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Showing posts from November, 2009

Todays fanatic, tomorrow's saint

The Guardian UK - Gandhi knew this when he said, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Conventional people give up when they laugh at you. Timid people back off when they fight you. They don't win, and neither do those who prize ease and security. The prize is for those who risk and persevere.

That slavery was an intolerable evil is something slaves have tended to believe all along; a few free men caught up with them in England in the 1770s, as Adam Hochschild's wonderful history Bury the Chains relates, and that handful of Quakers and dissenters persevered until they won, half a century later. I am not so sure about John Brown's means, or that his actions were necessary to start a war that was already brewing, but I am sure that slavery needed to be abolished, and that his general ends were good. The really interesting thing is that in 1839 to be against slavery in the US was an disruptive, extreme position, often see…

Addicted to Nonsense

Chris Hedges - Will Tiger Woods finally talk to the police? Who will replace Oprah? (Not that Oprah can ever be replaced, of course.) And will Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the couple who crashed President Barack Obama’s first state dinner, command the hundreds of thousands of dollars they want for an exclusive television interview? Can Levi Johnston, father of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s grandson, get his wish to be a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars”?

The chatter that passes for news, the gossip that is peddled by the windbags on the airwaves, the noise that drowns out rational discourse, and the timidity and cowardice of what is left of the newspaper industry reflect our flight into collective insanity. We stand on the cusp of one of the most seismic and disturbing dislocations in human history, one that is radically reconfiguring our economy as it is the environment, and our obsessions revolve around the trivial and the absurd. Read more.

A Bush in Progressive Clothing: Obama the Manchurian Candidate 2.0

Common Dreams - Think about this. If the Republicans had created and inserted into the Democratic Party a secret candidate designed to trick Democrats into electing him, so that he could then enact Republican policies of robbing from the poor to enrich the rich, expanding the military budget to a level not seen since World War II, putting the nation deeper into a global war against Islam, sabotaging efforts to combat climate change, and further deregulating the financial sector, could they have come up with anything better than Barack Obama?

I once wrote an article about former President George W. Bush saying that he was a perfect Manchurian candidate. That is, if his missing year when he was supposed to have been flying fighter jets with the Texas Air National Guard was actually spent in the former Soviet Union being reprogrammed as a covert KGB agent whose job it was to go back to America, win election to the White House, and proceed to destroy the US, he couldn't have done a bet…

In open letter, Michael Moore calls Obama "The New War President"

Max Eternity - Senator Obama became President Obama because he promised an end to Middle East occupation, a restoration to the rule of law, transparency in government, single-payer healthcare, a reduction in military globalization and other progressive ideals. He has failed to deliver on almost all fronts. Obama has made some modest steps toward changing draconian War on Drug laws and sentencing--not obstructing states from adopting medical marijuana programs, and he has been more diplomatic than Bush in representing American interest abroad.

Notwithstanding, within the first year of his historic presidency he stands to become one of the biggest disappointments in history by betraying is own ideals, simultaneously crushing the hopes and dreams of untold millions.

In recent days some of his most ardent supporters have began expressing serious concern and dismay of what they perceive as outright betrayal. And with the recent revelation that Obama plans to escalate the Afghanistan war …

Defiantly rejecting US hegemony, Iran announce nuclear expansions

The New York Times - Iran warned Sunday that it would reduce its cooperation with United Nation’s nuclear agency and in a gesture of defiance it ordered the construction of 10 new uranium enrichment plants.

Iran’s warning and its announcement for building new plants appeared to be its first reaction to the demand by the United Nations nuclear watchdog demand on Friday to immediately suspend enrichment activities at a newly disclosed site called Fordow, near the city of Qum. Speaker of Parliament, Ali Larijani, who once headed the nuclear talks, also warned that Iran’s cooperation with the agency could “seriously decrease.”“The Iranian Parliament warns the US and other members of the five plus one group not to think that these kinds of outdated games will give you a chance for haggling,” Mr. Larijani said, ISNA reported.“Do not make Parliament and the Iranian nation choose another path and seriously decrease cooperation with IAEA.” Read more.

While at Harvard, Larry Summers ignored investment warnings, losing $1.8 B in general operating fund

Boston.com - It happened at least once a year, every year. In a roomful of a dozen Harvard University financial officials, Jack Meyer, the hugely successful head of Harvard’s endowment, and Lawrence Summers, then the school’s president, would face off in a heated debate. The topic: cash and how the university was managing - or mismanaging - its basic operating funds.Through the first half of this decade, Meyer repeatedly warned Summers and other Harvard officials that the school was being too aggressive with billions of dollars in cash, according to people present for the discussions, investing almost all of it with the endowment’s risky mix of stocks, bonds, hedge funds, and private equity. Meyer’s successor, Mohamed El-Erian, would later sound the same warnings to Summers, and to Harvard financial staff and board members.“Mohamed was having a heart attack,’’ said one former financial executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering Harvard and Summers. He cons…

Four police shot and killed in "ambush"

King5.com - Four Lakewood Police officers were shot and killed Sunday morning in what authorities called a targeted ambush at a coffee shop. Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer says the officers - four male and one female - were in full uniform and wearing bulletproof vests, sitting in Forza coffee shop near 116th Street and Steele Street on the east side of the Air Force base at about 8:30 a.m.Troyer says the officers were preparing for their shift when a suspect or suspects "walked in with a handgun, opened fire multiple times and then fled the scene," said Troyer.Troyer called it an "ambush." Read more.

With US backing Israel continues is apatheid occupation of Palestine

AntiWar - Likely adding fuel to Palestinian claims that the Israeli government’s promise of a 10-month settlement construction freeze doesn’t amount to anything of the sort, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has approved new construction in the West Bank.

Incredibly enough, the approvals come at the exact same time as Barak issued the “temporary freeze order,” which was being presented as halting new construction in the West Bank but actually only restricts permits of certain types of buildings for 10 months. Read more.

The Passenger and the Ticket

Common Dreams - Today we deal with a fascinating tax question, insofar as tax questions can ever be described as fascinating to the average reader. The question we consider is when does an airline’s invention of a new way to extract money from its passengers constitute a really new invention and when is it simply putting old wine in new flasks. The wine in question is the myriad charges airlines have begun imposing on passengers in order to increase revenue. The question is important because airlines pay a 7-½% “Passenger Ticket Tax” on what they charge for tickets, but not on non-ticket related charges that they describe as “fees.” It started modestly but insidiously, when airlines closed ticket offices outside of airports and shortly thereafter imposed a fee on a ticket purchased over the phone instead of on a computer. Delighted with the revenue thus raised, they conjured up additional fees. The most notorious was imposed on suitcases. Read more.

Dubai: A morally bankrupt dictatorship built by slave labor

Jonathan Hari @ The Independent UK - Dubai is finally financially bankrupt – but it has been morally bankrupt all along. The idea that Dubai is an oasis of freedom on the Arabian peninsular is one of the great lies of our time. Yes, it has Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts and the Gucci styles, but beneath these accoutrements, there is a dictatorship built by slaves. Read more.

Glossing over Obama's inexcusable civil liberties record

Glenn Greenwald - Earlier this week, Kevin Drum said that "nine times out of ten" Obama's policies are "pretty much what [he] expected" but that "the biggest one-time-out-of-ten where he's not doing what [he] expected is in the area of detainee and civil liberties issues." Similarly, Andrew Sullivan cited "accountability for war crimes and civil rights" as among the very few issues on which he finds fault with Obama. Matt Yglesias objects to those observations as follows:
Both Kevin Drum and Andrew Sullivan say they think most people are too hard on Obama, but express disappointment at his record on civil liberties issues. I agree that the civil liberties record hasn’t been exactly what I would have wanted, but I'm continually surprised that people are disappointed in this turn. Of all the things for an incumbent President of the United States to take political risks fighting for, obviously reducing the power of the executive branch…

Med Grow Cannabis College opens in Michigan

Max Eternity - The state of Michigan has opened the first cannabis college in the United States.
It's a decision that could, in the long-term, prove a shrewd move--benefiting the state's economy.
Too, in a broader context, with medical marijuana now being legal in a few states, certain questions arise:
Will the employ of cannabis as a legitimate resource pave the way for implementing hemp as a renewable energy resource? And can such a shift in thinking also move the Judicial Branch to revisit President Reagan's draconian [racist] War on Drugs policies--still in effect?

Click here to visit the Med Grow Cannabis College website.

A Frozen Cat Survives

Pet Talk @ USA Today - So it's a Friday morning, frigid and icy, after an overnight storm dumped a foot or more of snow. Animal control receives a call about a cat that may or may not be alive under a deck. The officer arrives, finds the cat is still living but just barely, and transports it over treacherous roads to the shelter. "Whatcha got there?" the shelter director, Mary Steinbeiser, asks when officer Cheri France arrives and puts the carrying crate on the counter. "A cat," France says. "I'm not sure if it's still alive." Steinbeiser pulls the black and white cat, so cold it's rigid, out of the carrier. The eyes are closed. There's no movement. This is an awful moment for anyone who loves animals. She steels herself. And then hears the tiniest squeak. Read more.

Charlie Rose: A discussion about Obama's year one performance

Books not Bomba

Amy Goodman @ TruthDig - California campuses have been rocked by protests this past week, provoked by massive student fee increases voted on by the University of California Board of Regents. After a year of sequential budget cuts, faculty and staff dismissals and furloughs, and the elimination of entire academic departments, the 32 percent fee increase proved to be the trigger for statewide actions of an unprecedented scale. With President Barack Obama's Afghanistan war strategy-which, according to one leak, will include a surge of 35,000 troops-soon to be announced, the juxtaposition of education cuts and military increases is incensing many, and helping to build a movement. As I traveled throughout California this past week on a book tour, I was, coincidentally, in the midst of the regents' vote and the campus protests. At UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, Cal State Fresno, UC Davis and Cal State Chico, students approached me with stories of how the fee incr…

Obama refuses to sign Land Mine Treaty

Common Dreams - President Barack Obama has no plans to join a global treaty banning landmines because a policy review found the United States could not meet its security commitments without them, the State Department said on Tuesday.

"This administration undertook a policy review and we decided that our landmine policy remains in effect," spokesman Ian Kelly told a briefing five days before a review conference in Cartegena, Colombia on the 10-year-old Mine Ban Treaty."We determined that we would not be able to meet our national defense needs nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we signed this convention," he said. Read more.

Just Like Bush: Why the mainstream Left and Obama have lost credibility

Mother Jones - Liberals have not done enough public wrestling with Massimo Calabresi and Michael Weisskopf's Time article on the ouster of White House counsel Gregory Craig. Perhaps that's because they don't want to deal with the article's troubling implications. As Kevin explains, Craig was "the White House lawyer tasked with dismantling Bush-era interrogation and detention policies. At first, Obama was on board with Craig's plans. Then, reality set in."

By "reality," Kevin presumably means "political reality." Time says that as soon as Obama's positions on Bush era torture—releasing the torture photos, for example—became politically difficult, the president jettisoned them. He did this despite the fact that he had been "prepared to accept — and had even okayed" those same positions "just weeks earlier" Read more.

Jaques Pepin on the legacy of Howard Johnson

Max Eternity - Jaques Pepin, a Dean at the French Culinary Institute--colleague and good friend to Julia Child--author--artist--former Chef of Charles de Gaul--wrote in 2005 about the legacy of Howard Johnson's in America, specifically about how it shaped his understanding of the US. Pepin, known for his simplistic approch to Haute Cuisine was hired personally by Mr. Johnson, turning down the job as Executive Chef for John F. Kennedy's White House. Writing for The New York Times: Jaques Pepin for the New York Times - When word spread that the last Howard Johnson's restaurant in New York City, in Times Square, would probably close, there was something of an uproar. Though plans are uncertain, brokers say it is likely that a big retail chain will replace it. The idea that this icon of American dining will disappear from the city landscape made me particularly sad, since it was at Howard Johnson's that I completed my most valuable apprenticeship.I had been in America on…

Comparing her to Reagan, Chopra says Palin's fooling no one

Deepak Chooprah - Last fall it seemed as if Sarah Palin would light a fuse and cause a social explosion. Behind her beauty-pageant smile lurked the shadow, the dark side of human nature. Her tactic of appealing to the worst impulses of the electorate had a long history in the Republican Party. Indeed, Palin inherited the selfish, mean-spirited values of another politician with a gleaming smile, Ronald Reagan. When it first dawned in American politics, the shadow was shocking. Values were turned upside down. The AIDS crisis? Ignore it. They deserve what they got. The deficit? Doesn't matter as long as the rich get what they want. Huge unemployment and falling incomes among the working class? Feed them crank social issues so they have someone to hate. Palin breathes this noxious atmosphere like the clear air of Alaska and thrives on it. Now, however, Palin brings a smile. When she quit her job as governor, it was obvious that someone had whispered in her ear, "You're fading…

Obama Quietly Backs PATRIOT Act Provisions

AntiWar - With the health care debate preoccupying the mainstream media, it has gone virtually unreported that the Barack Obama administration is quietly supporting renewal of provisions of the George W. Bush-era USA PATRIOT Act that civil libertarians say infringe on basic freedoms. And it is reportedly doing so over the objections of some prominent Democrats. When a panicky Congress passed the act 45 days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, three contentious parts of the law were scheduled to expire at the end of next month, and opponents of these sections have been pushing Congress to substitute new provisions with substantially strengthened civil liberties protections. But with the apparent approval of the Obama White House and a number of Republicans...Read more.

NOW: Electric Car Dreams

Thanksgiving: Time to Consider Native Americans' Plight

Common Dreams - This Thanksgiving season, the nation should finally commit itself to bridging the socioeconomic divide between the descendents of those who came together during the first Thanksgiving: the Native Americans and the white newcomers. More than cranberry sauce and turkey, this type of reflection and action is essential to the holiday season.Recently, President Barack Obama hosted a White House Tribal Nations conference with representatives from all 564 federally recognized U.S. tribes. Bringing "about meaningful change for those who had, for too long, been excluded from the American dream," was a driving force behind his presidential bid, Obama said. "And few have been more marginalized and ignored by Washington for as long as Native Americans, our first Americans." The president's words deeply resonate with the findings in my upcoming report, "Challenges to Native American Advancement." Read more.

The Washington establishment suffers a serious defeat

Glenn Greenwald - Something quite amazing happened yesterday in Congress: the House Finance Committee -- in a truly bipartisan and even trans-ideological vote -- defied the banking industry, the Federal Reserve, the Democratic leadership, and mainstream Beltway opinion in order to pass an amendment, sponsored by GOP Rep. Ron Paul and Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, mandating a genuine and probing audit of the Fed. The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim has the best account of what took place, noting: In an unprecedented defeat for the Federal Reserve, an amendment to audit the multi-trillion dollar institution was approved by the House Finance Committee with an overwhelming and bipartisan 43-26 vote on Thursday afternoon despite harried last-minute lobbying from top Fed officials and the surprise opposition of Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who had previously been a supporter. Grim details how key Committee Democrats such as Frank -- who spent the year claiming to support an …

Allison Kilkenney on Hypercapitalism

Allison Kilkenney - I was asked by Davis Fleetwood to write up a brief summary of what I believe to be the “most important story of the past decade.” Picking just one story is a pretty daunting task considering the list of possible choices: the ongoing Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan assaults, torture, poverty, and global warming. However, I chose to write about Hypercapitalism. Money tends to be the source of most conflicts, and Hypercapitalism, in my opinion, is the most destructive economic force the world has ever encountered. Read more.

Split Up The Banks! Restore Glass-Steagall

Common Dreams - Ten years ago, the Republican-controlled Congress - egged on by that champion deregulator, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm - passed legislation that arguably did more to plunge the United Common Dreams - States into our crippling great recession than anything else: It repealed the Great Depression era's Glass-Steagall Act. Then on Nov. 12, 1999, an acquiescent Democratic president, Bill Clinton, signed the repeal into law.Even Citigroup's co-founder, John Reed, said earlier this month that he's sorry for creating the monster and that it was a big mistake when the bank merged with Travelers, opening the door to massive risk. Indeed, Reed said Glass-Steagall should be restored, joining former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who has been trying to convince the Obama administration of the need to return to the act's strict regulation. That would mean breaking up the "too big to fail" institutions and restoring banks to being banks and investment…

Helen Thomas to Obama: Declare victory, leave Afghanistan

Helen Thomas @ Hearst Newspapers - The Nobel Peace crown lies uneasy on President Barack Obama's head as he ponders the next U.S. move in Afghanistan, with hints and leaks showering down to tell us that he will eventually send thousands more troops there.Withdrawal from the Afghanistan quagmire is not an option for Obama. Even though he inherited the war, the president has embraced it. And he has done so without a whiff of domestic political protest. There are no visible peace makers, no loud protesters chanting "how many kids did you kill today?"-- those painful anti-Vietnam war slogans Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon were forced to endure daily in the late 1960s and early 1970s.The president should listen to these men who have been there and who are sending warnings to him against escalating the war.He also should consider the high human cost of war on all sides, in terms of Americans killed byThis war looks like an expensive, endless gopher hole wher…

Senate Health Bill Rejects Anti-Choice Extremes

The Senate healthcare bill unveiled Wednesday night by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is not exactly the cure for all of what ails America. But the 2,074-page document significantly expands access to medical care for Americans who currently lack coverage, contains a modest public option, bars discrimination by insurers against Americans with pre-existing medical conditions and gets remarkably good marks from the Congressional Budget Office. In many respects, Reid's "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" is a better bill than the House measure. And it one respect, it is dramatically better. The Senate plan does not contain the draconian "Stupak" language, which was written into the House bill with the intent of establishing radical new limits on access to reproductive health services. Read more.

Obama, a progressive liberal who advocates execution?

Yahoo News - US President Barack Obama, defending plans to try accused September 11 author Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian court, predicted Wednesday that he would be convicted and executed. And US Attorney General Eric Holder assured lawmakers that prosecutors know "failure is not an option" and that Sheikh Mohammed would not be freed even if acquitted by a jury in New York, a city still scarred by the 2001 attacks. Obama, speaking to NBC television during a trip to Asia, said that anger and security worries over the planned civilian trial would fall away "when he's convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him." Read more.

Hungering for a True Thanksgiving

Amy Goodman @ TruthDig - “In the next 60 seconds, 10 children will die of hunger,” says a United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) online video. It continues, “For the first time in humanity, over 1 billion people are chronically hungry.” The WFP launched the Billion for a Billion campaign this week, urging the 1 billion people who use the Internet to help the billion who are hungry. But if you think that hunger is far from our shores, here is some food for thought ... and action: The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report Monday stating that in 2008 one in six households in the U.S. was “food insecure,” the highest number since the figures were first gathered in 1995. Economist Raj Patel, author of “Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System,” told me he was “gobsmacked” by the U.S. hunger numbers, which he finds appalling: “The reason that we have this huge increase in hunger in the United States, as around the world, isn’t becaus…

A terrible celebration as Gropius masterpiece gets razed in Chicago

Max Eternity - Much has been said and written of this year 's 90th anniversary of the Bauhaus, celebrating the famed art school which operated from 1919-1933. By all accounts, that little German institution was the most influential school to have shaped the whole of post-Industrial, Western art and design, culminating in what became know as Modernism and the International Style.

The Bauhaus' lifespan coincided with the rise and fall of the Weimar Republic, a critical time of governance in Germany occurring between the World Wars. It was a historical moment that saw an incredulous amount of artistic activity, higher erudition and cultural heritage enlightenment.

Founded by artist/architect Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus encouraged a cross-pollination of the arts, exalting furniture making, crafts and architecture to the realm of visual fine art--on par with painting and sculpting. Of note as well, all those years ago the school was also known for its high enrollment of women…

Elizabeth Warren: Financial Rules 'Literally Don't Work Anymore,' Regulations Should Be 'Clear And Pain

The Huffington Post - Elizabeth Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School who has more recently assumed the role of chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), sat down with The New Yorker's James Surowiecki recently. The topic was Warren's brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act, which is currently being debated in Congress.

According to Warren, financial institutions need a regulator regime that is both "clear and painful." Read more.

Beginning with children, it's time to teach peace.

TruthOut - It is the third week of classes at P.S. 130, The Parkside School in Brooklyn, New York. A group of fourth graders sits on the floor, watching five others — a mix of nine and 10-year-olds from other classes in the school — take seats in front of the room. Emma Gonzalez, a group facilitator from The Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility, gets the ball rolling by introducing the theme, respect for difference. “We are all different in many ways but we need to live together respectfully," she begins. A quick survey of where the students or their parents are from hammers the point: Albania, Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Puerto Rico, Trinidad. “This diversity makes the world very rich,” Gonzalez continues. “Imagine a world where we were all the same. That would be boring.” Heads nod as Gonzalez tells the assembled students that the children in front of them are going to describe how they’ve been hurt by racial or relig…

Free-Market Psychosis and the Privatization of Section 8

Allison Kilkenney - You would think during a time of vast unemployment, wealth disparity, and economic instability that great minds would unite in order to imagine and build a new tomorrow in which the suffering of the masses could be lessened. Of course, that fantasy includes the provision that The Smartest Guys In The Room are also The Most Moral Guys In The Room, which is rarely the case.Enter T.A. Frank, a New America Foundation think tank lackey, who believes the solution to horrific living conditions in the ghetto is to privatize Section 8 housing and ship black people out to the subprime suburbs. Read more.

Report Reveals that GM Seeds Encourage Pesticides Use, Contribute to Growth of Superweeds

Common Dreams - A new report out today, Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Thirteen Years [pdf] authored by Dr. Charles Benbrook, chief scientist at The Organic Center, reveals that the use of genetically modified (GM) corn, soy and cotton crops has increased the amount of pesticides used in the past 13 years by 318 million pounds. This information comes to light as the industry struggles to position itself as providing environmental benefit through use of bt technology - insecticide producing seeds - savings from which are diminished in light of a six times greater herbicide usage. Read more.

Congress Can Move Now to Prevent Layoffs, Plant Closings

John Nichols - Recognizing the social, economic and political threat posed by double-digit unemployment numbers, and by the prospect that those numbers are continuing to rise, key Democratic senators are proposing an innovative two-year plan to spend as much as $600 million to avert layoffs. The plan to support so-called "work-share" strategies -- where firms keep workers on the job with reduced hours and state programs then step in to fill the pay gap -- is a classic government intervention. Yet it has won the backing not just of progressive economists but of a top economic adviser to Republican John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. Unfortunately, this smart alternative to layoffs has yet to earn the embrace of an Obama administration that -- despite a growing sense of urgency on the part of the president who has scheduled a December 3 forum on job creation and a cross-country "economic recovery tour" -- remains far too resistant to immediate and necessary…

Lowering the Bar: Kindergarten Recruitment

TruthOut - How old is old enough for students to be approached by military recruiters? High school? Junior high? Fourth grade? How about ten weeks into kindergarten? Last week at the dinner table, my five-year-old son announced blithely, "Soldiers came to school today." He then added, "They only kill bad people. They don't kill good people."

He made the announcement with the same levity he uses in recalling the plot line of Frog and Toad or a Nemo video. My wife and I looked at each other incredulously. "Soldiers came to school? What do you mean?" I asked. He repeated himself and then I remembered - it was "Career Day" at school. My son mentioned a bus driver too, but it was the soldier who stuck out in his mind. When my wife asked if the soldier was cool, he nodded yes. The soldier had given my five-year-old a gift. From his yellow backpack, he produced a six-inch, white, plastic ruler with big, bold, red letters reading "ARMY NATIONAL GUARD&…

Soldier mom refuses deployment to care for baby

Atlanta Journal Constitution - An Army cook and single mom may face criminal charges after she skipped her deployment flight to Afghanistan because, she said, no one was available to care for her infant son while she was overseas.

Spc. Alexis Hutchinson, 21, claims she had no choice but to refuse deployment orders because the only family she had to care for her 10-month-old son — her mother — was overwhelmed by the task, already caring for three other relatives with health problems. Read more.

Germany balances economy, while the US continues its decline

Paul Krugman - Consider, for a moment, a tale of two countries. Both have suffered a severe recession and lost jobs as a result — but not on the same scale. In Country A, employment has fallen more than 5 percent, and the unemployment rate has more than doubled. In Country B, employment has fallen only half a percent, and unemployment is only slightly higher than it was before the crisis.Don’t you think Country A might have something to learn from Country B?This story isn’t hypothetical. Country A is the United States, where stocks are up, G.D.P. is rising, but the terrible employment situation just keeps getting worse. Country B is Germany, which took a hit to its G.D.P. when world trade collapsed, but has been remarkably successful at avoiding mass job losses. Germany’s jobs miracle hasn’t received much attention in this country — but it’s real, it’s striking, and it raises serious questions about whether the U.S. government is doing the right things to fight unemployment. Read mor…

Jimmy Carter Helping Habitat For Humanity Build 50,000 Homes In Southeast Asia

The Huffington Post - Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, are among 3,000 volunteers from 25 countries working with Habitat for Humanity this week to help build and repair homes along the Mekong River in Thailand, Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Laos. The homes in Cambodia are being built for families currently living in a garbage dump, the ones in Vietnam are for fishermen who now live on their boats, and the project in China involves construction of an apartment building in a part of Sichuan province devastated by a 2008 earthquake. Habitat for Humanity's Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Reckford said the Georgia-based nonprofit group would construct houses for 50,000 families in the Mekong region over the next five years. "In an area of the world where many people live in deplorable conditions, we have a chance to help families improve their housing," said Carter, wearing sneakers, jeans and a work shirt. He and his wife spent Monday helping build 82 homes in honor of Thai King …

In the land of plenty, many go hungry

Washington Post - The number of Americans who lack dependable access to adequate food shot up last year to 49 million, the largest number since the government has been keeping track, according to a federal report released Monday that shows particularly steep increases in food scarcity among families with children.
In 2008, the report found, nearly 17 million children -- more than one in five across the United States -- were living in households in which food at times ran short, up from slightly more than 12 million youngsters the year before. And the number of children who sometimes were outright hungry rose from nearly 700,000 to almost 1.1 million. Among people of all ages, nearly 15 percent last year did not consistently have adequate food, compared with about 11 percent in 2007, the greatest deterioration in access to food during a single year in the history of the report. Read more.

More resignatioins over English professor's assertion that alcohol more dangerous than ecstacy and other drugs

Telegraph UK - Three more scientists have resigned from the Government's drugs advisory body in the wake of the sacking of Professor David Nutt, its chairman.
The trio quit the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs following a crunch meeting with Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, who earlier this month told Prof Nutt to step down after criticising Government policy. They are understood to be Dr John Marsden, Dr Ian Ragan and Dr Simon Campbell and their departure follows the resignation of two other members as the row over the future role of the ACMD deepens. The meeting had been called because members of the advisory body wanted reassurances from the Home Secretary that they could continue in "good conscience" and that their advice would be respected. The row erupted after Prof Nutt said the dangers of alcohol and tobacco were more serious than those posed by Ecstasy and LSD and criticised the decision to reclassify cannabis as class B, agai…

Health Deform

Carol Miller @ Common Dreams - A very complex, mandatory private insurance scheme recently passed the U.S. House. The public is being overwhelmed by sound bites on one hand about how great it is, on the other, how terrible. We are hearing few of the details that are actually in the bill. Having read the bill, it is clear now that what started as health reform has emerged from the political process as health "deform," building on the worst, not the best of the current system.

It is still a toss-up as to whether the Senate will pass any bill this year. However, due to intense political pressure, the Senate is likely to pass a bill that will make some House provisions better and others worse. What actually comes out in the final conference-committee bill is anyone's guess at this point - so little time, so many deals still to be made, so many political funders to be appeased.

A careful analysis of the bill shows that it is designed more for political goals than to eliminate f…

Texas reconsiders its addiction to the Death Penalty

Guardian UK - Even in Texas they are having their doubts. The state that executes more people than any other by far – it will account for half the prisoners sent to the death chamber in the US this year – is seeing its once rock-solid faith in capital punishment shaken by overturned convictions, judicial scandals and growing evidence that at least one innocent man has been executed. The growth of DNA forensic evidence has seen nearly 140 death row convictions overturned across the US, prompting abolition and moratoriums in other states that Texas has so far resisted.But the public mood is swinging in the conservative state, which often seems to have an Old Testament view of justice. A former governor, Mark White – previously a strong supporter of the death penalty – has joined those calling for a reconsideration of capital punishment because of the risk of executing an innocent person. Read more.

CIA provides 30% of funding for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency

AntiWar - Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) is the largest of the nation’s many spy agencies. The secretive and enormous independent agency is a subject of almost constant controversy in the nation, where it is totally independent of the civilian government and the military exercises only modest oversight.

But the ISI could arguably be considered completely separately from the Pakistani government. After all, it was revealed today, the group gets roughly a third of its funding not from Pakistan but from the US, through covert CIA deals. Not that American oversight over the group is any more effective, as US officials have repeatedly accused the ISI of complicity or direct involvement in terrorist attacks, including last November’s Mumbai strike. Officials have also said the ISI is directly supporting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan in its fight against the US. This support allegedly includes direct ISI funding for the insurgency, yet another example of how US m…

Drug Companies raises prices at highest rate since 1992

New York Times - Even as drug makers promise to support Washington’s health care overhaul by shaving $8 billion a year off the nation’s drug costs after the legislation takes effect, the industry has been raising its prices at the fastest rate in years.

In the last year, the industry has raised the wholesale prices of brand-name prescription drugs by about 9 percent, according to industry analysts. That will add more than $10 billion to the nation’s drug bill, which is on track to exceed $300 billion this year. By at least one analysis, it is the highest annual rate of inflation for drug prices since 1992. Read more.

The New State Solution

Chris Hedges - The collapse of the Palestinian Authority, the result of Israel's 42-year refusal to implement a two-state solution, leaves the Palestinians no option but to unilaterally declare an independent state. Israel acted unilaterally when it announced independence in 1948. It is the Palestinians' turn. It worked in Kosovo. It worked in Georgia. And it will work in Palestine. There are 192 member states in the United Nations and as many as 150 would recognize the state of Palestine, creating a diplomatic nightmare for Israel and its lonely ally the United States. Israel will face worldwide censure if it attempts to crush the independent state by force and very likely be subjected to the kind of divestment campaigns and boycotts that brought down the apartheid government of South Africa.

A declaration of independence, based on the 1967 demarcation lines between Israel and Palestinian territory, should cover East Jerusalem among other areas and the several hundred thousand…

Explosion of Birth Defects in Iraq

Allison Kilkenney - For the past year and a half, the mainstreammedia, and most recently the blogs, have been reporting about the explosion of birth defects amongst children born in Fallujah in Iraq. Sky News’s Lisa Holland writes: There is no precise explanation as to what has caused the deformities and there are no figures to compare cases with those a decade or more ago as records were not kept during the time of Saddam Hussein. All of our evidence is anecdotal, but repeatedly people tell us they believe the deformities must be linked to the heavy bombardment of Fallujah – a Sunni insurgent stronghold – by America in 2004. People want an independent investigation into the impact of the kinds of weapons used – including controversial white phosphorus. Read more.

Army sends infant to child services, mom to war

TruthOut - US Army Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, a single mother, is being threatened with a military court-martial if she does not agree to deploy to Afghanistan, despite having been told she would be granted extra time to find someone to care for her 11-month-old son while she is overseas. Hutchinson, of Oakland, California, is currently being confined at Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, Georgia, after being arrested. Her son was placed into a county foster care system. Read more.

Media Democracy: Public broadcasting and the shame of corporate news

Common Dreams - If we want news that actually serves the interests of democracy, it can be neither a commodity in itself nor a lure to turn the attention of audiences into a commodity. This means journalism practiced for its own sake, not as a means of making a profit. But how can such journalism be sustainable? In Extra!'s "Future of Journalism" issue (7/09), we described some of the alternative models, including non-profit news outlets subsidized by foundations, and citizen journalism carried out on a largely volunteer basis.

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One model we did not discuss is public media-that is, journalism funded by the citizenry via the government. In many ways, it's the obvious solution to the problem of commodity journalism: The state is one of the few institutions whose resources can compare to those of the corporate sector, and at least in theory is supposed to represent the interests of the populace as a whole.

In practice, of course, governments often look …

Poets House @ Bill Moyers Journal

On this week's show, Bill Moyers features New York's Poets House on the Journal.

AD Mag Update: S.G. Larson

ACORN sues Congress over legislative funding cut

Politico - A non-profit organization filed a lawsuit against the federal government Thursday morning, seeking to overturn a law stopping the flow of federal funds to ACORN. The suit, filed in federal court in New York, claims that bills passed by the House and Senate to defund the group qualify as bills of attainder, legislation that unfairly targets one group. Such bills are unconstitutional. The suit will seek to restore funding and roll-back the ban, which was passed as part of the legislative branch appropriations bill in September. ACORN claims that the legislation was of “malicious and punitive intent.” The suit also claims Congress violated the Fifth Amendment by skirting due process before doling out the punishment of the funding cut. OMB Director Peter Orszag and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are listed as co-defendants in the suit. Efforts to defund ACORN became popular among Democrats and Republicans after conservative activists caught the organization’s employees…

Executing each male crinimal cost US $30,000,000 a pop

Mark Morford @ SF Gate - I'm reading a bit about how our fine, God-loving nation just executed John Allen Muhammad, aka the Washington D.C. sniper, injected his remorseless flesh with a megadose of sodium pentothal as dozens of people actually chose to sit behind a glass wall and watch him writhe and twitch and die sans any final statement or single sign of penitence or satisfying explanation as to his murderous actions. If you like, you can read the story right now on this fair site, and then jump to the bottom where you will certainly find a reeking cesspool of some of the most nasty, disturbing anonymous comments from fine, God-fearing Americans, and then proceed calmly to feeling utterly soiled, disgusted and sad about the human race as a whole. Here's a better idea: Skip that, and instead check out the recent study from the Death Penalty Information Center, which states that after all court costs, fees and various social machinations are factored in, the average death sen…

The Money Man's Best Friend

The Nation - The Obama administration promised to reform the financial system and make it safe for the rest of us, but recent Congressional action is more likely to reset the fuse for another explosive calamity. The time bomb in this case is that arcane financial instrument known as derivatives--the hedging devices that the big banks sell to investors, corporations and other banks to reduce risk or evade the requirements to hold adequate capital on their books.As the financial meltdown demonstrated, derivatives do not reduce risk. They amplify it and spread it around interlocking networks of unwitting investors. That house of cards collapsed worldwide a year ago. It would be tragic to let the bankers build a new one. Some reformers think all but the simplest, most visible forms of derivatives should be prohibited by law. The president prefers instead to regulate them. Derivatives, his advisers explained, would be less dangerous if they were traded openly in financial markets, just lik…

Eliot Spitzer's Harvard Speech Calls On Wall Street To 'Tell The Truth'

The Huffington Post - The head of an ethics program at Harvard University strongly defended the choice of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer to deliver a lecture on integrity in the nation's financial markets. Spitzer, driven from office by a prostitution scandal, did not make reference to the episode during the more than hourlong speech Thursday to an audience of about 300 at the Ivy League school. Spitzer, a graduate of Harvard Law School, said only government can enforce integrity and transparency in the markets, and that its failure to do so helped trigger the Wall Street meltdown. "We didn't need new laws, we just needed regulators to use the power we already had," he said. Spitzer was introduced by Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, the faculty director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics, which invited the former governor to speak. "No one doubts what Governor Spitzer did was wrong," said Lessig, referring to the personal beh…

Failed Urban Planning: Emminent Domain and Senseless Demolition

Democracy Now! - Homeowners in New London, Connecticut took on the city’s leaders after they announced plans to condemn all of the homes in one neighborhood to make way for a private development project for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. The city said it would bring in thousands of jobs. After a 2005 Supreme Court ruling against the homeowners, the entire neighborhood was bulldozed. This week Pfizer announced it is shutting down its research center. Watch video below:


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The Seattle activists' coming of age in Cophenhagen will be very disobedient

Naomi Klein - The other day I received a pre-publication copy of The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle, by David and Rebecca Solnit. It's set to come out 10 years after a historic coalition of activists shut down the World Trade Organisation summit in Seattle – the spark that ignited a global anti-corporate movement.The book is a fascinating account of what really happened in Seattle; but when I spoke to David Solnit, the direct-action guru who helped engineer the shutdown, I found him less interested in reminiscing about 1999 than in talking about the upcoming United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen and the "climate justice" actions he is helping to organise across the United States on 30 November. "This is definitely a Seattle-type moment," Solnit told me. "People are ready to throw down." Read more.

UN investigator accuses US of shamefull treatment of homeless

Guardian UK - A United Nations special investigator who was blocked from visiting the US by the Bush administration has accused the American government of pouring billions of dollars into rescuing banks and big business while treating as "invisible" a deepening homeless crisis. Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur for the right to adequate housing, who has just completed a seven-city tour of America, said it was shameful that a country as wealthy as the US was not spending more money on lifting its citizens out of homelessness and substandard, overcrowded housing. "The housing crisis is invisible for many in the US," she said. "I learned through this visit that real affordable housing and poverty is something that hasn't been dealt with as an issue. Even if we talk about the financial crisis and government stepping in in order to promote economic recovery, there is no such help for the homeless." Read more.

10-yr old won't pledge allegiance citing US discrimination against gays

Arkansas Times - Will Phillips isn't like other boys his age. For one thing, he's smart. Scary smart. A student in the West Fork School District in Washington County, he skipped a grade this year, going directly from the third to the fifth. When his family goes for a drive, discussions are much more apt to be about Teddy Roosevelt and terraforming Mars than they are about Spongebob Squarepants and what's playing on Radio Disney. It was during one of those drives that the discussion turned to the pledge of allegiance and what it means. Laura Phillips is Will's mother. “Yes, my son is 10,” she said. “But he's probably more aware of the meaning of the pledge than a lot of adults. He's not just doing it rote recitation. We raised him to be aware of what's right, what's wrong, and what's fair.” Will's family has a number of gay friends. In recent years, Laura Phillips said, they've been trying to be a straight ally to the gay community, going to…