Saturday, March 08, 2008

Molesting Kids Is Costly

As the Catholic Church continues to learn:

The Roman Catholic church in the United States paid out 615 million dollars (400 million euros) last year for child sex abuse cases involving members of the clergy, or 54 percent more than the previous year, a report showed Friday.

Of the monies paid out by the church, 526 million dollars went to settling cases -- almost double the amount paid out in 2006, according to the report commissioned by the church.

Around 23 million dollars was paid out for therapy for victims or support for accused offenders, and 60 million dollars for legal fees.


Friday, March 07, 2008

Whaling Is Serious Business

And protecting whales appears to be very risky:

The leader of an anti-whaling environmental group today claimed he had been shot by Japanese coast guard officers while on his boat in the southern ocean and had only survived because he was wearing a protective vest.

Paul Watson, the marine conservation group's leader, claimed a bullet struck him above the heart and that he had video footage of the ship's doctor, David Page, removing it from his protective vest.

Two others were injured, the group, Sea Shepherd, said. One injured his hip as he tried to dodge incoming "flash grenades", and another received bruises to the back when one of the grenades exploded behind him.

"I felt this impact on my chest," Watson told Australian radio. "I found a bullet buried in the Kevlar vest that I wear. It bruised my shoulder but it would have hit my heart if I didn't have the vest."

But Japanese officials said no shots had been fired. Tomohiko Taniguchi, a foreign ministry spokesman, said the Japanese fleet's mother ship, the Nisshin Maru, had warned Watson and his crew that it would retaliate with flash grenades unless they stopped attacking the vessel with "stink bombs" containing of butyric acid.


So Much for the Victories

Clinton, fortunately, still in trouble:
Nobody seems to be covering this, but it seems relevant news. The
California Primary results were finally certified on Tuesday, March 4,
and the final result is that Obama has picked up 4 delegates from
- for a total 8 delegate swing.

In case the significance of this number escapes you, Hillary's net
delegate win on March 4 was approximately 8 delegates (the certified
results have yet to be tallied, but isn't expected to swing much from
that number).

The result? Hillary's victories on March 4 were a wash.


Gay Iranian Teen Fighting for His Life

Mehdi Kazemi was waiting in a Dutch center for asylum seekers Friday as the country's highest court mulled his fate — in what campaigners fear could be a life or death decision for the gay Iranian teen.

Kazemi, 19, says he traveled to London to study English in 2005 and applied for asylum in Britain after learning that his lover in Iran had been executed for sodomy, his lawyer Borg Palm said.

Kazemi's case highlights not only the plight of homosexuals in Iran, but also differences in the way European Union allies deal with asylum seekers.

After Kazemi's application was rejected by British authorities, he fled to Europe and applied for asylum in the Netherlands, where usually strict immigration authorities are more liberal when dealing with Iranian gays because of persecution they face at home.

"When the immigration service hears about you being gay, they will be less strict," said Justice Ministry spokeswoman Karen Temmink.

However, because Kazemi had already applied for asylum and been rejected in Britain, the Dutch government is refusing to consider his case and insists he must be sent back to Britain, citing the European Union's 2003 Dublin Regulation, which declares that the member state where asylum seekers first enter the EU is responsible for processing their claims.


More Bush Incompetence

United States meddling may have caused the civil war in Gaza:
After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

More Philanthropy from Gates

If you have an unorthodox, unproven idea that can prevent HIV infection or help protect against infectious diseases, one of the richest men in the world wants to hear from you.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has set aside $100 million to encourage innovation in global health research, offering grants to those with innovative ideas on four topics: Tuberculosis, HIV, infectious diseases and drug resistance.

The foundation's new Grand Challenges Explorations program plans to give $100,000 each to about 60 projects in the first round of what is expected to be a five-year program.

Proposal applications are short - only about two pages long - and preliminary data is not required for the applications due at the end of May. They'll be accepted beginning March 31.

Of course, each applicant will need to be a scientist and have a lab in which to do the work, foundation officials said. But there won't many more restrictions.

Foundation officials say it's one of the most open-ended requests for proposals they've ever issued, but it fits well with the organization's quest to be innovative.


No Cash for Homophobes

Well done:
A judge ruled Thursday that Kentucky GOP lawmakers and former Gov. Ernie Fletcher violated the state constitution by appropriating $11 million in state funding to a Baptist university.

The state had argued that the money, to be used to create a pharmacy school at the University of the Cumberlands, was for the betterment of the state's health and welfare and therefore constitutional.

The LGBT rights group Kentucky Fairness Alliance filed a lawsuit along with advocates for the separation of church and state and the Jefferson County Teachers Association.


The legality of the grant grew out of a 2006 incident in which the university expelled a student it found out is gay.

Jason Johnson, 20, was expelled after posting his sexual orientation on a Web site.

The dean's list student received all Fs on his transcript when he was expelled.


KBR Not a Good Corporate Citizen

Shocking news
, that a former subsidiary of Halliburton is dodging taxes, I know:
CAYMAN ISLANDS - Kellogg Brown & Root, the nation's top Iraq war contractor and until last year a subsidiary of Halliburton Corp., has avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicare and Social Security taxes by hiring workers through shell companies based in this tropical tax haven.

More than 21,000 people working for KBR in Iraq - including about 10,500 Americans - are listed as employees of two companies that exist in a computer file on the fourth floor of a building on a palm-studded boulevard here in the Caribbean. Neither company has an office or phone number in the Cayman Islands.

The Defense Department has known since at least 2004 that KBR was avoiding taxes by declaring its American workers as employees of Cayman Islands shell companies, and officials said the move allowed KBR to perform the work more cheaply, saving Defense dollars.

But the use of the loophole results in a significantly greater loss of revenue to the government as a whole, particularly to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. And the creation of shell companies in places such as the Cayman Islands to avoid taxes has long been attacked by members of Congress.



The housing situation is still spiraling out of control:
More home owners than ever are losing the battle to make their monthly mortgage payments.

Over 900,000 households are in the foreclosure process, up 71% from a year ago, according to a survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association. That figure represents 2.04% of all mortgages, the highest rate in the report's quarterly, 36-year history.

Another 381,000 households, or 0.83% of borrowers, saw the foreclosure process started during the quarter, which was also a record.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008


At last, Texas gets it right:
The Ector County School Board agreed today to stop teaching a course in its public schools that unconstitutionally promotes a particular interpretation of the Bible that is not shared by Jews, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and most Protestants.
The lawsuit challenged the school board’s decision last year to teach a controversial Bible course created by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS), a private group that promotes its own particular interpretation of the Bible. The NCBCPS has been criticized by recognized biblical scholars for its religious bias and unsound scholarship.



Nothing like a "democracy" with one of its branches "irrelevant":

The Bush administration says the 2002 congressional authorization to go to war in Iraq gives it the authority to conduct combat operations in Iraq and negotiate far-reaching agreements with the current Iraqi government without consulting Congress.

The assertion, jointly made Tuesday by U.S. Ambassador David Satterfield and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Mary Beth Long, drew an incredulous reaction from Democrats on a Joint House committee during a hearing on future U.S. commitments to Iraq.


Common Sense Not Welcome

Sanity doesn't help when you're working for the Bush administration:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon “one of the best strategic thinkers in uniform today.” Fallon opposed the “surge” in Iraq and has consistently battled the Bush administration to avoid a confrontation with Iran, calling officials’ war-mongering “not helpful.” Privately, he has vowed that an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch.”

Unfortunately, this level-headed thinking and willingness to stand up to President Bush may cost him his job. According to a new article by Thomas P.M. Barnett in the April issue of Esquire magazine (on newsstands March 12), Fallon may be prematurely “relieved of his command” as soon as this summer:

[W]ell-placed observers now say that it will come as no surprise if Fallon is relieved of his command before his time is up next spring, maybe as early as this summer, in favor of a commander the White House considers to be more pliable. If that were to happen, it may well mean that the president and vice-president intend to take military action against Iran before the end of this year and don’t want a commander standing in their way.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Lame Duck Still Trying to Rape the Earth

The Bush administration on Monday again asked Congress to allow oil and natural gas drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying $7 billion could be raised in leasing fees from energy companies.

In its proposed budget for the 2009 spending year, which begins on October 1, the White House said it assumed the initial tracts in the refuge could be leased during 2010.

The government would share half the $7 billion in leasing revenue with the state of Alaska.

However, the Democratic-controlled Congress is against opening the area to drilling and the two leading Democratic candidates for president also have opposed energy exploration there.

The refuge, which is home to a variety of wildlife such as polar bears and migratory birds, stretches across 19 million acres in the northeast corner of Alaska.

The White House wants to offer 1.5 million acres (607,000 hectares) in the refuge's coastal plain for oil and natural gas exploration leases.


Gay Benefits

I'm not referring to benefits for gay partners, but rather to benefits from acceptance of gay marriage:
Massachusetts is reaping huge financial gains as a result of same-sex marriage.

The Boston Business Journal reports that the only state in the country to allow gays to marry is become " a powerful lure for same-sex couples who want to live in a place where they can get married, gain legal rights and have access to spousal health benefits."

It just makes sense (in addition to being the right thing to do).


Monday, March 03, 2008

Another Record

Highest active-duty suicide rate on record
. Well done, Bush:

Last year, 121 soldiers in the Army and active-duty National Guard and Reserves committed suicide, the largest number since the military began keeping records in 1980.

That is more than double the 52 suicides reported in 2001, the year the war in Afghanistan began, according to a recent Pentagon report. The report also cited 2,100 attempted suicides or self-inflicted injuries last year -- six times the 350 reported in 2002, prior to the start of the Iraq war.


Power to Iraq

We've failed miserably to provide it, and unsurprisingly, Iran is stepping in to exploit our incompetence:
Iran plans to link its electrical grid with neighboring Iraq as part of another "extended area of cooperation" between the countries, the Iranian president announced during his historic visit to Iraq.


Anti-Choicers Lose in Kansas

An attorney for Planned Parenthood says a grand jury has refused to issue an indictment against its clinic in suburban Kansas City.

Attorney Pedro Irigonegaray (Ir-uh-GONE-uh-gar-rye) says the Johnson County grand jury issued a verdict of "no true bill."

Abortion opponents had petitioned Johnson County to convene the grand jury. They wanted it to investigate allegations that Planned Parenthood's clinic in Overland Park had violated state restrictions on abortion.


Another Advance

Interesting discovery in the fight against AIDS:

Stephen Barr, a molecular virologist in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, says his team has identified a gene called TRIM22 that can block HIV infection in a cell culture by preventing the assembly of the virus.

"When we put this gene in cells, it prevents the assembly of the HIV virus," said Barr, a postdoctoral fellow. "This means the virus cannot get out of the cells to infect other cells, thereby blocking the spread of the virus."


Vitter Loves Indian Babies

Or rather, he hates American Indian women's right to choose. That's right, the congressman whose name mysteriously wound up on the client list of the DC madam is still reveling in his own sanctimony:
After a marathon effort by its many long-time supporters and an ultimate showing of bipartisanship in Congress, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act reauthorization bill passed the Senate Feb. 26 by a vote of 83 in favor and 10 opposed.

The bill, at least eight years in the making and often a subject of exceptional controversy over issues that ranged from the narrowly medical and technical field to broad constitutional questions, provides up to $16 billion for Indian health care through the next five fiscal years. Just as importantly to its backers among tribes, the bill updates the responsiveness of tribes and the IHS in numerous priority areas, including cancer screening, diabetes treatment, disease prevention, youth suicide and mental health intervention, traditional approaches to healing and in-home health care, recruitment to the health profession as practiced in Indian country, and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.
Prior to final passage, the Senate considered four amendments, adopting two of them. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., offered one banning any taxpayer funds from supporting abortion under the bill.
At least it finally passed...


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Iowa Rejects Bush's Program

This heartland state has become the 17th to shun "abstinence-only" funding:

Iowa has become the 17th state to refuse Title V, Section 510 funding for abstinence-only sex education.

Courtney Greene, press secretary for Gov. Chet Culver, said the decision has been made and federal monies will continue to be refused unless changes are made to the program. Iowa currently receives roughly $319,000 in matching funds from the federal funding stream.



Even the international press can see how desperate Clinton has become. The title of this Sydney Morning Herald article is "Last-gasp Clinton Plays the Fear Card":

HILLARY Clinton released the most controversial ad of the 2008 US presidential campaign yesterday, a 30-second commercial showing sleeping boys and girls she implies would be imperiled if Barack Obama is elected.

"It's 3am and your children are safe and asleep," a narrator says as the camera pans over boys and girls in bed peacefully sleeping. "But there's a phone in the White House, and it's ringing. Something's happened in the world. Your vote will decide who answers the call."

Reminiscent of Lyndon Johnson's famous 1963 ad superimposing a mushroom cloud over a girl plucking a daisy, the TV ad makes no mention of Senator Obama. But it ends with a bespectacled Senator Clinton reaching for a handset under a lamp with the words: "Who do you want answering the phone?"


The Ignored War

I would dispute the notion that this tactic is "new," but that makes it no less horrific:

IT TOOK five operations to repair Lumo's internal injuries after she was gang-raped and left for dead by Hutu militia in eastern Congo, in what women's rights activists call a new form of terrorism, the use of rape as a weapon of war.

Lumo's story, told in an award-winning documentary about survivors of sexual violence in Congo, highlights the women's continuing plight. "The main issue is terrorism. Rape is used as terrorism, as an instrument of war, to empty whole communities of people, to destroy the economies," said Lyn Lusi, program manager for Heal Africa, whose organisation works with the affected women in the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern region.

Mrs Lusi, who is in Australia to promote grassroots advocacy for Congo, welcomed last week's United Nations announcement of a global campaign to combat violence against women and girls, saying raising awareness of the problem was an essential step.

She said a recent survey of 600 young women with HIV in Goma, eastern Congo, found that for a large number their first sexual experience was not consensual.


Saving the Whales

The Navy must abide by limits on its sonar training off the Southern California because the exercises could harm dozens of species of whales and dolphins, a federal appeals court ruled.