Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Lazy Saturday Morning


More Massive Suicide Attacks

Largest in months:
A triple suicide bombing at a prominent Shia mosque in Baghdad killed at least 74 people and wounded more than 130 yesterday in the deadliest attack in months of sectarian strife.

The latest slaughter highlights the huge task facing Iraqi politicians struggling to break the deadlock over forming a government capable of restoring order to violent central parts of Iraq.


LGBT Education in California Schools

The righties are gonna love that:
Groups already pushing for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage are girding for a major battle over legislation that would mandate the teaching of LGBT history in California schools.

The measure has already passed one Senate committee and appears likely to hit the floor later this spring. Supporters say they are measurably confident the bill will pass both houses this session.


GOP Foundering

Quite the spectacle, I expect:
President Bush's approval ratings hit a series of new lows in an AP-Ipsos poll that also shows Republicans surrendering their advantage on national security — grim election-year news for a party struggling to stay in power

Democratic leaders predicted they will seize control of one or both chambers of Congress in November. Republicans said they feared the worst unless the political landscape quickly changes.

Just 36 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, his lowest-ever rating in AP-Ipsos polling. By contrast, the president's job approval rating was 47 percent among likely voters just before Election Day 2004 and a whopping 64 percent among registered voters in October 2002.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Not Giving to Caesar That Which Is Caesar's

What a travesty:
A biblical theme park in Orlando where guests pay $30 admission to munch on "Goliath" burgers and explore reproductions of 2000-year-old tombs and temples could get a property tax exemption written into state law.

A Senate committee easily passed a bill that would grant theme parks "used to exhibit, illustrate, and interpret biblical manuscripts ... " an exemption from local property taxes, like churches, even though the parks charge money.


South America Cutting Class

Well done. It's nice to see nations refusing the "help" offered by the School of the Americas:
Two Latin American countries are to stop sending troops for training to a controversial military academy in the US.

The move was welcomed by groups that have been campaigning against the academy since it was accused, in its previous incarnation, of training Latin American soldiers in illegal interrogation techniques.

The defence ministers of Argentina and Uruguay have decided to stop sending soldiers to train at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (Whinsec), the military academy based at Fort Benning, Georgia, according to a statement by a Washington-based organisation, School of the Americas Watch. In the past both countries regularly sent soldiers to Fort Benning for training.


Forest Murder

The usual suspects:
A handful of the world's largest food companies and commodity traders, including McDonald's in the UK, are driving illegal and rapid destruction of the Amazon rainforest, according to a six-year investigation of the Brazilian soya bean industry.

The report, published today, follows a 7,000km chain that starts with the clearing of virgin forest by farmers and leads directly to Chicken McNuggets being sold in British and European fast food restaurants. It also alleges that much of the soya animal feed arriving in the UK from Brazil is a product of "forest crime" and that McDonald's and British supermarkets have turned a blind eye to the destruction of the forest.


In Ya Face, Creationists!

But then, I'm sure this evidence was just planted by Satan to mislead us into the damnable belief in evolution:
Scientists have made one of the most important fossil finds in history: a missing link between fish and land animals, showing how creatures first walked out of the water and on to dry land more than 375m years ago.


Feed the Rich

They don't even bother to spew the "trickle-down" crap anymore, do they?
The first data to document the effect of President Bush's tax cuts for investment income show that they have significantly lowered the tax burden on the richest Americans, reducing taxes on incomes of more than $10 million by $500,000 on average.


WTF Is Wrong with Jamaica?

More ganja, all around. Just calm down, people:
Students at University of the West Indies rioted as police attempted to protect a gay student and escort him from the campus.

The Daily Gleaner reports that the student had been chased across the Mona campus by another student who claimed the gay man had attempted to proposition him in a washroom.

Dozens of students joined in the case and the student sought protection in a university building.

The mob demanded that campus security turn the student over. With security guards badly outnumbered college authorities called in police fearing the gay man would be killed.

The Gleaner reports that a contingent of police in full riot gear battled with students in an effort to protect the gay man.

Students threw objects from all directions at the officers. At one point the gay man was stabbed by another student, although the injuries are reportedly superficial.


Insurers to New Orleans


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Random Catblogging


He Knew His Job

Rather twisted:
The man who headed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Tampa has pleaded no contest to charges he exposed himself to a girl in a mall food court and ran away from security guards.

Frank Figueroa, 49, originally said he was not guilty. His trial was expected to begin tomorrow.

Figueroa, once one of Florida’s highest-ranking federal law enforcement officers and the former head of a national program formed to target child sex predators, was arrested Oct. 25 at The Mall at Millenia in Orlando.


Molly Ivins Nails It, Again

This is from a little ways back, but it is just so right, and Ivins has such a way with words, god bless her foul mouth:
I can’t see a damn soul in D.C. except Russ Feingold who is even worth considering for President. The rest of them seem to me so poisonously in hock to this system of legalized bribery they can’t even see straight.


For I'd Hoped to See Him Hang

You should read all of James Galbraith's analysis of the enduring damage done to the House of Representatives by the departing DeLay:
Now DeLay is history, but his damage will endure. What was once a proud democratic institution would take an upheaval, and then a decade or more of hard work, to rebuild. And so I'm in mind of a poem I learned many years ago:

They buried the politician today
The crowd it jeered and rang.
But as for me, I wept
For I had hoped to see him hang.



Not the sort of man we want protecting us:
A deputy press secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was charged with using a computer to seduce a child after authorities said he struck up sexual conversations with an undercover detective posing as a 14-year-old girl.


Wal-Mart: Objectively Pro-Terror?

Nothing like corporate wealth being used to pave the way for the next attack:
A new report delivered to members of Congress today by the AFL-CIO alleges that lobbyists for America's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, are blocking efforts to secure the nation's ports.

"Unchecked: How Wal-Mart Uses Its Might to Block Port Security," reveals that Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA,) a lobby group controlled by the big box giant, has poured $182,000 into current House Homeland Security Committee members since the September 11 attacks. 90% of that total went to the committee's Republican members, while and 4 of the committee's 14 Democrats accepted $18,500. During the 2004 election cycle, Wal-Mart gave $2.7 million in campaign contributions for national offices, making it the nation's third biggest corporate contributor.

The retailer has in turn used this influence to oppose the introduction of electronic cargo seals and "smart containers" for material entering U.S. ports, independent, regular inspections of supply-chain security practices, toughter Customs rules, and container-handling fees to pay for improved port security measures.


Working Together

Sometimes, not so much, as the Haves continue their classic NIMBY behavior, even in Katrina's wake...and Nagin concedes:
Mayor Ray Nagin suspended the construction of FEMA trailer parks in the city after a confrontation between federal workers and homeowners who were outraged that a government trailer park was being built inside their gated community.

With an election three weeks away, Nagin sided with the residents of Lakewood Estates, a community of spacious homes in the city's Algiers section, and suspended the nearly completed trailer project there and similar projects elsewhere in New Orleans.

The Lakewood Estates trailer park was meant to house 34 single women and their children who were left homeless by Hurricane Katrina, but area residents complained it was too close to their homes. The neighborhood association also sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency seeking a permanent injunction against the project.

FEMA officials said they were surprised by Nagin's decision, especially since he had approved the Algiers trailer site months earlier, FEMA spokesman Darryl Madden told The New York Times. All the necessary building permits had been obtained, Madden said.

The city may have to reimburse the federal government $1.6 million if FEMA is not allowed to finish building the trailer site, Madden said Tuesday.


A Victory in Minnesota

For now, at the very least:
The Osseo School District must give a student gay rights group at Maple Grove High School the same privileges offered to other extracurricular clubs while a lawsuit proceeds through the court system, a judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen issued a preliminary injunction that orders the district to put the student group called Straights and Gays for Equality (SAGE) on equal footing as other groups.

Two students sued the school district in September, claiming that groups including the Spirit Council, the Asian Culture Group and the Chess Club were allowed to publicize meetings and events, but members of SAGE were consistently denied such requests.

The lawsuit claimed a violation of the federal Equal Access Act, which holds that public schools must extend the same privileges to all student-organized, non-curricular clubs.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What's the Labor Equivalent of Greenwashing?

I don't know if we've invented the term, but Wal-Mart is developing the practice:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. , under fire from a host of critics for its business practices, on Tuesday said it would open more than 50 stores in distressed areas and help small business around those locations thrive once the discount chain moves in.

The world's biggest retailer, often blamed for driving mom-and-pop stores out of business, said it would offer business development grants to nearby companies and give them free in-store advertising as part of a new economic development program.

Wal-Mart will also hold seminars for minority and women-owned business owners on how to become Wal-Mart suppliers, as well as seminars for all surrounding small businesses on how to compete in a community with a Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart said Chief Executive Officer Lee Scott will detail the plans at a press conference on Tuesday on Chicago's West Side, where the retailer is opening its first store in the nation's third-largest city.

The company faces fierce opposition from labor groups, environmentalists and others who contend that it devours green space, drives competitors out of business and pays poverty-level wages.

The mounting criticism has slowed Wal-Mart's expansion efforts, particularly in urban areas such as Chicago.

The retailer has tried to mollify critics through programs such as a lower-priced health care option, and it recently promised to reduce the waiting time for part-time employees to qualify for health insurance.

As part of the economic development program, Wal-Mart plans to establish 10 "jobs and opportunity zones."


An Alternative to Bushian Kleptocracy

Chávez is not pulling any punches, and he is eager for a solid place on the world stage:
President Hugo Chavez is spending billions of dollars of his country's oil windfall on pet projects abroad that are aimed at setting up his leftist government as a political counterpoint in the region to the conservative Bush administration, the New York Times will run on page ones Tuesday. Excerpts:


With Venezuela's oil revenues rising 32 percent last year, Mr. Chávez has been subsidizing samba parades in Brazil, eye surgery for poor Mexicans and even heating fuel for poor families from Maine to the Bronx to Philadelphia. By some estimates, the spending now surpasses the nearly $2 billion Washington allocates annually to pay for development programs and the drug war in western South America.

The new spending has given more power to a leader who has been provocatively building a bulwark against what he has called American imperialistic aims in Latin America. Mr. Chávez frequently derides Mr. Bush and his top aides. In March, he called Mr. Bush a "donkey," a "drunkard" and a "coward," daring him to invade the country.


Feingold Continues to Rock

Imagine an America with this man as president (and for so many reasons, including this one):
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has come out in favor of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.

In a meeting with constituents in Kenosha County in his home state, Feingold was asked if he supported a proposed amendment to the Wisconsin constitution to bar same-sex marriage and civil unions.

The measure was cleared last month and will be put to voters in November.

“The proposed ban on civil unions and marriage is a mean-spirited attempt to divide Wisconsin and I indicated that it should be defeated,” Feingold replied to the questioner.

“It discriminates against thousands of people in our communities – our co-workers, our neighbors, our friends, and our family members. It would single out members of a particular group and forever deny them rights and protections granted to all other Wisconsin citizens. It would also outlaw civil unions and jeopardize many legal protections for all unmarried couples, whether of the same or the opposite sex. We shouldn’t enshrine this prejudice in our state’s Constitution.”

Feingold later went on to express his support for the right of gays and lesbians to marry.

"Gay and lesbian couples should be able to marry and have access to the same rights, privileges and benefits that straight couples currently enjoy,” Feingold said.


Moderation in All Things

A lesson that seems to have been lost on this man. 25 hits of Ecstasy a day. Lordy:
DOCTORS from London University have revealed details of what they believe is the largest amount of ecstasy ever consumed by a single person.

Consultants at the addiction centre at St George's Medical School have published a case report of a man estimated to have taken 40,000 pills of MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, over nine years. The heaviest previous lifetime intake on record is 2000 pills.

Although the man, now 37, stopped taking the drug seven years ago, he still suffers from severe physical and mental health side-effects, including extreme memory problems, paranoia, hallucinations and depression.

He also suffers from painful muscle rigidity around his neck and jaw that often prevents him from opening his mouth. The doctors believe many of these afflictions could be permanent.

The man, referred to only as Mr A in the report in the scientific journal Psychosomatics, started using ecstasy at 21. For the first two years his use was an average of five pills a weekend.

Gradually this rose until he was taking 3½ pills a day. At the peak he was taking an estimated 25 pills a day for four years. After several severe collapses at parties he decided to stop taking ecstasy.

For several months he still felt he was under the influence of the drug, despite being bedridden.
His condition deteriorated and he began to experience recurrent tunnel vision and other problems including hallucinations, paranoia and muscle rigidity.


More News from the Heartland

EIGHTEEN sexual assaults and he may avoid jailtime??
The son of state Senate President Ken Bennett admitted in court Monday to assaulting middle school boys with a broomstick in their rectal areas, but a judge allowed charges against him to be reduced from 18 to one, and he may avoid jail.

Three of the 18 victims, all boys between the ages of 11 and 15, are from Tucson, and the families are angry that 18-year-old Clifton Bennett and co-defendant Kyle Wheeler, 19, were not charged with sexual assault.


Save Wireless New Orleans!

Only profit-mongering bastards would move to disrupt free wireless in New Orleans at this point in recovery:
A showdown may be looming over a free wireless Internet network that New Orleans set up to boost recovery after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the city.

Calling the network vital to the city's economic comeback, New Orleans technology chief Greg Meffert is vowing to keep the system running as is, even if it means breaking a state law that permits its full operation only during emergencies.

He says he's ready to go to court, if necessary.

"If you can get to the Net, you can do business," Meffert said.

The system, established with $1 million in donated equipment, made its debut last fall in the wake of the hurricane disaster. It's the first free wireless Internet network owned and run by a major city.

The system uses hardware mounted on street lights. Its "mesh" technology passes the wireless signal from pole to pole rather than through Wi-Fi transmitters plugged directly into a physical network cable. That way, laptop users can connect even in areas where the wireline phone network has not been restored.

Touted at first as much for its symbolism of New Orleans' recovery as for its utility, the system's usefulness now far exceeds early projections, Meffert said. He estimates that the network gets thousands of users a day.


Child Sex Trafficking in the Bible Belt

Utterly vile:
In a sleazy hotel room, "Brittany," then aged 16 and drugged into oblivion, waited for the men to arrive. Her pimps sent as many as 17 clients an evening through the door.

A "john" could even pre-book the pretty young blonde for $1,000 a night, sometimes flying in and then flying out from a nearby airport.

None of this happened in Bangkok or Costa Rica, places that have become synonymous with sex tourism and underage sex.

It took place in Atlanta, the buckle of the U.S. Bible Belt, where the world's busiest passenger airport provides a cheaper, more convenient and safer underage sex destination for men seeking girls as young as 10.

"Men fly in, are met by pimps, have sex with a 14-year-old for lunch, and get home in time for dinner with the family," said Sanford Jones, the chief juvenile judge of Fulton County, Georgia.


No Laughing!

Ah, those light-hearted, freewheeling Germans:
A German has been ordered to stop laughing out loud in the woods after joggers complained he was disturbing the peace.

Accountant Joachim Bahrenfeld, 54, from Datteln said he goes to the woods after work and at weekends to have a good belly laugh.

"It's part of living for me, like eating, drinking and breathing. I feel much better when I laugh, it's freeing and healthy," he said.

But he now faces a £4,000 fine or six months jail if he laughs out loud again after a jogger successfully took him to court saying he was disturbing the peace.


Bush Hides from the Mean People

How will he maintain control of all that rampant brush?
Since last summer President Bush's visits to Crawford, Texas have been "less visible," which some experts link to demonstrations of antiwar protesters held nearby his ranch, according to an article set for the Waco Tribune-Herald in Monday editions.

According to the Tribune-Herald, the police chief of Waco has said President Bush will not be celebrating Easter there with his family, as he has done in the past.


DeLay Is Finally Out!

Succumbing to scandal, former Majority Leader Tom Delay intends to resign from Congress within weeks, closing out a career that blended unflinching conservatism with a bare-knuckled political style.
"Tom DeLay's decision to leave Congress is just the latest piece of evidence that the Republican Party is a party in disarray, a party out of ideas and out of energy," said Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Mr. Hetero Goes to Court

Oh, this is just sad:
A Worcester pastor is suing the city accusing it of violating his constitutional rights after police sent him a bill for the cost of providing security for a "Mr. Heterosexual Contest".

Rev. Thomas Crouse - who preaches that homosexuality is a sin - organized the contest to promote the heterosexual lifestyle.

"Mr. Heterosexual 2006 — A Celebration of God’s Design" drew heavy criticism from LGBT civil rights groups, local politicians and the Human Rights Commission.

As opposition mounted Crouse asked for five police officers to provide security, but after Police Chief Gary J. Gemme met with Norma Sandison, executive director of Mechanics Hall the security detail was beefed up to 20 officers.

A handful of protesters demonstrated outside the hall on Feb 18 as the event went on and the number of people inside the hall was reportedly sparse.

When Rev. Crouse got the bill for the police detail he decided to go to court.


Rats Fleeing

Fleeing, this time, another rat:

Katherine Harris' U.S. Senate campaign lost what was left of its core team when a top adviser, campaign manager and communications director resigned this weekend.