group said. Only two states, California and Illinois, have laws forbidding the practice.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bush Knew

He just didn't give a shit. On top of everything else, he has the near-destruction of one of the greatest American cities on this hands:

In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned
President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.

Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."

The footage — along with seven days of transcripts of briefings obtained by The Associated Press — show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.

Linked by secure video, Bush expressed a confidence on Aug. 28 that starkly contrasted with the dire warnings his disaster chief and numerous federal, state and local officials provided during the four days before the storm.


Photo from the Valley of Death


A Trivial Exercise

No wonder Bush travels but rarely. First of all, it requires so much manpower. Second of all, people out in the world sometimes tell the truth:
The descendants of India's freedom icon Mahatma Gandhi said that plans for US
President George W. Bush to pay homage at a memorial to the hero were "a trivial exercise".



To the country created after the United States went to war against the Taliban:
President Bush made a surprise five-hour visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday to meet with President Hamid Karzai and to see for the first time the country created after the United States went to war against the Taliban in retaliation for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


Octavia Butler dies at 58

African American science fiction writer Octavia Butler died this past week. If you haven't read anything of hers, by all means go, now, and do so. This is a great loss to those of us who loved what she did because she was a great writer who thought creatively about race, gender, and class.
Octavia E. Butler, considered the first black woman to gain national prominence as a science fiction writer, died after falling and striking her head on the cobbled walkway outside her home, a close friend said. She was 58. [...]

Her first novel, "Kindred," came out in 1979. It concerned a black woman who travels back in time to the South to save a white man. She went on to write about a dozen books, plus numerous essays and short stories. Her most recent work, "Fledgling," a reinterpretation of the "Dracula" legend, was published last fall. [...]

"Mostly she just loved sitting down and writing," [her friend Greg Bear] said. "For being a black female growing up in Los Angeles in the '60s, she was attracted to science fiction for the same reasons I was: It liberated her. She had a far-ranging imagination, and she was a treasure in our community."
Someone on Bookcrossing pointed me to a story of hers online; I haven't read it yet, but you can read here.


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Welcome to the American Model

Public works money equals money for prisons, nothing else:
The U.S. State Department is winding down its $20 billion reconstruction program in Iraq and the only new rebuilding money in its latest budget request is for prisons,officials said on Tuesday.

State Department Iraq coordinator James Jeffrey told reporters he was asking Congress for $100 million for prisons but no other big building projects were in the pipeline for the department's 2006 supplemental and 2007 budget requests for Iraq, which total just over $4 billion.

"This is the one bit of construction we will be doing -- $100 million for additional bed capacity for the Iraqi legal system," he said.


Libby Lied

And there's proof:
Handwritten notes taken by the CIA show Vice President Cheney's top aide knew the name of CIA spy Valerie Plame a month before her cover was blown.

It appears to be the first known document in the hands of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that directly contradicts Lewis (Scooter) Libby's claim he learned from reporters in July 2003 that Valerie Plame was a CIA employee.

Libby, who was Cheney's chief of staff, has been indicted for perjury in the CIA leak investigation.


Equal Protection Clause, Anyone?

Evidence that denial of equal marriage rights causes actual harm. How does this denial, then, lie within the purview of the state?
A new national study shows widespread psychological and social harm inflicted on same-sex couples because they are denied the right to marry.

The study, called “I Do, But I Can’t" was released at a San Francisco news conference Tuesday by the National Sexuality Resource Center and is the first first peer-reviewed study to analyze the impact of marriage denial on the mental health and well being of gay men and lesbians.
They found that on average, married individuals have better mental health, more emotional support, less psychological distress, and lower rates of psychiatric disorder than the unmarried.

Married individuals report more emotional support and are more likely to have a close confidant than the unmarried. Effects of emotional support seem to provide protection against the negative health consequences of stress the authors say.

"Marriage denial creates what experts call minority stress, the psychological effects of constant discrimination that bars individuals from the legitimate means of achieving goals that are valued by the society in which they live,” said Herdt.

"Lesbians and gay men work just as hard as heterosexuals do in creating and maintaining committed relationships, but they do not get the same tangible benefits."


Not Very Popular

When you need your own private army to travel, you need to take a long hard look at yourself:
About 5,000 personnel including snipers, commandos and U.S. marines using helicopters, bomb detectors and electronic jammers will protect President George W. Bush during his visit to India this week, officials said on Monday.


Peacenik Leftists Have Infiltrated the Army!

That's the only possible explanation:
A new poll to be released today shows that U.S. soldiers overwhelmingly want out of Iraq — and soon. The poll is the first of U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq, according to John Zogby, the pollster. Conducted by Zogby International and LeMoyne College, it asked 944 service members, “How long should U.S. troops stay in Iraq?” Only 23 percent backed Mr. Bush’s position that they should stay as long as necessary. In contrast, 72 percent said that U.S. troops should be pulled out within one year. Of those, 29 percent said they should withdraw “immediately.”


School Board to Schnepp: STFU

I made note earlier of the bigot who felt that the existence of a transgendered teacher somehow violated his religious beliefs.

He's been smacked down:
A school board in one of the most conservative counties in New Jersey Monday night refused to bow to pressure from a small group of parents who demanded the removal of a transgendered teacher.

Lily B. McBeth took a leave of absence from her job as a substitute teacher with the Eagleswood School District last year and at age 69 transitioned. When her physical transformation was complete she petitioned the board to return to work. The board voted 41 to 1 to return her to her old job.

When a small group of a parents realized that Mr McBeth was now Ms McBeth they demanded the board rescind its decision. One parent, Mark Schnepp, took out a full-page newspaper ad urging parents to attend the Board of Education's Monday meeting.

About 100 people showed up.

"The children will learn of this and there will be problems," said Vincent Mustacchio, 48, who has a daughter in the school system.

Mustacchio told the board he may keep his child out of classes taught by McBeth.

Schnepp said that having a transgender teaching his two children violated his religious beliefs.

But most of the speakers praised McBeth calling her well liked by children and an asset to the school system.

Prior to the meeting the school board met privately with McBeth and her attorney.

After listening to both sides of the issue during the public meeting the board, without a vote, said it would not amend its early decision.

"This is a historic night for transgender rights," Steven Goldstein, the chair of Garden State Equality told


Taliban Targetting Schools

A nasty, and likely effective, tactic arises in Afghanistan (you know, that country where we "won"):
Ghulam Rasul was leaving school when two gunmen walked in and opened fire. The 17-year-old died instantly. As other students and teachers fled in terror, the shooting continued. Two more people were hit.

The attack at Kartilaya High School in Lashkar Gar was just one in a series which is crippling Afghanistan's education system. At least 165 schools and colleges have been burnt down or forced to close so far by a resurgent Taliban and their Islamist allies.

Five years after the end of the Afghan war and Tony Blair's famous pledge that "this time we will not walk away", it seems the Taliban and al-Qa'ida are back with a vengeance, and one of their main targets is the country's education system.

The campaign is intended, say educationalists and human rights groups, to terrorise families into keeping children uneducated, unemployable, and a recruitment pool for the Islamists.

Teachers are the main targets. Some have been beheaded, others shot in front of their classes. One was killed while attending his father's funeral.


Circus Spies

It's the story that has everything (well, except for an old man getting shot in the face): a circus, PETA, the CIA...
The nation's largest circus went on trial Monday on allegations that it ran an extensive corporate espionage campaign against an animal-rights group and hired a former CIA operative to help conduct the operation.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued Vienna, Va.-based Feld Entertainment, which produces the Ringling Bros. circus, more than four years ago, claiming the company's president supervised the spying efforts.

PETA claims circus operatives stole sensitive documents such as donor lists. It is seeking $1.8 million in legal fees and damages, as well as full disclosure of the alleged spying activities.
The PETA attorney also alluded to the involvement of Clair George, the CIA's former covert operations director who was convicted of perjury in the Iran-Contra scandal but later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.

George acknowledged in an unrelated case that he did consulting work for Feld and helped oversee surveillance of animal-rights groups.


Monday, February 27, 2006

Bush: Unserious

Or, to put it another way, he's just a tremendous liar who has no compunction about screwing the country every last way he can:
At least tens of thousands of veterans with non-critical medical issues could suffer delayed or even denied care in coming years to enable President Bush to meet his promise of cutting the deficit in half — if the White House is serious about its proposed budget.

After an increase for next year, the Bush budget would turn current trends on their head. Even though the cost of providing medical care to veterans has been growing by leaps and bounds, White House budget documents assume a cutback in 2008 and further cuts thereafter.

In fact, the proposed cuts are so draconian that it seems to some that the White House is simply making them up to make its long-term deficit figures look better. More realistic numbers, however, would raise doubts as to whether Bush can keep his promise to wrestle the deficit under control by the time he leaves office.

"Either the administration is proposing gutting VA health care over the next five years or it is not serious about its own budget," said Rep. Chet Edwards (news, bio, voting record) of Texas, top Democrat on the panel overseeing the VA's budget. "If the proposals aren't serious, then that would undermine the administration's argument that they intend to reduce the deficit in half over the next several years."

In fact, the White House doesn't seem serious about the numbers. It says the long-term budget numbers don't represent actual administration policies. Similar cuts assumed in earlier budgets have been reversed.


News Flash: The Bush Administration, in a Word, Sucks

Signs of awakening?
The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.
In a separate poll, two out of three Americans said they do not think President Bush has responded adequately to the needs of Katrina victims. Only 32 percent approve of the way President Bush is responding to those needs, a drop of 12 points from last September’s poll, taken just two weeks after the storm made landfall.
Mr. Bush's overall job rating has fallen to 34 percent, down from 42 percent last month.

Fifty-nine percent disapprove of the job the president is doing. For the first time in this poll, most Americans say the president does not care much about people like themselves. Fifty-one percent now think he doesn't care, compared to 47 percent last fall.

Just 30 percent approve of how Mr. Bush is handling the Iraq war, another all-time low.
Just 18 percent said they had a favorable view of the vice president, down from 23 percent in January.


Whatever It Is, We're Against It

That's the official US policy regarding anything having to do with human rights:
The United States on Monday called the proposal for a new U.N. Human Rights Council unacceptable and said it would vote against a draft resolution unless negotiations were reopened.

"We are very disappointed with the draft that was produced last Thursday. We don't think it's acceptable," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters. "We'll be calling around today and we're making it plain to delegations that we want to reopen the negotiations."

The new council is to replace the discredited Geneva-based Human Rights Commission, where a number of rights violating nations have seats. Bolton said that if General Assembly President Jan Eliasson, who drew up the compromise proposal, put it to a vote this week, the United States would vote "no."


Quebec's Catholics Speak Out

More like these, please:
Nineteen priests in Quebec have issued a stinging public rebuke of the Vatican position of gays and same-sex marriage.

In an open letter published in La Presse, the largest circulation newspaper in the province, they called on other Catholic clergy to join them in opposing the Vatican ban on gays in seminaries and same-sex marriage.

Under the headline "Enough is enough," the priests charge that by pronouncing homosexuality a "disorder," the church is fuelling homophobia.

The 980-word letter notes the church has been wrong before on "the mysteries of political, social, family and sexual life."


Our President: A "Moving/Falling Object"

The details of Bush's collision with a constable last year have come out and are, as you may have guessed, embarrassing:
HE MAY be the most powerful man in the world, but proof has emerged that President George Bush cannot ride a bike, wave and speak at the same time.
The official police incident report states: "[The unit] was requested to cover the road junction on the Auchterarder to Braco Road as the President of the USA, George Bush, was cycling through." The report goes on: "[At] about 1800 hours the President approached the junction at speed on the bicycle. The road was damp at the time. As the President passed the junction at speed he raised his left arm from the handlebars to wave to the police officers present while shouting 'thanks, you guys, for coming'.

"As he did this he lost control of the cycle, falling to the ground, causing both himself and his bicycle to strike [the officer] on the lower legs. [The officer] fell to the ground, striking his head. The President continued along the ground for approximately five metres, causing himself a number of abrasions. The officers... then assisted both injured parties."

The injured officer, who was not named, was whisked to Perth Royal Infirmary. The report adds: "While en-route President Bush phoned [the officer], enquiring after his wellbeing and apologising for the accident."

At hospital, a doctor examined the constable and diagnosed damage to his ankle ligaments and issued him with crutches. The cause was officially recorded as: "Hit by moving/falling object."


It's Unanimous

Fifty out of fifty governors agree that Bush's war is destroying the National Guard:
Governors of both parties said Sunday that Bush administration policies were stripping the National Guard of equipment and personnel needed to respond to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, forest fires and other emergencies.
The governors said they would present their concerns to President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Monday. In a preview of their message, all 50 governors signed a letter to the president opposing any cuts in the size of the National Guard.

"Unfortunately," the letter said, "when our National Guard men and women return from being deployed in foreign theaters, much of their equipment remains behind." The governors said the White House must immediately re-equip Guard units "to carry out their homeland security and domestic disaster duties."


Day of Political Lies

This idea comes none too soon:
Writers from around the world plan to mark March 20, the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, as the 'day of political lies.'

The Berlin-based Peter Weiss Foundation for Art and Politics, which organizes the annual Berlin Literature Festival, said Wednesday that public readings will be held on March 20 in dozens of cities in Europe, the United States, Asia and Australia to raise awareness of the substance and form of political lies.

The events are to include a reading of Eliot Weinberger's What I Heard About Iraq in 2005, which was first published in the London Review of Books. It is a compendium of statements from American government authorities and their allies before and after the war and places them in counterpoint to the observations and experiences of soldiers and Iraqis and compares them as well with the progress of the reconstruction, the abuse at Iraqi prisons and the reliability of prewar intelligence.

Among the writers signing the call for the 'day of political lies' were Britain's Doris Lessing and Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, India's Amitav Gosh, Turkey's Orhan Pamuk, Americans Paul Auster and Russell Banks, and Germany's Peter Schneider and Ulla Hahn.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Mardi Gras Lives

As a former resident of New Orleans, I lost the desire to go to Mardi Gras a long time ago. Suffice it to say, the desire to be there now is overwhelming...


Secure Iraq

If this is the best that can be done while preventing shops from stocking up on supplies, then what hope is there for security?
Violence killed at least 29 people Sunday, including three American soldiers, and mortar fire rumbled through the heart of Baghdad after sundown despite stringent security measures imposed after an explosion of sectarian violence.
Nevertheless, officials announced they would let vehicles back on the streets at 6 a.m. Monday — in part because shops were running out of food and other basics. Gasoline stations were closed, and people were unable to go to work Sunday, a work day in this Muslim country.