John Nichols @ The Nation - The British press has taken to referring to the passing decade as "the Noughties" has made quite a big deal of trying to identify the political, economic and cultural trends of period from 2000 to 2009. It is an amusing pastime that has some value, but only if we're focused on identifying the root cause of what made the Noughties such a miserable decade. If we are serious about the task, there is not much mystery. The original sin of the good-riddance decade came in December of 2000, when the United States Supreme Court intervened to stop a complete recount of the votes in Florida and then declared George Bush to be the president. This extreme judicial activism was not merely a devastating assault on American democracy. It set in motion the Bush presidency, and with it the pathologies that the Bush-Cheney administration imposed on the country in the form of unnecessary wars, failed economic policies, assaults on civil liberties and cr
Associated Press @ Houston Chronicle - A federal judge dismissed all charges Thursday against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards accused of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians in a crowded Baghdad intersection in 2007. U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina said Justice Department prosecutors improperly built their case on sworn statements that had been given under a promise of immunity. Urbina said the government's explanations were "contradictory, unbelievable and lacking in credibility." The decision throws out a case steeped in international politics. The September 2007 shooting in busy Nisoor Square left 17 Iraqis dead and inflamed anti-American sentiment abroad. The Iraqi government wanted the guards to face trial in Iraq and officials there said they would closely watch how the U.S. judicial system handled the case. "We're obviously disappointed by the decision," Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said. "We're still in the pr
Adel Zaanoun @ Associated Press - Hundreds of people including international activists protested on both sides of a Gaza Strip border crossing on Thursday against Israeli closures imposed on the Hamas-ruled territory. "It's a non-violent, peaceful gathering and the aim is to show the international community the suffering of the people of Gaza," Amjad al-Shawa, a Gaza-based organiser, told AFP. The protest was aimed at marking the first anniversary of Israel's massive offensive in Gaza and the location was chosen in part to highlight ties between the isolated coastal enclave and the occupied West Bank, he added. Eighty-six international activists were allowed to enter Gaza on Wednesday from Egypt via the Rafah crossing, the only terminal not controlled by Israel, which has been mostly closed since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007. Another 1,200 activists from around 40 countries remained in Cairo after the Egyptian authorities declined to allow the entire group
Nick Obourn @ True/Slant - Each year Waterford Crystal designs a new pattern for the Times Square Ball that drops on New Year’s Eve. The new crystals, triangular in shape, number in the hundreds and are installed alongside the permanent Waterford crystals that remain in the ball year after year. This year, the company made a Celtic knot pattern dedicated to the theme “Let There be Courage.” It’s a fitting slogan considering the year we’ve had, but it hits even closer to home for Waterford–who also owns Wedgwood China–since the company declared bankruptcy in January of 2009 . It’s almost too painfully symbolic. Read more .
Glenn Greenwald @ Salon - As dumb as our political discourse typically is, it gets dumber by many magnitudes whenever there's a terrorism-related scare (of the Islamic variety). From The Washington Pos t 's editorial writer Jo-Ann Armao : Why is Obama still in Hawaii? President Obama wants us all to know he’s taking seriously the attempted terrorist attack of Christmas Day and that his administration is doing all it can to ensure our safety. But his words would be a lot more convincing if not delivered during time snatched between rounds of golf, swimming and sunbathing. . . . Read more .
AntiWar - More details have emerged in this morning’s perplexing story, in which a suicide bomber attacked what officials called a “gym” on a military base in Khost Province, killing eight Americans the military identified as “civilians.” Now US officials admit that all eight Americans slain in the attack were actually CIA agents , adding a reason why the Haqqani network was so quickly blamed, as CIA drones have been bombing the Haqqanis in North Waziristan for over a year. Moreover, the “gym” at the Forward Operating Base was actually being used as a CIA “operations and surveillance center,” explaining the conspicuous lack of military personnel harmed in the attack. Read more .
CBC - Eight Americans were killed in an apparent suicide attack in southeastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, a U.S. official said. The Americans were killed by an attacker wearing a suicide vest in Khost province, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the incident had not been confirmed. There were conflicting reports on the total number of casualties and whether the victims were civilian or military personnel. The New York Times reported six Americans were killed and six were injured, some seriously, suggesting the death toll could rise. Read more .
Allison Kilkenney - This week, John Yoo, Bush’s chief legal torture architect, got to plug his book in NY Times Magazine. Side-note: Interviewer Deborah Solomon drilled Yoo with exactly as much “no guff” gusto as she offered Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane in a legendarily uncomfortable interview. (Solomon may hate torture, but she hates Family Guy more .) But back to Yoo. If you can make it through the page-long interview without vomiting from fury-rage, here are some of the gems you shall encounter: Q: Which president would you say most violated laws enacted by Congress? A: I would say Lincoln You know, I was just thinking that. For a second, I thought it was the president, who along with his evil henchman lawyer, allowed torture, the warrantless wiretapping of US civilians, and argued the President has inherent authority to subordinate independent government agencies, plenary power to use force abroad, and the sole authority to interpret international treaties such as the
Jeff Cohen @ Common Dreams - For the new year, let's resolve: Don't defend Democrats when they don't deserve defending. And that certainly includes President Obama. Let's further resolve: Put principles above party and never lose our voice on human rights and social justice. When we mute ourselves as a Democratic president pursues corporatist or militarist policies, we only encourage such policies. If it was wrong for Bush to bail out Wall Street with virtually no controls, then it's wrong for Obama. If indefinite "preventative detention" was wrong under Bush, then it's wrong under Obama . If military occupation and deepening troop deployments were wrong under Bush, then they're wrong under Obama. Read more .
Inter Press Service @ Common Dreams - For many survivors of the last Israeli war on Gaza, time has not healed their wounds, physical or emotional. Amal Samouni, 10, still suffers vision problems in her right eye. The shrapnel remaining in her head causes her constant pain and she is unable to concentrate at school. Her concentration is broken, also, by memories of her martyred father and younger brother, both of whom she saw shot dead at close range by Israeli soldiers during the 2008-2009 winter war on Gaza. Read more .
Bob Herbert @ The New York Times - There is a middle-class tax time bomb ticking in the Senate’s version of President Obama’s effort to reform health care. The bill that passed the Senate with such fanfare on Christmas Eve would impose a confiscatory 40 percent excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, which are popularly viewed as over-the-top plans held only by the very wealthy. In fact, it’s a tax that in a few years will hammer millions of middle-class policyholders, forcing them to scale back their access to medical care. Which is exactly what the tax is designed to do. The tax would kick in on plans exceeding $23,000 annually for family coverage and $8,500 for individuals, starting in 2013. In the first year it would affect relatively few people in the middle class. But because of the steadily rising costs of health care in the U.S., more and more plans would reach the taxation threshold each year. Within three years of its implementation, according to the Congressional Bu
Truthout.org - The government of Egypt is taking a spectacularly hard line against international solidarity efforts in support of civilians in Gaza on the one-year anniversary of the Israeli invasion, blocking peace marchers from the US, Canada and Europe from even approaching the Egyptian border with Gaza, and blocking an aid convoy that has the support of the Turkish government from entering Egypt at Nuweiba. Even a peaceful protest at UN offices in Cairo was largely walled off from public view by Egyptian police . It seems that any pretense of Egyptian government concern for the suffering of Palestinian civilians has been dropped, along with the pretense that there is anything less than 100 percent cooperation from Egypt and its US and European patrons with Israel's program of punishing Gaza's population for the political crime of having provided majority support to the Hamas movement in a legislative election. Meanwhile, there is largely a US press blackout of these striki
The Washington Post - While most of the federal government was shut down by a snowstorm last week, there was one person in particular whom Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called in through the cold: Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki. Once he arrived, Clinton told him in blunt, if diplomatic, terms that the United States remains adamant about moving a Marine base from one part of Okinawa to another. That she felt compelled to call the unusual meeting highlights what some U.S. and Asian officials say is an alarming turn in relations with Japan since Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama led an opposition party to victory in August elections, ending an almost uninterrupted five decades of rule by the Liberal Democratic Party. Since the election, a series of canceled dinners, diplomatic demarches, and publicly and privately broken promises from the new government has vexed senior White House officials, causing new concern about the U.S. friendship with its closest Asian ally. R
Glenn Greenwald @ Salon - if you count our occupation of Iraq, our twice-escalated war in Afghanistan, our rapidly escalating bombing campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen, and various forms of covert war involvement in Somalia , one could reasonably say that we're fighting five different wars in Muslim countries -- or, to use the NYT 's jargon , "five fronts" in the "Terror War" (Obama yesterday specifically mentioned Somalia and Yemen as places where, euphemistically, "we will continue to use every element of our national power"). Add to those five fronts the "crippling" sanctions on Iran many Democratic Party luminaries are now advocating , combined with the chest-besting threats from our Middle East client state that the next wars they fight against Muslims will be even "harsher" than the prior ones, and it's almost easier to count the Muslim countries we're not attacking or threatning than to count the ones we are.
The Huffington Post - Two Argentine men were joined Monday in Latin America's first same-sex marriage, traveling to the southernmost tip of the Americas to find a welcoming spot to wed. Gay rights activists Jose Maria Di Bello and Alex Freyre were married in Ushuaia, the capital of Argentina's Tierra del Fuego state, exchanging rings at civil ceremony witnessed by state and federal officials. "My knees didn't stop shaking," said the 41-year-old Di Bello. "We are the first gay couple in Latin America to marry." The slim, dark-haired couple previously tried to marry in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires but were thwarted by city officials citing conflicting judicial rulings. Argentina's Constitution is silent on whether marriage must be between a man and a woman, effectively leaving the matter to provincial officials. This time around, they traveled to the southernmost city in the world, at the tip
CBS News - Iran on Tuesday accused Western countries of fomenting deadly anti-government protests in the capital this week and said it was summoning Britain's ambassador to file a complaint. The comments by Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mahmanparast added to growing tensions between Iran and the West, which is threatening to impose tough new sanctions over Iran's suspect nuclear program and has criticized the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in Tehran. Iran has said as many as eight people were killed in Sunday's clashes in Tehran. There was no serious violence reported Tuesday, but opposition Web sites said several activists were arrested, including a prominent journalist and the sister of Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi. Speaking to reporters, Mehmanparast said the deadly clashes in Tehran were the work of a tiny minority, and he accused outside countries, including the U.S. and Britain, of "miscalculating" by siding with the protesters
Al Jazeera - One year has passed since the savage Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, but for the people there time might as well have stood still. Since Palestinians in Gaza buried their loved ones -- more than 1,400 people, almost 400 of them children -- there has been little healing and virtually no reconstruction. According to international aid agencies, only 41 trucks of building supplies have been allowed into Gaza during the year. Operation Cast Lead, as Israel dubbed it, was an attempt to destroy once and for all Palestinian resistance in general, and Hamas in particular, which had won the 2006 election and survived the blockade and numerous US-sponsored attempts to undermine and overthrow it in cooperation with US-backed Palestinian militias. Like the murderous sanctions on Iraq throughout the 1990s, the blockade of Gaza was calculated to deprive civilians of basic necessities, rights and dignity in the hope that their suffering might force their leadership to surrender or coll
Emily Ratner @ Common Dreams - Yesterday we joined the people of Gaza, the people of all of Palestine, and allies around the world in remembering the anniversary of the inhuman and illegal Israeli attacks that stole the lives of more than 1,400 mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons last December and January. And, in a manner far too appropriately suited to remembering an unfathomably vicious massacre and the preposterous silence of the American and Egyptian governments, we freedom marched in circles throughout the streets of Cairo. The Egyptian government has revoked the contracts for the buses that would take us one step closer on our journey to Gaza and has forbidden us from leaving Cairo. Military police have torn down our small hand-written cards tied to the Kasr al Nil Bridge, following the Israelis' lead in trying to disappear the names and numbers of Gaza's martyrs. Candles meant to float along the Nile in remembrance are still in their boxes, their hundreds of dist
Agence France Presse @ Common Dreams - An 85-year-old Holocaust survivor was among a group of grandmothers who began a hunger strike in Cairo on Monday to protest against Egypt's refusal to allow a Gaza solidarity march to proceed. American activist Hedy Epstein and other grandmothers participating in the Gaza Freedom March began a hunger strike at 1000 GMT. "I've never done this before, I don't know how my body will react, but I'll do whatever it takes," Epstein told AFP, sitting on a chair surrounded by hundreds of protesters outside the United Nations building in Cairo. Read more .
Truthout - Shipping off 30,000 more troops to the land of the Taliban may be infuriating to devoted antiwar activists, but the toll the Afghanistan war is having on the environment should also force nature lovers into the streets in protest. Natural habitat in Afghanistan has endured decades of struggle, and the War on Terror has only escalated the destruction. The lands most afflicted by warfare are home to critters that most Westerners only have a chance to observe behind cages in our city zoos: gazelles, cheetahs, hyenas, Turanian tigers and snow leopards among others. Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), which was formed in 2005 to address environmental issues, has listed a total of 33 species on its Endangered list. By the end of this year, NEPA's list may grow to over 80 species of plants and animals. Read more .
Katrina Vanden Heuvel @ The Nation - Are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan creating a domestic terrorist threat? The potential disaster of a Nigerian man attempting to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas day forces us to confront the question. As the New York Times recently reported, there is increasing evidence that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are fueling a radicalization of young Muslims in the United States who are angry about the military occupation of Muslim lands and the killing of innocent Muslim citizens. Read more .
Chris Hedges @ Truthdig - Syed Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida. As his case prepares for trial, his plight illustrates that the gravest threat we face is not from Islamic extremists, but the codification of draconian procedures that deny Americans basic civil liberties and due process. Hashmi would be a better person to tell you this, but he is not allowed to speak. (Image hosted @ Truthdig) This corruption of our legal system, if history is any guide
The Buffalo News - With Congress’ approval rating near all-time lows, here’s an opportunity to recognize a woman who does not fit the unpopular mold: Rep. Louise M. Slaughter. Who in your storybooks looks like your picture of today’s member of the House or Senate? Scrooge? Hamlet? Humpty Dumpty? No image fits better than the one the senator or House member has built for himself or herself. It is of a frightened politician grubbing for campaign money, huddling with lobbyists against the public interest and putting his name on press releases concerning empty gestures. Theirs is largely a culture of evasion. They do little real creative legislating. Instead, they slap their names on bills they never expect to pass, or ride on somebody else’ barge, or just float with the tide. Agree with her or not, Slaughter — the Democrat who represents the district strung from Rochester, Niagara Falls and into downtown Buffalo — is none of those things. On the eve of the Senate’s 60-39 passage of its ve
The New York Times - He was hailed as Harlem’s king or its chairman, the eloquent author of some of its prouder moments, the dapper mentor to its sons and daughters. As news of Percy E. Sutton ’s death spread on Sunday, the sadness spanned generations and city blocks, from Mr. Sutton’s home on 135th Street to the threshold of the Apollo, that cultural heart of Harlem that Mr. Sutton brought back to life. “He was a renaissance black man,” said Philip Bulgar, 45, an assistant manager at Manna’s Soul Food Restaurant, summing up a life too rich for anyone to fully recall. That did not stop anyone from trying. “They don’t make too many brothers like that anymore,” Mr. Bulgar said. Mr. Sutton died on Saturday at age 89 . He had been a Tuskegee airman, Malcolm X ’s lawyer, the Manhattan borough president and a media mogul. On Sunday, Harlem’s residents peppered that legend with more personal recollections of Mr. Sutton: as a neighbor giving advice, a quiet guest at a funeral, a dapper fixtu
The Huffington Post - Two House Democrats who favor a government insurance plan, a central element of health care legislation passed in their chamber, acknowledged Sunday it might have to be sacrificed as negotiators work out a final agreement with the Senate. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House and one who had appealed to President Barack Obama not to yield on the public plan, set out conditions for yielding himself. Asked during rounds on the Sunday news shows whether he could vote for a final bill that does not embrace a public plan, Clyburn said: "Yes, sir, I can." Read more .
Fire Dog Lake - After talking about this with a great many progressives on our show , I’ve come to some conclusions. These are so self-evident that they will be viewed as obvious in hindsight. So, what Obama does by his nature is find the middle ground. As an excellent innate politician, he will find the political center of any field and rush to it. That’s where elections are won – the center. So, that’s why he sounded so progressive during the primaries, because that was the center of the left. And why he sounded like such a reformer during the general election because the great majority of Americans desperately wanted change. So, what happened to that Obama? The country is the same, so why did Obama drop the progressive reformer angle and go toward the right and corporate America? Because his field changed. He went from campaigning all across the country to being in the middle of Washington, DC. The center of Washington is very different than the center of the country. Right now,
Yahoo News - Percy Sutton, the pioneering civil rights attorney who represented Malcolm X before launching successful careers as a political power broker and media mogul , has died. He was 89. (Image Credit: Yahoo.com) Marissa Shorenstein, a spokeswoman for Gov. David Paterson , confirmed that Sutton died Saturday. She did not know the cause. His daughter, Cheryl Sutton, declined to comment Saturday when reached by phone at her New York City home . The son of a slave, Percy Sutton became a fixture on 125th Street in Harlem after moving to New York City following his service with the famed Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. His Harlem law office, founded in 1953, represented Malcolm X and the slain activist's family for decades. The consummate politician, Sutton served in the New York State Assembly before taking over as Manhattan borough president in 1966, becoming the highest-ranking black elected official in the state. Su
TreeHugger - While it attempts to kick-start its struggling auto industry, the U.S. is talking about building a high-speed rail network with an initial $8 billion in stimulus funds. Meanwhile, China is investing over $300 billion in high-speed rail through 2020, in a bid to speed ahead of the rest of the world's train systems. The numbers alone are head-spinning: 16,000 miles of new track by 2020, requiring 117 million tons of concrete just to construct the buttresses on which the tracks will lie. Top speeds from Beijing to Shanghai will approach 220 miles an hour, halving the current travel time to four hours. This year China Railway Company plans to hire 20,000 young engineers. Can we say leapfrogging ? Rail at Center of Stimulus Package China's high speed rail build-out is at the front and center of its stimulus spending, in large part out of fear: little is more intimidating to Beijing's leaders than the sight of thousands of unemp
Antiwar - Several officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, say there is absolutely no indication that the Christmas Lap-Bomber, a 23-year old Nigerian man who claims al-Qaeda ties, was part of any larger plot. Security officials claim to have known about him for years, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab garnered some attention from the intelligence community last month when his father warned them he was a potential threat. Still, officials say there was no information pointing to him being a serious threat . Which actually seems in keeping with the details of the story, as witnesses put the size of the explosion roughly on par with a firecracker, and the turns on Abdulmutallab’s lap were also consistant with this. Read more .
William Lorenz-Katz @ Consortium News - An estimated 380 to 480 freedom-fighting African and Indian members of the Seminole nation threw back an advance of more than a thousand U.S. Army and other troops led by Colonel Zachary Taylor, a future President of the United States. The Seminoles so badly mauled the invaders that Taylor ordered his soldiers to fall back, bury their dead, tend to their wounded . . . and ponder the largest single U.S. defeat in decades of Indian warfare. The battle of Lake Okeechobee is not a story you will find in school or college textbooks so it has slipped from the public consciousness. But in a country that cherishes its freedom-fighting heritage, Black and Red Seminoles of Florida sent everyone a message that deserves to be remembered and honored. Beginning in the early 18th Century, hundreds of African-Americans fled bondage in Georgia and the Carolinas to find refuge and a productive life in Florida. Though Spain c
Medea Benjamin @ Common Dreams - One year ago, the brutal Israeli 22-day invasion of the Gaza Strip shocked the world, leaving some 1,400 people dead, thousands more wounded, as well as hospitals, schools, prisons, UN facilities, factories, agricultural processing plants and some 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed. As we mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion, the plight of the people of Gaza continues unabated: Despite pledges of money for reconstruction, Israel refuses to allow in the machinery necessary to clear the rubble or the materials needed to rebuild--banning cement, gravel, wood, pipes, glass, steel bars, aluminum and tar. Many who were made homeless during the bombing are still living in tents amidst the onset of another cold winter. Desperate, some are reverting to the ancient techniques of building homes made of mud. Trade depends on an elaborate system of illicit and dangerous tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. The goods brought in are expensive, but they are the
David Yaffe @ The Nation - "You know people have tried to put me off as being crazy," said Thelonious Sphere Monk. "Sometimes it's to your advantage for people to think you're crazy." He ought to have known. Monk was one of only a few jazz musicians to appear on the cover of Time magazine (others include Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington and Wynton Marsalis) and was celebrated as a genius by everyone who mattered. Bud Powell, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins could not have imagined (or transmuted) the language of jazz without him. Yet the pianist was also constantly underpaid and underappreciated, rejected as too weird on his way up and dismissed as old hat once he made his improbable climb. Performer and composer, eccentric and original, Monk was shrouded in mystery throughout his life. Not an especially loquacious artist (at least with journalists), he left most of his expression in his inimitable work, as stunning and unique as anyone's
Glenn Greenwald @ Salon - Each time the U.S. bombs a new location in the Muslim world, the same pattern emerges. First, officials from the U.S. or allied governments run to their favorite media outlet to claim -- anonymously -- that some big, bad, notorious, "top" Al Qaeda leader "may have been" or "likely was" killed in the strike, and this constitutes a "stinging" or "devastating" blow against the Terrorist group. These compliant media outlets then sensationalistically trumpet that claim as the dominant theme of their "reporting" on the attack, drowning out every other issue. As a result, and by design, there is never any debate or discussion over the propriety or wisdom of these strikes. After all, what sane, rational, Serious person would possibly question a bombing raid or missile strike that "likely" killed a murderous, top Al Qaeda fighter and struck a "devastating blow" to that group&
The Raw Story - A tugboat struck the same reef as the Exxon Valdez tanker 20 years ago, spilling diesel into Alaska's Prince William Sound and creating a three-mile-long slick, the US Coast Guard said on Friday. An unknown quantity of the fuel leaked from the Pathfinder tug after it ran aground Wednesday on Bligh Reef. The boat's owners were pumping the remaining diesel from the original 33,500 gallons (127,000 liters) in its tanks. Flyovers by a C-130 cargo plane and helicopters revealed "a light grey or silver diesel sheen spanning an area approximately three miles (five kilometers) long and 30 yards (meters) wide approximately one mile east of Glacier Island," the Coast Guard said on its website. The tug had been scouting shipping lanes for ice when it struck the same rock that did for the Exxon Valdez on March 24, 1989, spilling 11 million gallons of crude into the sea in the worst US oil disaster. Read more .
Photo credit: greenfinger from morguefile.com Ronnie Cummins @ Common Dreams - In the wake of the failure of the Copenhagen Climate conference, and the "business as usual" insanity of Obama and the governing elite, millions of us are terminally fed up and fired up for action. In 2009, indentured politicians, bought and sold by the corporate elite, crushed our hopes for peace and prosperity by spending trillions of our tax dollars on war, Wall Street, and corporate welfare. As a critical mass now understand, these trillions could and should have gone toward financing organic transitions, public health, and a Green New Deal. A critical mass of food and farm activists, North and South, are becoming aware that the second decade of the 21st Century likely marks the end of the road for chemical, energy, and water-intensive food and agriculture. And, as the energy, climate, and economic crises converge, a growing corps of climate activists understand that we are wi
Truthout.org - On the third day before Christmas in 2008, the people living along the Emory River in East Tennessee were listening to songs about a "white Christmas" like everybody else in the country, trying to look forward and not back. A new president was in the White House who promised "hope" after eight years of war and unprecedented corruption, as well as the increasing economic hardship that was squeezing the middle class like a juggernaut. Instead of a white Christmas, though, people like Steve Scarborough of the Dagger Kayak and Canoe Company woke up to a black-gray mess of epic proportions, a river full of toxic coal ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority's coal-fired power plant at Kingston, Tennessee. "There are no excuses for this," Scarborough said. "One of the dumbest thing humans do is dig coal out of the ground and burn it." Read more .
The New York Times - It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas . So what was a good, compassionate, environmentally conscious guy like Dan Nainan to do? The tree was the first problem. “You cut down a tree and you’re going to throw it out in three weeks,” he said. “If you get a plastic tree, you’re wasting petroleum.” Then there was the whole matter of buying gifts. “I think it’s great that people are going out and buying things and helping the economy,” he said. But when a Wal-Mart employee can be trampled to death in a manic dash for holiday bargains, as happened last year, “that kind of crystallized everything for me.” The answer: Skip it. The whole holiday. No tree. No stockings, carols or any of the “whole nine yards” of trappings and traditions that Mr. Nainan said his family has always laid on. “Instead of buying stuff for people who don’t need it and will probably return it anyway, I’m going to take all the money that I would have spent on presents, find some needy people —
Photo credit: roganjosh from morguefile.com The Huffington Post - Food banks traditionally supplied with supermarket leftovers and corporate seconds are hurting as their usual providers cut corners and cut back. But in the pursuit of new donors and healthier options for pantry fare, food bank solicitors are turning to local farmers who have perfectly edible produce that's not fit for retail sale. "The common wisdom in food banks for many years was that we need to give people adequate calories," Sue Sigler, executive director of the California Assn. of Food Banks said. "Now we know that we also need to give people healthy food." Read more .
Cara Anna @ The Huffing ton Post - A Chinese court handed down a harsh 11-year sentence to a prominent dissident Friday on subversion charges after he called for sweeping political reforms and an end to Communist Party dominance. The sentencing of Liu Xiaobo comes despite international appeals for his release. Rights groups said the harshness of the sentence was a warning to others who challenge China's one-party rule. Liu was the co-author of an unusually direct appeal for political liberalization in China called Charter 08. He was detained just before it was released last December. More than 300 people, including some of China's top intellectuals, signed it. The verdict was issued at the No. 1 Intermediate People's Court in Beijing after a two-hour trial Wednesday in which prosecutors accused Liu of "serious" crimes. Leading .
Photo credit: iphis from morguefile.com Rep. Eric J.J. Massa - Christmas Eve is a time to gather with friends and family to reflect on the good things in life. It's a time to share our joys and our hopes for peace on earth and good will towards all. This year Christmas Eve has a sad and ironic twist to it however. As we begin our deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, this Christmas Eve will also mark the 3,000th day of the war in Afghanistan and the 30th anniversary of the initial Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Thus far, this war has already cost the American taxpayer a minimum of $300,000,000,000 according to the Congressional Research Service (and that's just the funding that's "on budget"). Sadly, the fact that we're spending about $101 million per day in this war is the good news. The financial cost of this war is nothing compared to the fact that 937 American troops have been killed, and 4,434 have been wounded (and that&
David Sirota - For those caught up in the obsequiously triumphalist bullshit coming from the DC elite - you know the crap about the Senate allegedly passing the most important piece of progressive legislation in American history today (an analysis I completely reject ) - it's important for us all to remember that the health care battle isn't over - and specifically, the battle over the public option isn't over. Now, I know you've been told over and over and over again on television that that's not true. But that's because almost everyone on television is a card-carrying member of The Church of the Savvy . Somehow, everyone's forgotten that 60+ House Democrats have signed a letter just a few months ago saying : Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, for a public option with reimbursement rates based on Medicare rates - not negotiated rates - is unacceptable. Read more .
Mathew Rothchild @ The Progressive - Are you feeling like a chump yet? If you’re a good progressive, and you wanted single-payer health care for all, or, second best, Medicare for All Who Want It, or third best, a robust public option, or fourth best, a paltry public option, now you’ve got nothing, nada, zippo. Has it ever crossed your mind that this is the way President Obama wanted it to be? That he tossed in the public option at the beginning only to get progressives on board, knowing full well that he was going to jettison the public option by the end? Have you considered that maybe Max Baucus wasn’t the problem? Read more .
Photo credit: aconant from morguefile.com Truthdig - Barack Obama said, minutes before racing out of the U.N. climate summit, “We will not be legally bound by anything that took place here today.” These were among his remarks made to his own small White House press corps, excluding the 3,500 credentialed journalists covering the talks. It was late on Dec. 18, the last day of the summit, and reports were that the negotiations had failed. Copenhagen, which had been co-branded for the talks on billboards with Coke and Siemens as “Hopenhagen,” was looking more like “Nopenhagen.” As I entered the Bella Center, the summit venue, that morning, I saw several dozen people sitting on the cold stone plaza outside the police line. Throughout the summit, people had filled this area, hoping to pick up credentials. Thousands from nongovernmental organizations and the press waited hours in the cold, only to be denied. On the final days of the summit, the area was cold and empty. Read more.
Antiwar.com - It’s been a good decade for the Pentagon. The most recent numbers from Capitol Hill indicate that Pentagon spending (counting Iraq and Afghanistan) will reach over $630 billion in 2010. And that doesn’t even include the billions set aside for building new military facilities and sustaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal. But even without counting the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense budget has been moving relentlessly upward since 2001. Pentagon budget authority has jumped from $296 billion in 2001 to $513 billion in 2009, a 73% increase. And again, that’s not even counting the over $1 trillion in taxpayer money that has been thrown at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even if those wars had never happened, the Pentagon would still be racking up huge increases year after year after year. And perhaps most disturbing of all, the Pentagon budget increased for every year of the first decade of the 21 st century, an unprecedented run
Truthout.org - More than 50,000 people are expected to take to the streets of Gaza on Dec. 31 for a mass march designed to send a message to the United States, a key supporter of Israel's army, that the situation in Gaza violates international human rights laws. The idea behind the "Gaza Freedom March" comes from CODEPINK, a women's peace group committed to drawing attention to the humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories, among other campaigns. Organisers say the main catalyst for the mobilisation was the Goldstone Report, commissioned by the United Nations and written by renowned South African jurist Richard Goldstone. The 575-page report, released in September, detailed gross human rights violations and war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas in Gaza during the Dec. 27, 2008 to Jan. 18, 2009 conflict. However, it was particularly critical of Israel, calling the military campaign "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to pu
Max Eternity - Progressive media mogul, Jane Hamsher, and free-market Libertarian, Grover Norquist, and are calling for an investigation into Rahm Emanuel’s activities at Freddie Mac. While not surprisingly, the White House is blocking an Inspector General who would look into it. In part, the letter reads as follows: Attorney General of the United States of America U.S. Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001 Dear Attorney General Holder: We write to demand an immediate investigation into the activities of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. We believe there is an abundant public record which establishes that the actions of the White House have blocked any investigation into his activities while on the board of Freddie Mac from 2000-2001, and facilitated the cover up of potential malfeasance until the 10-year statute of limitations has run out. The purpose of this letter is to connect the dots to establish both the conduct of Mr. Emanuel an
Reuters - The U.S. president had been a disappointment to the world, Ahmadinejad said in an interview with Britain's Channel 4 News, a full transcript of which was later posted on its website. He once again dismissed a year-end deadline on a U.N.-drafted fuel deal, saying it was "meaningless." The deal requires Iran to ship most of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad in exchange for fuel for a Tehran research reactor. The United States has made it clear it intends to pursue harsher sanctions against Iran in the United Nations if Iran fails to meet the deadline. Ahmadinejad said Iran had made the proposal, and according to the regulations the offer of fuel was unconditional. Read more .
Photo credit: puravida from morguefile.com Henry Giroux @ Truthout - This is a difficult time in American history. The American people have every right to demand to live in peace, enjoy the comforts of economic security, have access to decent health care, be able to send their children to quality schools and live with a measure of security. And yet, at a time when public values are subordinated to the rationality of profits, exchange values and unbridled self interest, politics and the institutions and culture that support it become corrupt, devoid of agents and reduced to empty rituals largely orchestrated by those who control the wealth, income, media and commanding institutions of American society. As we have just witnessed in the debate on health care reform, the interests of the vast majority of American people for a public option and the extension of Medicare have been totally lost on a Congress that has been corrupted by power and its comfortable and shameful relations with th
Jason Linkins @ The Huffington Post - Over the past week, the media has trained its myopic eye on those in the progressive community who, having seen that the health care reform plan emerging from the legislative process will fall well short of providing all Americans with affordable health care, are urging that the bill be killed. The dominant attitude of the mainstream media seems to be that this response is irrational. John Harwood, to offer just one example, has likened these advocates to drug addicts . (By contrast, the people who continue to hallucinate up "death panels," are, I guess, simply people who have an interesting and serious point of view on the matter!) It's important though, to note, that the Howard Deans and Jane Hamshers of the world neither want LITERALLY want to destroy President Barack Obama's domestic agenda in a fit of ideological pique, nor do they want to consign millions of uninsured Americans to their deaths. In fact, they desire the o