Sunday, January 31, 2010

Truthout 1/31

The President's Leadership Challenge: A Call for Bold Action
Rinaldo Brutoco, Truthout: "Mr. President, there has never been any doubt you are a brilliant orator. And it is also clear that nothing you have said will cause the Republicans in the Senate to break their stranglehold on progress, using threats of filibusters to destroy the majority rule that is the hallmark of every other democracy in the world. People are asking for results they can understand."
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Government Executes Protesters in Iran
GlobalPost: "Iran hanged two opposition protesters on Thursday and sentenced nine more to death for taking part in widespread rallies against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following last June's presidential election."
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Sundance Reveals the Dark Underside of Political Financing in the USA
Romain Raynaldy, Les Echos: "At the Sundance Festival, American documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney recounts the descent into hell of the former lobbyist with links to the Republican Party, Jack Abramoff, offering an indictment of the corruption that infects political financing in the United States."
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Why the Tea Party Convention is Tea-tering on the Edge
Patrik Jonsson, The Christian Science Monitor: "With two major speakers throwing in the towel, the first-ever Tea Party convention is giving Americans a glimpse at internecine fighting over the direction of the libertarian movement ... so far, the first-ever Tea Party Nation Convention, slated for next weekend at Nashvilleís Opryland, has been anything but a show of unity."
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Single-Payer Health Care Bill Advances to California State Assembly
Jason Leopold, Truthout: "Despite a firm veto threat from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California Senate on Thursday passed a measure along party lines to create a $200 billion state-run, single-payer health care system. The bill - SB 810 - now heads to the state Assembly for consideration."
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Lawmakers, Veterans Groups Discuss Benefits Backlog
Mary Susan Littlepage, Truthout: "Last week, Democratic and Republican members of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs met with Chairman Bob Filner to talk with 40 veterans' service organizations to discuss priorities for Congress' second session."
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Drifting Toward Catastrophe: A Seven-Headed Beast
Bernard Weiner, Truthout: "This country, humanity, the globe are rushing pell-mell to disaster, mostly by neglecting what needs to be done while we're diddling with the political minutiae. This tendency to avoid the obvious larger questions reminds one of the thrust of Albert Einstein's famous quote: 'The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.'"
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(VIDEO) GRITtv: Rembering Howard Zinn
Laura Flanders of GRITtv interviews Howard Zinn in 2008.
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Systemic Failures, by Design
Mark Montgomery, Truthout: "Over the past dozen years, the US has experienced a series of dangerous and costly systemic failures throughout our security and regulatory framework. The unfettered bubble in technology, missed opportunities to prevent 9/11 - leading to two ongoing wars, the tragic response to Katrina, the largest financial crisis in history, the Fort Hood massacre and the 'underwear bomber' incident on Christmas Day all share one commonality."
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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Truthout 1/30

Jason Leopold | Justice Department Clears Torture Memo Authors John Yoo, Jay Bybee of Misconduct
Jason Leopold, Truthout: "A long-awaited Department of Justice watchdog report that probed whether John Yoo and his former boss Jay Bybee violated professional standards when they provided the Bush White House with legal advice on torture has cleared both men of misconduct, according to Newsweek, citing unnamed sources who have seen the document."
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Ellen Hodgson Brown J.D. | The Battle of the Titans: JPMorgan vs. Goldman Sachs
Ellen Hodgson Brown J.D., Truthout: "We are witnessing an epic battle between two banking giants, JPMorgan Chase (Paul Volcker) and Goldman Sachs (Geithner/Summers/Rubin). Left strewn on the battleground could be your pension fund and 401K."
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Kerry Kennedy and Monika Kaira Varma | Human Rights and Haiti
Kerry Kennedy and Monika Kaira Varma, Truthout: "Overwhelmed by sadness, empathy and disbelief, the world's eyes and hearts are focused on the rescue and relief efforts resulting from the earthquake in Haiti. However, many who have worked in Haiti fear that a preventable and long term disaster lies on the horizon if international interventions do not break with past patterns. As international aid begins to pour into Haiti, we have a brief moment to break with past mistakes and bring real change to Haiti."
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Obama Orders Cut in Federal Government's Greenhouse-Gas Emissions
Mark Clayton, The Christian Science Monitor: "President Obama Friday told federal agencies to cut energy use to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 28 percent by 2010. Agencies are taking measures ranging from using more solar energy to switching from gasoline vehicles to hybrid vehicles."
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(VIDEO) Haiti Untold: Nonviolence and Humanization at the Grassroots
Amster J.D., PhD, t r u t h o u t: "A number of commentators have questioned the accepted logic that disasters bring out the worst in people, directly challenging the pervasive 'looters run amok' imagery often perpetuated by the media and held out by lawmakers as a rationale for military occupation. Having done relief work following Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, I have found that people are more likely to work together - even if only out of necessity - when severe hardship strikes. In fact, it is precisely the isolation and individualism of ordinary daily life that tap into our worst instincts, while the removal of these impediments can actually liberate our better qualities."
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Senate Quietly Passes Iran Sanctions Bill
Grace Huang, Truthout: "The Senate quietly passed legislation Thursday implementing tough new sanctions against Iran that advocacy groups say will cause more pain for the citizens of the country than for the government it's intended to cripple."
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It's Not Too Late to Limit or Reverse the Impact of the Supreme Court's Disastrous Decision in Citizens United v. FEC
Fran Korten, Yes! Magazine: "Pro-democracy groups, business leaders, and elected representatives are proposing mechanisms to prevent or counter the millions of dollars that corporations can now draw from their treasuries to push for government action favorable to their bottom line. The outrage ignited by the Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission extends to President Obama, who has promised that repairing the damage will be a priority for his administration."
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Eugene Robinson | Outsider in Chief
Eugene Robinson, Truthout: "President Obama's first State of the Union address didn't signal a political shift to the left or the right. It sounded more like a shrewd attempt to move from the inside to the outside - to position himself alongside disaffected voters, peering through the windows of the den of iniquity called Washington and reacting with dismay at the depravity within."
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Friday, January 29, 2010

Truthout 1/29

The Coal Ash Industry Manipulated EPA Data
Joshua Frank, Truthout: "The coal ash industry manipulated reports and publications about the dangers of coal combustion waste, reports Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The group stated that the Environmental Protection Agency allowed the multibillon-dollar coal ash industry to have virtually unfettered access to the EPA during the Bush administration and now under President Obama."
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Senate Confirms Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to a Second Term
Jason Leopold, Truthout: "With just 72 hours left before his term ended, the Senate voted 70-30 Thursday to confirm beleagued Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to a second, four-year term."
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Legislation to Counter Supreme Court's Campaign Finance Ruling Gaining Support
Kyle Berlin, Truthout: "In the wake of last week's sweeping 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, which struck down several longstanding prohibitions on corporate political contributions, Democratic lawmakers are proposing legislation to counter some of its effects."
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Photo Essay: Homeless Often Hidden in Tennessee
John Mottern, Truthout: "'Tent City' is a place hidden out of sight and historically out of mind. It sprawls over a mud-rutted, brush-tangled acre of landscape nestled under a network of highway bridges along the Cumberland River on the outskirts of downtown Nashville, Tennessee. It is impossible to find unless one is directed or taken there. The camp is surrounded by a variety of chain-link fencing placed in different configurations that appear to have been installed in stages over many years."
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Veterans' Agency Gets New Computers - and Complaints
Mary Susan Littlepage, Truthout: "The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has a new computer system - the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS). VBA and the Office of Information and Technology are hoping the new system will help better manage the mountain of paper, electronic documents, correspondence and other content created and handled as part of their day-to-day business processes."
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AWOL From the State of the Union: Peace, Reconciliation and Debt
Robert Naiman, Truthout: "On foreign policy, while the president said some good things, he missed key opportunities to say better things. In particular, he missed key opportunities to promote reconciliation as an essential way of ending our wars and promoting peace. In speaking about US domestic politics, the president is eloquent in his efforts to promote reconciliation, but he seems to have lost his voice in applying these ideas to our foreign policy."
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Tony Blair Defends Iraq Invasion During Heated Testimony Before Inquiry Panel
Ben Quinn, The Christian Science Monitor: "Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair invoked the terror of 9/11 as he defended his support for the invasion of Iraq during an appearance Friday at Britain's inquiry into the war. With his legacy overshadowed by the 2003 intervention, Mr. Blair argued that while the 2001 attacks on the US had not changed the threat from Iraq, they completely shifted his perception of the risk posed from terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction."
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US Jobless Claims Drop Less Than Expected
Grace Huang, Truthout: "The number of US workers who filed new claims for initial unemployment benefits declined slightly last week, though many economists expected a steeper drop. A Labor Department report released Thursday showed that initial claims fell from 478,000 in the week of January 23 to 470,000. According to Reuters, economists anticipated a drop to 450,000 instead."
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"Dangerous Enemies and More Dangerous Friends: Why the US Needs a Holistic Approach to Yemen"
James R. King, Truthout: "Just a few short months ago, the Republic of Yemen was probably better known for its singular status as the only country that starts with the letter 'Y' than for anything substantive related to its history, culture or contemporary politics. Today, however, one can hardly turn on the television without being bombarded with some news on Yemen. But as media pundits, policymakers and average Americans rush to catch up on their knowledge of this once obscure country, nuance is often sacrificed at the altar of thirty-second sound bites and quick-fix solutions."
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The Silent Destruction
Le Monde's Herve Kempf on biodiversity, "We shall weep over the fate of Brazil's manatee, Papua-Asia's forests, the Galapagos' hammerhead shark; we shall rush off to see 'Oceans' and 'Avatar.' But while we're looking elsewhere, the massacre continues here."
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Evo's New Cabinet: Ten Men, Ten Women
EFE, Los Tiempos (Translation: Ryan Croken): "On Saturday, January 23, Bolivian President Evo Morales kicked off his second term as leader of the country by announcing the appointment of his new Cabinet. Morales has replaced more than half of the ministers from his previous administration, and brought gender parity to his new team by apportioning exactly half of the ministerial positions to women."
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Robert Reich | Obama Needs to Teach the Public How to Get Out of the Mess We're In
Robert Reich, "The President wants businesses that hire new employees this year to get $5,000 per hire, in the form of a tax credit. That will come to about $33 billion. It's good step. He's also supporting a cut in the capital gains tax for small businesses. That makes sense; after all, small businesses generate most jobs."
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Regardless of Polls, Afghans Say Mood in Country is Worsening
Jean MacKenzie, GlobalPost: "There is a loud sound of head-scratching in Kabul these days as Afghans and foreigners alike ponder the results of a poll conducted jointly by ABC News, the BBC and German television company ARD."
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March of the Peacocks

New York Times

Last week, the Center for American Progress, a think tank with close ties to the Obama administration, published an acerbic essay about the difference between true deficit hawks and showy “deficit peacocks.” You can identify deficit peacocks, readers were told, by the way they pretend that our budget problems can be solved with gimmicks like a temporary freeze in nondefense discretionary spending.

One week later, in the State of the Union address, President Obama proposed a temporary freeze in nondefense discretionary spending.

Wait, it gets worse. To justify the freeze, Mr. Obama used language that was almost identical to widely ridiculed remarks early last year by John Boehner, the House minority leader. Boehner then: “American families are tightening their belt, but they don’t see government tightening its belt.” Obama now: “Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same.”

What’s going on here? The answer, presumably, is that Mr. Obama’s advisers believed he could score some political points by doing the deficit-peacock strut. I think they were wrong, that he did himself more harm than good. Either way, however, the fact that anyone thought such a dumb policy idea was politically smart is bad news because it’s an indication of the extent to which we’re failing to come to grips with our economic and fiscal problems.

The nature of America’s troubles is easy to state. We’re in the aftermath of a severe financial crisis, which has led to mass job destruction. The only thing that’s keeping us from sliding into a second Great Depression is deficit spending. And right now we need more of that deficit spending because millions of American lives are being blighted by high unemployment, and the government should be doing everything it can to bring unemployment down.

In the long run, however, even the U.S. government has to pay its way. And the long-run budget outlook was dire even before the recent surge in the deficit, mainly because of inexorably rising health care costs. Looking ahead, we’re going to have to find a way to run smaller, not larger, deficits.

How can this apparent conflict between short-run needs and long-run responsibilities be resolved? Intellectually, it’s not hard at all. We should combine actions that create jobs now with other actions that will reduce deficits later. And economic officials in the Obama administration understand that logic: for the past year they have been very clear that their vision involves combining fiscal stimulus to help the economy now with health care reform to help the budget later.

The sad truth, however, is that our political system doesn’t seem capable of doing what’s necessary.

On jobs, it’s now clear that the Obama stimulus wasn’t nearly big enough. No need now to resolve the question of whether the administration should or could have sought a bigger package early last year. Either way, the point is that the boost from the stimulus will start to fade out in around six months, yet we’re still facing years of mass unemployment. The latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office say that the average unemployment rate next year will be only slightly lower than the current, disastrous, 10 percent.

Yet there is little sentiment in Congress for any major new job-creation efforts.

Meanwhile, health care reform faces a troubled outlook. Congressional Democrats may yet manage to pass a bill; they’ll be committing political suicide if they don’t. But there’s no question that Republicans were very successful at demonizing the plan. And, crucially, what they demonized most effectively were the cost-control efforts: modest, totally reasonable measures to ensure that Medicare dollars are spent wisely became evil “death panels.”

So if health reform fails, you can forget about any serious effort to rein in rising Medicare costs. And even if it succeeds, many politicians will have learned a hard lesson: you don’t get any credit for doing the fiscally responsible thing. It’s better, for the sake of your career, to just pretend that you’re fiscally responsible — that is, to be a deficit peacock.

So we’re paralyzed in the face of mass unemployment and out-of-control health care costs. Don’t blame Mr. Obama. There’s only so much one man can do, even if he sits in the White House. Blame our political culture instead, a culture that rewards hypocrisy and irresponsibility rather than serious efforts to solve America’s problems. And blame the filibuster, under which 41 senators can make the country ungovernable, if they choose — and they have so chosen.

I’m sorry to say this, but the state of the union — not the speech, but the thing itself — isn’t looking very good.

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FP morning post 1/29

Haitian hospitals running low on medical supplies

Top story: With around 200,000 people in need of post-surgical care and countless more still with untreated injuries, doctors say that basic medical supplies are running out in Haiti's hospitals. While international aid continues to pour in, the hospitals are stilling treating hundreds of new patients a day, many of whom have gone without treatment since the earthquake on Jan. 12, and basic supplies like antibiotics and painkillers are running low in both Port-au-Prince and the countryside. Authorities worry about a looming public health disaster with thousands of Haitians still living in camps with poor sanitation.

The U.S. Navy hospital ship docked offshore has also been overwhelmed by patients and officials say it has reached its care limit. The Navy is planning to set up a 3,000 to 5,000 bed temporary hospital onshore to handle the overflow.

More than two weeks after the initial quake hit, Port-au-Prince continues to be rattled by daily aftershocks.

Philanthropy: Bill Gates pledged $10 billion over the next 10 years for vaccines for poor countries.

Middle East

  • Hamas claim that Israeli agents assassinated one of its veteran operatives in Dubai.
  • The U.S. Senate passed a bill allowing the president to expand sanctions against Iran.
  • In a new audiotape, Osama bin Laden blames the United States and other industrialized nations for climate change.


  • Sri Lankan police raided the office of losing presidential candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka.
  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai's plan to engage senior Taliban members received a mixed reaction at the international Afghanistan conference in London.
  • For a third day, North Korea continued to fire artillery at its sea border with South Korea.



  • Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair defended the reasoning between the Iraq war before a government review panel.
  • French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner says his country will not send any more combat troops to Afghanistan.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in France where she will deliver a speech on European security.


-By Joshua Keating


McClatchy Washington report 1/29

  • Conceding that its initial mortgage relief program has been less than successful, the Treasury Department Thursday announced new rules to simplify and speed the decision-making process for struggling borrowers trying to modify the terms of their distressed mortgages.

  • President Barack Obama will speak Friday to Republicans from the House of Representatives, who voiced skepticism Thursday about his call for bipartisanship in his State of the Union address and vowed to continue opposing his agenda unless he - not they - changes course.

  • More than a dozen locales across the country got word Thursday that Washington had decided to help finance a new age in transportation as President Barack Obama unveiled $8 billion in federal money to begin the construction of high-speed rail lines. While the funds were substantial, most local officials note that completing the projects will cost far more than the initial federal contribution.

  • Karl Rove, former President George W. Bush's chief political strategist, was in Raleigh, N.C., on Thursday night to attend a fundraiser for Sen. Richard Burr. Rove, who now is an analyst for Fox News and other news outlets, sat down with The News & Observer to talk about politics before the event. Here are some of his answers to their questions.

  • The Senate bill would require that new spending in key parts of the budget be paid for with either budget cuts elsewhere or tax increases. But while that sounds like a Republican position, not one GOP senator voted for it. Republicans said pay-as-you-go would make it harder to cut taxes.

  • California appears headed for a rollicking November ballot fight over whether to legalize and tax marijuana cultivation and use for adults 21 years and older. Already legalization proponents and opponents are gearing up for a fight. The election battle is expected to feature rival TV commercials that variously extol the tax benefits of a regulated marijuana market or warn of the threat mass legalization poses to communities.

  • Amid declining poll numbers and political fortunes, President Barack Obama on Thursday tried to reconnect with the fickle state that helped put him in the White House and urged voters to keep the faith despite Florida's withering recession. In the first joint appearance outside the Washington area by Obama and Vice President Joe Biden since last February, he aimed his message at the coveted independent voters clustered in this part of Florida who broke with tradition in 2008 and cast ballots for the Democratic nominee.

  • More than two weeks after the Jan. 12 earthquake, the work of taking apart a ravaged city is slowly, and chaotically, beginning. Heavy machinery and old-fashioned elbow grease have begun to remove what's left of crumbled buildings in Port-au-Prince. The Haitian government estimates that 25,000 government offices and businesses either toppled or need to be demolished. In addition, there are 225,000 residences that are no longer habitable.

  • Federal inspectors have given the Anchorage Veterans Administration Regional Office a poor review for its handling of Alaska veterans' disability claims, citing lack of quality control and a 29 percent error rate that in some cases resulted in veterans being underpaid, facing unnecessary delays in obtaining benefits, or being initially denied services they might be entitled to.

  • Kansas and federal officials assured residents of the toxic town of Treece, Kansas, on Thursday that government efforts to buy their property and move them out will proceed somehow, even if state lawmakers don't approve $350,000 for the state's part of the buyout.

  • Alaskan fans of exotic pets are getting their chance to lobby the Board of Game this week with the hopes of changing some rules about animal ownership. The chance to amend Alaska's "clean list" of legal animals — which currently includes one-humped camels and chimpanzees — comes only once every four years, according to the Division of Wildlife Conservation. However, panel members are dubious about lifting state bans.

  • Scott Roeder's defense in his trial for killing abortion doctor George Tiller suffered a huge blow Thursday when the judge ruled that the jury can't consider the less serious charge of voluntary manslaughter. Judge Warren Wilbert's ruling prevents Roeder from arguing that he used force to stop Tiller from performing abortions. "In the state of Kansas, abortions are legal," the judge said.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Truthout 1/28

Howard Zinn: A Public Intellectual Who Mattered
Henry A. Giroux, Truthout: "In 1977 I took my first job in higher education at Boston University. One reason I went there was because Howard Zinn was teaching there at the time. As a high school teacher, Howard's book, 'Vietnam: the Logic of Withdrawal,' published in 1968, had a profound effect on me."
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Obama Shifts Priorities to Job Growth, While Calling for an End to Partisan Warfare
Jason Leopold, Truthout: "President Barack Obama resuscitated a theme that swept him into office a year ago - Hope and Change - in his first State of the Union address Wednesday night, vowing to create new jobs and work toward stifling the partisan warfare that continues to divide Democrats and Republicans."
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Gloria Feldt | A Goldilocks State of the Union: Not Too Big, Not Too Small, Just Right
Gloria Feldt, Truthout: ""I am feeling so disempowered," the woman prefaced her question to me at a Passion to Action conference in Grass Valley, California, sponsored by the See Jane Do ... organization. But her face telegraphed very powerful emotions: anger, frustration, fear. It was a look we've seen on the faces of teabaggers as they shouted wild allegations and disrupted town halls across the nation."
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Weak State Department Oversight Resulted in Mismanagement of Iraq Security Contract Fund
Grace Huang, Truthout: "Due to mismanagement, the State Department has left more than $2.5 billion vulnerable to waste and fraud and is unsure of where $1 billion of that has gone, according to a report from a federal watchdog agency released Monday."
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Honduran Coup d'Etat a "Win" for the US?
Tom Loudon, Truthout: "Today, Pepe Lobo will be inaugurated as the new president of Honduras in what many consider to be an institutionalization of the coup d'etat, which took place seven months ago. Lobo comes to the presidency as a result of a highly disputed election process carried out by the coup regime. The elections, which have been widely condemned as illegitimate, were boycotted by a large percentage of the Honduran population."
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UN Secret Detention Report Asks, "Where Are The CIA Ghost Prisoners?"
Andy Worthington, Truthout: "A major new report on secret detention policies around the world, conducted by four independent UN human rights experts, concludes that, 'On a global scale, secret detention in connection with counter-terrorist policies remains a serious problem,' and, 'If resorted to in a widespread and systematic manner, secret detention might reach the threshold of a crime against humanity.'"
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Jim Hightower | The Supreme Coup
Jim Hightower, Truthout: "Despite 234 years of progress toward the American ideal of equality for all, we still have to battle unfairness. How happy, then, to learn that a handful of our leaders in Washington took bold and forceful action last week to lift another group of downtrodden Americans from the pits of injustice, helping them gain more political and governmental power. I refer, of course, to corporations."
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Ray McGovern | President Put Politics First on Afghanistan
Ray McGovern, Consortium News: "Nothing highlights President Obama's abject surrender to Gen. David Petraeus on the 'way forward' in Afghanistan than two cables U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry sent to Washington on Nov. 6 and 9, 2009, the texts of which were released Tuesday by the New York Times."
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Obama's Secret Prisons: Night Raids, Hidden Detention Centers, the "Black Jail" and the Dogs of War in Afghanistan
Anand Gopal, "One quiet, wintry night last year in the eastern Afghan town of Khost, a young government employee named Ismatullah simply vanished. He had last been seen in the town's bazaar with a group of friends. Family members scoured Khost's dust-doused streets for days. Village elders contacted Taliban commanders in the area who were wont to kidnap government workers, but they had never heard of the young man. Even the governor got involved, ordering his police to round up nettlesome criminal gangs that sometimes preyed on young bazaar-goers for ransom."
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GRITtv: Senator Sanders on Firing Fed Chairman Bernanke, Economy Fixes (Video)
Laura Flanders, GRITtv: "Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has been an outspoken leader in the Senate on everything from the fight for single-payer health care reform to blocking Fed Chair Ben Bernanke's reappointment. The Vermont legislator has won election and re-election by continually communicating with and fighting for the people, and he offers his advice to progressives and to President Obama in this exclusive interview with GRITtv."
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Bill Moyers Journal | Labor's State of the Union
Bill Moyers Journal: "America's workers need jobs, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is calling on them to stand up and fight. Trumka joins Bill Moyers to offer his perspective on the State of the Union and explains why he thinks President's Obama's plans - and the Republicans' agenda alike - might mean a lost decade for America."
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NOW | On the Ground in Haiti: Saving the Lives of Mothers During Childbirth
NOW: "Haiti's catastrophic earthquake, in addition to leaving lives and institutions in ruin, also exacerbated a much more common and lethal emergency in Haiti: dying during childbirth. Challenges in transportation, education and quality health care contribute to Haiti having the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere, a national crisis even before the earthquake struck."
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FP morning post 1/28

Karzai sees foreign troops in Afghanistan for up to 15 years

Top story: Representatives from more than 60 countries are holding talks in London today to discuss the way forward in Afghanistan. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is co-hosting the conference with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, told the delegates that the had reached a "decisive time" and the “By the middle of next year, we have to turn the tide.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai gave a more longterm timetable for the international presence in his country, saying, "With regard to training and equipping the Afghan security forces, five to 10 years would be sufficient. With regard to sustaining them … the time period extends to 10 to 15 years."

Karzai plans to introduce a scheme to entice Taliban fighters back into mainstream society by offering money and jobs. U.S. commanders seem willing to accept some degree of cooperation with the Taliban with top U.S. military commander Staley Mcchrystal saying, "I think any Afghans can play a role if they focus on the future, and not the past." Neighboring Pakistan, which once supported the Afghan Taliban, is now increasingly seeking a role as a mediator in talks between various Taliban factions and the Kabul government.

In a statement on the conference, the Taliban seemed fairly uninterested in the solutions put forward. "They should accept the solution put forward by the Islamic Emirate, which is the full withdrawal of the invading forces from our country," the statement said.

Haiti: Haiti's government indefinitely postponed parliamentary elections, which were scheduled for March, and asked the international community for a larger and more coordinated aid effort. Businesses are increasingly reopening in Haiti's capital.

State of the Union: In his first State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to focus on job creation next year.


Middle East


  • Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for a fundamental rethinking of global capitalism.
  • Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was acquitted on charges of slander against Sarkozy.
  • British and Irish Prime Ministers have left Belfast with Northern Ireland's power-sharing government still on the brink of collapse.


  • The Mexican federal government will attempt to overturn Mexico's gay marriage law.
  • Almost 600 tourists were rescued from Machu Picchu but as many as 1,600 remain trapped by floods.
  • Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has left for the Dominican Republic.


  • Sudanese President Omar al Bashir is backing his former civil war enemy in South Sudan's presidential elections.
  • Zimbabwe's high court rejected a ruling by the regional body SADC ordering Robert Mugabe's government to halt land seizures.
  • The Egyptian and Algerian soccer teams face off today in a rivalry that has provoked rioting in recent months.

By Joshua Keating

Paul Rogers /WPA Pool/Getty Images

McClatchy Washington report 1/28

  • Despite the stinging defeat his party suffered in Massachusetts, the erosion of his own political support and calls from Republicans and moderate Democrats to change his agenda, Obama signaled that he'll make no abrupt turn from the path he set more than a year ago.

  • Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, his predecessor Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke denied Wednesday any wrongdoing in secretive decisions surrounding the September 2008 bailout of failing insurance giant American International Group.

  • Expectations were high. He took office after a landslide election spurred by economic woes, international turmoil and a discouraged nation's concern that the luster was off the American dream. He was supposed to change the game, but his first year was largely a disappointment. Yet Ronald Reagan survived early difficulties to serve another seven years in the White House. Experts on politics and the presidency are cautioning an American public plagued with a short memory and shorter attention span not to judge the Obama administration based solely on its opening year.

  • Afghan parliamentarians held an unannounced meeting last week with a relative of insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar that participants hope can lead to the start of peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, a participant in the meeting said Thursday.

  • A Texas watchdog group issued a scathing analysis Wednesday of Gov. Rick Perry's much-ballyhooed jobs program, saying the governor exaggerated its success and noting that a third of the 54,000 jobs he said have been created since 2003 are actually unfulfilled employment pledges.

  • John and Elizabeth Edwards have separated, severing a union that has been relentlessly scrutinized since the disclosure of the former presidential candidate's messy affair. Both acknowledged Wednesday what had been rumored for weeks: that they are living apart. The admission came on the day that sordid details emerged from a new book, "The Politician," by a former top aide, Andrew Young. It portrays a deeply troubled marriage behind a public image of marital bliss.

  • In a poll that provides a unique &mdash and unprecedented &mdash glimpse of how Haitians living in the U.S. have been affected by their home country's devastating earthquake, a clear majority of Haitian Americans have lost faith in the Haitian government's ability to rebuild the shattered nation.

  • The judge in the Scott Roeder murder trial will decide today whether former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline can be forced to testify. The judge also will decide how much Roeder will be allowed to say about abortion when he takes the stand — most likely today — in his own defense.

  • Republican Rep. Dan Lungren is glad that President Barack Obama is proposing a three-year spending freeze on most domestic programs, but he hopes Congress goes further and actually cuts spending. Democratic Rep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento said she applauds the president's desire to balance the budget but fears a spending freeze might not be the right approach.

  • An Alaska legislative task force says the 90-day limit imposed by voters on how long the Legislature can be in session is too short and should be overturned by lawmakers. Alaska voters in 2006 narrowly passed a ballot initiative reducing the length of the Legislature's annual regular session from 121 days to 90 days. The initiative was sponsored by three legislators who argued lawmakers wasted a lot of time in Juneau and shortening it would be more efficient.

  • To quote Mr. Dickens, they were the best of times and the worst of times. This is Galloway writing "-30-" and a farewell to this weekly column after almost seven years and wrapping up half a century in the newspaper business.

  • Since Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer compared providing benefits to poor people to feeding stray animals, encouraging them to breed, we've been inundated by liberals outraged nearly as much by the suggestion that there's any linkage between poverty and education as by the language, and a few angry conservatives who are applauding him for having the "courage" to speak up.

    Too bad we haven't heard much from moderates, and the more grounded (and more numerous) conservatives. People who would say: Yes, poor kids do perform much worse in school than middle- and upper-class kids, and we have to do something about that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Common Dreams headlines 1/27

EPA Requests Feedback on Plan Analyzing Impact of Hazardous Waste on Disadvantaged Communities

House Progressives Push Reid to Put Public Option Back on Table

Scientists Warn Doing Nothing Will Likely Lock in Worst Consequences of Climate Change

Military Aid Puts Afghans' Lives at Risk - Report

Oregon Voters Pass Tax Increasing Measures by Big Margin

US Military Teams, Intelligence Deeply Involved in Aiding Yemen on Strikes

Kerry: Climate Change Supporters Must Match Tea Party Intensity

Honduras Swears in Porfirio Lobo as President

and more...


Truthout 1/27

William Rivers Pitt | Feelin' Alright
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "Calling the second half of January a catastrophe for the president, the Democrats and the country at large sells the word 'catastrophe' short. A health care 'reform' process that was already trailing smoke suddenly lost cabin pressure and spiraled into the sea when the single most unpoachable Senate seat in the history of the universe, held for 46 years by the late Ted Kennedy, flipped into Republican hands because Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley thought she could win without actually running a campaign."
Read the Article

Amateur Filmmaker Accused of Entrapping ACORN Employees Arrested by Federal Agents
Jason Leopold and Mary Susan Littlepage, Truthout: "Federal law enforcement officials on Monday arrested conservative filmmaker James O'Keefe and three other men for allegedly trying to wiretap the phone system in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office."
Read the Article

Ted Glick | Upping the Ante on Climate
Ted Glick, Truthout: "Just about one year ago today, Barack Obama was inaugurated as president. Hopes were high among progressive-minded people, including climate activists. Finally, we had a president who got it on the need for action to address the deepening climate crisis."
Read the Article

Swine Flu Didn't Fly
Niko Kyriakou, Truthout: "Wow, what a year 2009 was for makers of the swine flu vaccine. CSL Limited's profits rose 63 percent above 2008 levels, while in the third quarter of 2009 - just about the time H1N1 contracts picked up steam - GlaxoSmithKine enjoyed a 30 percent jump in earnings to $2.19 billion. Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, which prevents H1N1, saw second quarter profits leap to 12 times what they were in that quarter of 2008. But in 2010, drug companies may get their comeuppance."
Read the Article

Tom Engelhardt | Pentagon Time Tick...Tick...Tick...
Tom Engelhardt, "Back in 2007, when Gen. David Petraeus was the surge commander of US forces in Iraq, he had a penchant for clock imagery. In an interview in April of that year, he typically said: 'I'm conscious of a couple of things. One is that the Washington clock is moving more rapidly than the Baghdad clock, so we're obviously trying to speed up the Baghdad clock a bit and to produce some progress on the ground that can perhaps give hope to those in the coalition countries, in Washington, and perhaps put a little more time on the Washington clock.'"
Read the Article

Severo M. Ornstein | Some Voices Are More Equal Than Others
Severo M. Ornstein, Truthout: "By assigning the same rights to corporations as to individuals, the Supreme Court, on the pretext of honoring the First Amendment, has instead done precisely the opposite: contravened its intent."
Read the Article

The Hippocratic Oath Applied to Intelligence
Barry Eisler, Truthout: "I'm just about finished with Tim Weiner's phenomenal 'Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.' Two themes are at the heart of the book. First, the Agency has been incompetent from its inception."
Read the Article

Canada's Long Road to Mining Reform
Cyril Mychalejko, Truthout: "Rape. Murder. Corruption. Environmental contamination. Impunity. These are just some of the charges and incidents that have plagued Canadian mining operations abroad for years. Now one Canadian lawmaker has taken on the Herculean challenge of legislating mining reform in a country that has traditionally acted like a parent in denial."
Read the Article

Behind Cautious Signal, a Decision for Afghan Peace Talks
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service: "Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's very cautiously worded support for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban leadership in an interview published Monday is only the first public signal of a policy decision by the Barack Obama administration to support a political settlement between the Hamid Karzai regime and the Taliban, an official of McChrystal's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) command has revealed in an interview with IPS."
Read the Article

The Antiwar Peace Movement Needs a Restart
Kevin Zeese, Truthout: "In his first year President Obama broke several war-making records of President George W. Bush. He passed the largest military budget in US history, the largest one-year war supplementals and fired the most drone attacks on the most countries. He began 2010 asking for another $30 billion war supplemental and with the White House indicating that the next military budget will be $708 billion, breaking Obama's previous record."
Read the Article

What Is to Be Done?
Jules Siegel, Truthout: "I have never been a great fan of Rahm Emanuel. In his clips, he seems to relish his image as a foul-mouthed, vengeful pit viper. He looks like one, too. Don't get me wrong. At least he's a vertebrate. Karl Rove is one of those poisonous Australian jellyfish. He sleeps in a jar of seawater at night."
Read the Article

Pentagon Budget Runs Rampant
Aris DeMarco, Truthout: "No matter how one looks at it, the United States has the strongest military in the world. Ever. Period. We have more weapons, more advanced technology, and spend more cash on our troops. Thus, the US military has the greatest ability to make war on other countries, the greatest ability to seek out, target and destroy any enemies of the state."
Read the Article

Obama to Announce High-Speed Rail Plan
Julie Pace, The Associated Press: "A day after delivering a State of the Union address aimed at showing recession-weary Americans he understands their struggles, President Barack Obama intends to award $8 billion in stimulus funds to develop high-speed rail corridors and sell the program as a jobs creator."
Read the Article

Two heroes stand up

Great news!

After members from Democracy for America, CREDO Action, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee made 3,595 calls to Congress since Friday asking House members to publicly support passing a public option through reconciliation, two Healthcare Heroes have stood up to work to make it happen:

Representatives Jared Polis from Colorado and Chellie Pingree from Maine

As we speak, these two fearless Democrats are gathering signatures of other House members on a letter to Senator Harry Reid asking the Majority Leader to use the budget reconciliation process, which only requires 51 Senate votes, to pass a public option.

Your calls are working. Now, we need to back these Healthcare Heroes up and help them find other House members who will sign on. Call your Democratic Representative in the House (if you have one) and Speaker Pelosi and ask them to sign on right now.


It's not just your calls that are working. It's everything we're doing to make this happen. We've hit our goal of over 250,000 signatures on our petition calling for reconciliation. And our poll of MA swing voters was turning heads in Washington all last week.

Last night, the NYTimes broke the story on a new poll we did over the weekend in 10 freshmen Democratic districts to see what effect passing a public option would have on the Democrat's chance for reelection in 2010. Here's what the voters said:


Polls in 10 frontline freshman districts show:

  • 68% of voters want a public health insurance option
  • By 5 to 1, voters want their Representative to fight to add the public option over passing the Senate bill
  • By 3 to 1, persuadable voters are less likely to vote for the local Democrat if Congress doesn't pass a public option as part of reform
  • 55% say Democrats need to do more to fight big corporations
  • 56% say Democrats haven't done enough to fulfill Obama's 2008 campaign promises
  • 52% of Democrats are less likely to vote in 2010 if Congress doesn't pass public option -- Republicans more likely

If Democrats in Washington don't listen and pass real reform, then freshmen Democrats in tough reelection battles may pay the price at the polls in 2010. We can't let that happen to leaders like Representatives Polis and Pingree. We must back them up and help get other House Democrats on board.


Right now, the fight in Washington over healthcare boils down to two options: full retreat or bold leadership.

We know America wants bold leadership. Let's do everything we can to make sure Democrats in Washington get the message.


Charles Chamberlain, Political Director
Democracy for America

FP morning post 1/27

Sri Lanka election results challenged

Top news: Sri Lanka's election authority has announced that incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa has won the country's first presidential election since the end of a 26-year civil war, but the results have been challenged by the runner-up, Gen. Sareth Fonseka.

According to the commission, Rajapaksa won 57.8 percent of the vote to Fonseka's 40 percent, but the challenger, the former commander of Sri Lanka's armed forces, says that Rajapaksa misappropriated funds, used state media to attack him and prevent ethnic Tamils from voting. Fonseka has promised a legal challenge to the results.

The election commissioner agreed, saying before he announced the results that he had been shamed by how the election was carried out and submitted his resignation. "I cannot bear this anymore," he said. Troops have surrounded the hotel in Colombo where Fonseka is staying.

While the campaign for the presidency had been acrimonious and occasionally violent, election day was mostly peaceful, though there were a series of explosions near camps set up for Tamil's displaced in last year's fighting which some feared could have been meant to discourage them from voting. Turnout was less that 30 percent in these areas compared to 70 percent in the country as a whole.

Haiti: With international aid still bogged down, the Haitian government has begun directly distributing food to earthquake victims. The country has also halted the airlifting of orphaned children to the U.S.

Tonight: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

Middle East



  • Porfirio Lobo has been sworn in as the new president of Honduras after months of political turmoil.
  • Guatemalan police arrested former president Alfonso Portillo, who is wanted on money-laundering charges in the U.S.
  • Hundreds of tourists have been stranded by mudslides in Machu Picchu.



  • Guinea swore in a new civilian prime minister, 13 months after a military junta seized power.
  • Sudan former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi will run against President Omar al-Bashir -- who overthrew him in a 1989 coup -- in upcoming elections.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed the increasing radicalization of young Nigerians like the Christmas Day bomber on failures of the country's leaders.

By Joshua Keating


Prop 8 witness says gay marriage undermines traditional marriage

The star witness for backers of Proposition 8 testified Tuesday that he's confident — but has no evidence — that same-sex marriage would increase divorce rates and lower the rate of heterosexual marriage.

David Blankenhorn, president of the New York-based Institute for American Values, said in federal court in San Francisco that he opposes gay marriage partly because of studies contending that children have better "outcomes" if raised by a biological mother and biological father.

While a "positive" outcome for a child is not guaranteed by this arrangement, Blankenhorn said heterosexual marriages serve as "seed beds from which come good citizens" who are more likely to make contributions to society.

Gay couples contend in their federal lawsuit challenging Proposition 8 that its gay marriage ban amounts to unconstitutional discrimination.

But the measure's defenders counter that voters had a fundamental social interest in limiting marriage to a man and a woman for child-rearing purposes.

David Boies, an attorney for the plaintiffs, questioned Blankenhorn's credentials and conclusions and noted that Blankenhorn had written in a book that "we would be more American" if gays were permitted to wed and their children would be better off.

Austin Nimocks, an attorney for Proposition 8 defenders, told reporters during a break in the proceedings that Blankenhorn's remark was based on a hypothetical presumption that same-sex marriage and heterosexual marriage were equal.

"He made it clear it was not," Nimocks said.

Nimocks called Blankenhorn a "renowned expert" in marriage. Blankenhorn has written books and articles, many of them arguing that fatherless families are harmful to children.

To read the complete article, visit

McClatchy Washington report 1/27

  • Facing a rising tempest and new investigations, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Wednesday will defend before Congress his 2008 decision to use taxpayer bailout money to pay major banks the full $62 billion face value of bets made on risky offshore securities.

  • The Barack Obama who'll deliver the State of the Union address Wednesday night faces a grimmer, more dubious audience than the popular new president who was riding high when he first addressed Congress last February did.

  • Acting on persistent fears that homeless and orphaned children will be victimized by human traffickers, the Haitian government in Port-au-Prince has put the brakes on the large-scale migration of orphans destined for adoptive families in the U.S. Haiti's prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive said his country would not release children for adoption without his personal approval, and ordered nongovernmental organizations working in Port-au-Prince to stop collecting children found on the street.

  • When President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, there'll be no shout-out this time. At least, not from Rep. Joe Wilson. The South Carolina Republican yelled, "You lie!" at Obama on Sept. 9 as the president addressed Congress on live, prime-time television. Not this time, Wilson said Tuesday.

  • Today, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs walks onto a San Francisco stage to presumably announce an Apple tablet computer, the news will be arrive in real time with tweets and live blogs available on the now ever-present smart phone. That announcement, scheduled for 1 p.m. Eastern time, has regular folks and techies buzzing not only about what features this supposed super e-reader might have, but what the technology might mean in our everyday lives. As consumers make the bumpy transition from print products to online, will a tablet be a new leap toward changing the way we read?

  • David Blankenhorn, the star witness for backers of Proposition 8, testified Tuesday that he's confident — but has no evidence — that same-sex marriage would increase divorce rates and lower the rate of heterosexual marriage.

  • Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's campaign for U.S. Senate was hit with a one-two punch Tuesday as Republican rival Marco Rubio moved ahead of him in a public-opinion poll for the first time and almost matched him in fundraising for the quarter.

  • Tanning salon owners are keeping an eye on Washington, wondering whether health care reform will include a tax increase for them. The Senate-passed bill includes a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning to help pay for extending health care coverage to those without it.

  • Nearly seven in 10 Californians are dissatisfied with the way Congress has handled the issue of health care, and two-thirds of the state's voters say they disapprove of Congress' overall job performance, according to the latest Field Poll.

  • When 60 or more nations convene in London Thursday to discuss Afghanistan's future, the script calls for agreement on plans to split the Taliban insurgency, a process to reach an eventual political settlement, improvements in governance and the battle against corruption.

  • Have you heard about the Jesus rifles?

    ABC News broke the story last week. It seems there was this fellow named Glyn Bindon, who used weapons of war to speak for his faith.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Truthout 1/26

The Republican Health "Alternative": Empowering Ourselves to Death
Maya Schenwar, Truthout: "As Democratic Congress members fumble for the mythical health reform solution that will satisfy everyone and their insurance agent, many have accused Republicans of lacking a plan of their own."
Read the Article

Is White House Pressuring DOJ to Delay Torture Report Until Health Care Bill Passes?
Jason Leopold, Truthout: "Did the Obama administration pressure the Department of Justice (DOJ) to suppress a long-awaited report from one of the agency's watchdogs on issues revolving around torture until Congress passes a health care bill?"
Read the Article

When Scholars Join the Slaughter
Dahr Jamail, Truthout: "A core tenant of the Obama administration's plans for 'victory' in Iraq and Afghanistan is an increased reliance on counterinsurgency. As previously reported on this web site, the US military has sent shock troops - anthropologists, sociologists and social psychologists - with their own troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, who also donned helmets and flak jackets. By the end of 2007, American scholars in these fields were embedding with the military in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of a Pentagon program called Human Terrain System (HTS), which evolved shortly thereafter into a $40 million program that embedded four or five person groups of scholars in the aforementioned fields in all 26 US combat brigades that were busily occupying Iraq and Afghanistan."
Read the Article

Massachusetts' Senate Election - A Beacon for the Democratic Party
Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III, Truthout: "A great deal of Massachusetts' history is tied to the sea. Because of this, Massachusetts is also known for its lighthouses. Lighthouses were once the trusted tool that guided navigators through treacherous waters, enabling them to avoid running aground on coastal rocks. Like a lighthouse, the election to fill the US Senate seat from Massachusetts should serve as a beacon to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Obama administration."
Read the Article

Obama's Tiny Jobs Ideas for Main Street, a Big Spending Freeze for Wall Street
Robert Reich, "President Obama today offered a set of proposals for helping America's troubled middle class. All are sensible and worthwhile. But none will bring jobs back. And Americans could be forgiven for wondering how the president plans to enact any of these ideas anyway, when he can no longer muster 60 votes in the Senate."
Read the Article

Dateline Cairo: A Letter to Obama
Pam Rasmussen, Truthout: "Dear President Obama: I have been told since I was old enough to read that I am privileged - and should feel proud - to be an American. Not only because I enjoy unparalleled freedom and opportunities, but also because I live in a superpower that is so beneficent it helps spread those same benefits to the less fortunate around the world."
Read the Article

Second Day of Major Bombings Shakes Iraq
Jane Arraf, The Christian Science Monitor: "A suicide car bomb detonated outside the Interior Ministry's forensics department in Baghdad Tuesday, killing more than 18 people and severely damaging the building in the second consecutive day of high-profile attacks."
Read the Article

Restore America to Its People: Revive the Civilian Conservation Corps
Julia Stein, Truthout: "In 1932 the United States was at an economic standstill, the country faced an environmental catastrophe, and the nation was crisscrossed with hunger marches. Within months after he was elected, Franklin Delano Roosevelt started the jobs program called 'The Civilian Conservation Corps' (CCC) to both create jobs and deal with the environmental disaster. The CCC gave jobs to 3 million men and lasted until 1940."
Read the Article

Eugene Robinson | Fighting Words, Winning Actions
Eugene Robinson: "It's ironic that President Obama could never be convincing as populist in chief. He had a modest upbringing - his family was on food stamps for a time - and he needed scholarships and loans to pay for his fancy education. He is no stranger to the struggles of everyday Americans."
Read the Article

Walter Brasch, Truthout: "Air America, the liberal radio network, went down in flames January 21 when it filed for bankruptcy. It wasn't because of air-to-air combat with conservative talk shows and bloggers. It wasn't because of the Recession, although reduced advertising revenue, a reality of all media, also affected Air America. It wasn't even demographics, even though older, marginalized conservatives tend to listen to radio more than do younger liberal professionals. And media history was only part of the problem."
Read the Article

FP morning post 1/26

A second attack hits central Baghdad

Top story: Just a day after a coordinated suicide attack that killed 36 people at three Baghdad hotels, another blast hit the city center this morning, killing 17 outside the forensics department of the interior ministry.

Yesterday's blasts targeted hotels that cater to foreign businessmen and journalists and were to host international observers for the country's March 7 parliamentary elections. Today's bombing targeted one of the interior ministry's most exposed sites and many of the casualties were police officers. The two bombings seem to confirm authorities fears that insurgents are accelerating their campaign in order to undermine security ahead of the elections.

Haiti: Meeting in Montreal on Monday, international donors agreed on a 10-year commitment to rebuild earthquake-damaged Haiti's public institutions. Haitian Prime Minister Rene Preval, who has not formally addressed his country since the earthquake hit, wrote a written plea asking for 200,000 family-size tents and 1.5 million food rations.

Afghanistan: Representatives of more than 60 countries are meeting in London today to discuss new strategy's to win the war in Afghanistan. Britain and Japan have agreed on a plan to establish a fund for luring Taliban fighters away from the insurgency.

* Sri Lankans head to the polls today for the first presidential election since the end of the country's 26-year civil war.
* Five opposition lawmakers resigned in Hong Kong to pressure Beijing to allow direct elections.
* Reports suggest North Korea may be planning a new missile launch.
Middle East
* Former Saddam aide "Chemical Ali" Hassan Majid was hanged for his role in the gassing of Kurdish towns in the late 1980s.
* Iran's government has called for the extradition of those it says are responsible for the murder of nuclear scientist Massoud Ali-Mohammed.
* Yemen says it will not allow foreign military operation against al Qaeda on its soil.
* Venezuelan Vice President Ramon Carrizalez, who was also defense minister, has resigned over disagreements with President Hugo Chavez.
* Thousands of leftist activists have gathered for the annual World Social Forum in Brazil.
* Breaking from other Latin American governments, El Salvador plans to recognize Honduras's new government when Porfirio Lobo is sworn into office tomorrow.
* As a French government panel will recommend banning the wearing of burqas in public buildings.
* The prime ministers of Britain and the Republic of Ireland are in talks with Northern Ireland's major political parties to preserve a fracturing unity government.
* Germany plans to increase its force in Afghanistan by 500 troops.

* More than 300 people were arrested for involvement in last week's religious violence in Nigeria.
* Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf plans to run for reelection despite an earlier pledge to only serve one term.
* The EU has agreed to help train Somali troops to fight the country's insurgency.

By Joshua Keating


McClatchy Washington report 1/26

  • The U.S. must negotiate a political settlement to the Afghanistan war directly with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar because any bid to split the insurgency through defections will fail, said the Pakistani former intelligence officer who trained the insurgent chief.

  • Commercial real estate is expected to remain a drag on the U.S. economy through 2010 and beyond. "You do see stress in the market. We've seen delinquency rates increasing; we've seen by a whole variety of measures increased stress in the commercial real estate market," said Jamie Woodwell, the vice president of commercial real estate research for the Mortgage Bankers Association.

  • Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said Monday he regretted comments comparing people who take public assistance to stray animals, but the incident continued to draw fire. In a phone interview, Bauer said he regretted the remarks "because now it's being used as an analogy, not a metaphor."

  • Democrats in Congress are furiously crafting legislation to spur job creation, but experts warn that the benefits could be too small to make much difference. Senate Democrats plan to meet Tuesday to discuss a package that could provide billions in help for strapped state and local governments, as well as infrastructure projects.

  • The United States and other allies of Haiti agreed Monday to a 10-year effort to rebuild Port-au-Prince and foster the long-term development that has eluded the Caribbean country despite decades of foreign assistance. The meeting of the Group of Friends of Haiti produced few details about the scope of the damage from the Jan. 12 earthquake, or the potential cost of the reconstruction.

  • Looking to signal at least one step toward reining in huge federal budget deficits, President Barack Obama will propose a three-year freeze in non-security discretionary spending, senior administration officials said Monday.

  • The oil industry has launched a $100,000 ad campaign aimed at convincing the Legislature that Alaska needs to roll back its oil taxes. House Republicans have introduced a bill that could lower oil taxes by a billion dollars, and Gov. Sean Parnell wants tax rebates for companies that drill in Alaska. There's much less interest in the Senate in tax changes, though, and the result could be a stalemate.

  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday offered yet another way California can save on incarcerating illegal immigrants: pay to build prisons in Mexico. Schwarzenegger said in a Sacramento Press Club speech that rather than raise taxes, the state could find money by cutting pension costs, allowing offshore oil drilling and lowering prison expenditures.

  • Californians are pretty sure President Barack Obama was born in the U.S.A., but not at all sure about the tea party movement, according to a new Field Poll. Conversely, the survey found that those who identify strongly with tea partiers are not at all sure about the president's true nation of origin. The percentage of nonbelievers and not-sures climbs to 58 percent (20 percent no, 38 percent don't know) among Republicans and a hefty 71 percent (22 percent no, 49 percent don't know) among respondents who said they identify "a lot" with the tea party movement.

  • A court settlement designed to protect concertgoers against monopoly ticket prices has been filed in federal court, detailing measures to create new ticketing outlets that would compete with a proposed merger of ticket giants Ticketmaster and Live Nation.

  • The 5-4 conservative majority decision in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission that struck many decades of law and precedent will likely go down in history as one of the Supreme Court's most egregious exercises of judicial activism.

  • I took a little stroll down memory lane this week. Back to the glorious days of June.

    Polls then showed an American public that acknowledged its health care system was broken and wanted Congress to do something about it.

Ooh, this is too hard!

If my kids wanted to quit something after their first setback, I'd say, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." So what's with Congress? One unexpected election result in Massachusetts, a state that already has universal healthcare, is all it takes for some in Congress to throw up their hands and say we can't get this done? I don't think so. The moms and dads of America are not taking any excuses when the security of our families' healthcare is at risk.

This week your Congressional representatives will be making critical decisions about whether or not to push forward with comprehensive healthcare reform. With many in Congress nervous about losing their jobs, constituent input has never had more influence. Tell Congress: Get back to work and figure out how to pass comprehensive health reform.

This week is critical to make sure that Congress knows that we won't take, "Ooh, this is too hard" for an answer.

We all knew the fight for healthcare was going to be hard when we started. Seven presidents have tried and failed to pass healthcare reform. We can't wait any longer. Let's make sure that our children are not suffering with health costs that continually decreases earning power and with health insurance that evaporates just when you get sick. If we want a brighter future for our children, we need to act right now!

Tell Congress to act now to finish the job of getting comprehensive healthcare reform done.

And please pass along this message to your friends and family by forwarding this email now. The need for affordable and secure healthcare cuts across party lines. Together we are powerful.

Thank you for your work to pass healthcare reform! Your children will thank you too!

--Donna, Ashley, Anita, Julia, Kristin, Joan, and the Team

With many in Congress nervous about losing their jobs, your input has never had more influence.

Tell Congress: Finish the job of getting comprehensive healthcare reform done!
Take Action

Monday, January 25, 2010

Truthout 1/25

George Lakoff | Freedom vs. the Public Option
George Lakoff, Truthout: "Which would you prefer, consumer choice or freedom? Extended coverage or freedom? Bending the cost curve or freedom? John Boehner, House minority leader, speaking of health care, said recently, 'This bill is the greatest threat to freedom that I have seen in the 19 years I have been here in Washington.... It's going to lead to a government takeover of our health care system, with tens of thousands of new bureaucrats right down the street, making these decisions [choose your doctor, buy your own health insurance] for you.'"
Read the Article

William Fisher | Obama Administration's Use of Drones Responsible for Increase in Civilian Deaths
William Fisher, Truthout: "The Obama administration is ramping up its use of drone unmanned aircraft to execute targeted killings in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and perhaps in other locations - and, in the process, killing civilians along with insurgents, and risking the compromise of US moral imperatives and foreign policy goals."
Read the Article

Henry A. Giroux on His Book "Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability?"
Henry A. Giroux, "In many ways, Youth in a Suspect Society is motivated by a sense of outrage and a sense of hope. While youth have always represented an ambiguous category, they have within the last thirty years been under assault in unprecedented ways. The book identifies a number of forces - including unfettered free-market ideology, a dehumanizing mode of consumerism, the rise of the racially skewed punishing state, and the attack on public and higher education - that have come together to pose a threat to young people. The combined threat of these forces is so extreme it can be accurately described as a 'war on youth.'"
Read the Article

Leveling the Political and Economic Playing Field
Dean Baker, Truthout: "The Supreme Court ruled last week that corporations could spend as much money as they want in elections, thereby making most existing restrictions on corporate election spending unconstitutional. This raises the prospect of US politics becoming even more corrupt than it already is. It will now be totally legal for Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, or any other major corporation to spend endless amounts of money to elect politicians who will drain taxpayers' pockets to enhance their profits. This is not good for democracy."
Read the Article

Sri Lanka: The Battle After the War
J. Sri Raman, Truthout: "Can an election endanger democracy? Yes, if one takes seriously the alarm sounded by the main opposition candidate in Sri Lanka's forthcoming presidential election. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, former chief of the island-state's armed forces, has warned of the possibility of a military coup after the election scheduled for January 26. In a statement issued less than a week before the event, the general's spokesman Anura Kumara Dissanayaka voiced the fear that President Mahinda Rajapaksa, seeking a second term, would use the military to remain in power if he was defeated in the polls."
Read the Article

Labor's Big Election Loss
Dick Meister, Truthout: "The Senate Democrats' loss of a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority seems almost certain to doom attempts to revive the barely functioning National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the country's chief labor law administrator and enforcer."
Read the Article

Ozone From the East Poisoning Air Over Western US
Herve Morin, Le Monde: "We have long known that pollution is a globalized phenomenon: Isn't human-caused CO2 accused of ruining the planet's climate? Don't we find heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants produced in industrialized countries thousands of kilometers away in the bodies of the Arctic Inuit and polar bears? Are not whole regions of the Pacific colonized by an ocean of plastic debris? Ozone is but one striking example of these long-distance pollution exports."
Read the Article

Nick Turse | The Drone Surge: Today, Tomorrow and 2047
Nick Turse, "One moment there was the hum of a motor in the sky above. The next, on a recent morning in Afghanistan's Helmand province, a missile blasted a home, killing 13 people. Days later, the same increasingly familiar mechanical whine preceded a two-missile salvo that slammed into a compound in Degan village in the tribal North Waziristan district of Pakistan, killing three."
Read the Article

Replacing International Oppression With International Aid
Lawrence S. Wittner, History News Network: "The outpouring of humanitarian aid from numerous nations for the suffering people of Haiti is truly extraordinary - particularly when set against the shabby record of the past."
Read the Article

Afghan Elections Delayed, but Even Later Date May Come Too Soon
Ben Arnoldy, The Christian Science Monitor: "The Afghan government has postponed upcoming parliamentary elections, but doubts are already surfacing as to whether the later date will be possible either."
Read the Article

Q&A: "US Should Invest in New UN Women's Agency"
Christine Ahn, Inter Press Service: "One year after U.S. President Barack Obama's inauguration, how has his administration fared in terms of advancing an agenda for women's rights around the world? Charlotte Bunch, founding director of the Center for Global Women's Leadership at Rutgers University and a longtime feminist scholar activist, as well as a board member of the Global Fund for Women, spoke with Christine Ahn about her assessment of the U.S. president's achievements, and what remains to be done."
Read the Article

RePower Amerca: Stop playing games

We wrote to you last week about a dangerous attempt to gut the Clean Air Act and let our biggest polluters off the hook. Thanks to intense pressure from supporters like you, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski couldn't get enough votes last week to pass her outrageous, lobbyist-penned proposal and was unable to bring it to the Senate floor as threatened.

But the fossil fuel lobby won't give up that easily. Senator Murkowski is now looking for support for a new version of her "Dirty Air Act" -- a resolution which would allow dangerous fossil fuel emissions to continue unchecked, polluting the air our children breathe. We need to put an end to these political games for once and for all.

If enough of us flood our Senators with phone calls now, we can send a message that messing with the Clean Air Act at the behest of fossil fuel lobbyists is simply unacceptable.

Please call your Senators and ask them to reject Senator Murkowski's disapproval resolution -- and any further attempts to gut the Clean Air Act.

Senator Bayh: (202) 224-5623
Senator Lugar: (202) 224-4814

Let them know you're a constituent and say:
"I want Senator _______ to oppose Senator Murkowski's disapproval resolution -- and any future attempts to gut the Clean Air Act. Instead of playing politics, I strongly urge the Senator to lead on passing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this year that creates jobs, reduces pollution and makes our nation more secure."
Then report your calls here.

Over 250,000 members of the climate movement already took action in the last two weeks to oppose Murkowski's "Dirty Air Act", flooding Senators' offices with phone calls and emails, writing thousands of letters to the editor, and much more.

We showed that ordinary folks can succeed in the face of well-funded special interests, and that we won't stand by while our laws and our future are sold. If we keep up the pressure, we can defeat this resolution and build momentum towards Senate passage of the comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that we need in 2010.

Call your Senators and ask them to protect the Clean Air Act -- and then report your call here.

Thanks for everything you do,

Dave Boundy
Campaign Manager
Repower America

The Bernanke conumdrum

By PAUL KRUGMAN / New York Times

A Republican won in Massachusetts — and suddenly it’s not clear whether the Senate will confirm Ben Bernanke for a second term as Federal Reserve chairman. That’s not as strange as it sounds: Washington has suddenly noticed public rage over economic policies that bailed out big banks but failed to create jobs. And Mr. Bernanke has become a symbol of those policies.

Where do I stand? I deeply admire Mr. Bernanke, both as an economist and for his response to the financial crisis. (Full disclosure: before going to the Fed he headed Princeton’s economics department, and hired me for my current position there.) Yet his critics have a strong case. In the end, I favor his reappointment, but only because rejecting him could make the Fed’s policies worse, not better.

How did we get to the point where that’s the most I can say?

Mr. Bernanke is a superb research economist. And from the spring of 2008 to the spring of 2009 his academic expertise and his policy role meshed perfectly, as he used aggressive, unorthodox tactics to head off a second Great Depression.

Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story. Before the crisis struck, Mr. Bernanke was very much a conventional, mainstream Fed official, sharing fully in the institution’s complacency. Worse, after the acute phase of the crisis ended he slipped right back into that mainstream. Once again, the Fed is dangerously complacent — and once again, Mr. Bernanke seems to share that complacency.

Consider two issues: financial reform and unemployment.

Back in July, Mr. Bernanke spoke out against a key reform proposal: the creation of a new consumer financial protection agency. He urged Congress to maintain the current situation, in which protection of consumers from unfair financial practices is the Fed’s responsibility.

But here’s the thing: During the run-up to the crisis, as financial abuses proliferated, the Fed did nothing. In particular, it ignored warnings about subprime lending. So it was striking that in his testimony Mr. Bernanke didn’t acknowledge that failure, didn’t explain why it happened, and gave no reason to believe that the Fed would behave differently in the future. His message boiled down to “We know what we’re doing — trust us.”

As I said, the Fed has returned to a dangerous complacency.

And then there’s unemployment. The economy may not have collapsed, but it’s in terrible shape, with job-seekers outnumbering job openings six to one. Nor does Mr. Bernanke expect any quick improvement: last month, while predicting that unemployment will fall, he conceded that the rate of decline will be “slower than we would like.” So what does he propose doing to create jobs?

Nothing. Mr. Bernanke has offered no hint that he feels the need to adopt policies that might bring unemployment down faster. Instead, he has responded to suggestions for further Fed action with boilerplate about “the anchoring of inflation expectations.” It’s harsh but true to say that he’s acting as if it’s Mission Accomplished now that the big banks have been rescued.

What happened here? My sense is that Mr. Bernanke, like so many people who work closely with the financial sector, has ended up seeing the world through bankers’ eyes. The same can be said about Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary, and Larry Summers, the Obama administration’s top economist. But they’re not up before the Senate, while Mr. Bernanke is.

Given that, why not reject Mr. Bernanke? There are other people with the intellectual heft and policy savvy to take on his role: among the possible choices would be my Princeton colleague Alan Blinder, a former Fed vice chairman, and Janet Yellen, the president of the San Francisco Fed.

But — and here comes my defense of a Bernanke reappointment — any good alternative for the position would face a bruising fight in the Senate. And choosing a bad alternative would have truly dire consequences for the economy.

Furthermore, policy decisions at the Fed are made by committee vote. And while Mr. Bernanke seems insufficiently concerned about unemployment and too concerned about inflation, many of his colleagues are worse. Replacing him with someone less established, with less ability to sway the internal discussion, could end up strengthening the hands of the inflation hawks and doing even more damage to job creation.

That’s not a ringing endorsement, but it’s the best I can do.

If Mr. Bernanke is reappointed, he and his colleagues need to realize that what they consider a policy success is actually a policy failure. We have avoided a second Great Depression, but we are facing mass unemployment — unemployment that will blight the lives of millions of Americans — for years to come. And it’s the Fed’s responsibility to do all it can to end that blight.

FP morning brief 1/25

Haiti rescue effort winds down, tens of thousands left homeless

Top story: The search for survivors from the Jan. 12 Haiti earthquake officially ended over the weekend and with a few exceptions, search-and-rescue efforts are winding down throughout the country. Aid groups' new priority is finding shelter for the estimated 600,000 people left homeless in Port-au-Prince, living in squalid makeshift camps.

“Tents, tents, tents,” said a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration. “That’s the word we want to get out.We need tents." The group says it currently has around 20,000 family-sized tents but needs 100,000 to shelter 500,000 people.

Canada is hosting an international meeting in Montreal today to discuss international support for Haiti's recovery. Attendees include Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Belerive and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Pressure is growing on Haiti's creditors to cancel Haiti's debt.

There is also a growing call for the U.S. to allow in more Haitian immigrants. The government has taken in children already on the cusp of adoption and granted a reprieve for Haitians already in the United States illegally, but 55,000 Haitians have been approved for U.S. visas but are currently on waiting lists because of quotas.

Summit watch: The presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan meet for talks in Istanbul today.

Middle East





  • A Nigerian Anglican bishop was kidnapped after saying mass amidst worsening religious violence that killed hundreds last week.
  • Sudan set a two-month deadline for negotiations with Darfur rebels.
  • Two Algerians held at Guantanamo Bay have been transferred home.

By Joshua Keating

McClatchy Washington report 1/25

  • I was going home. McClatchy was closing the Africa bureau and diverting its resources to a new bureau in Afghanistan. But as I packed, I couldn't help but think that we were turning our backs on a continent that's always needed more media attention, not less.

  • Most buildings in Haiti go up without engineers, standards or inspections. The earthquake is only the latest, and worst, tragedy to expose the largely unregulated and slapdash construction long accepted on the island — practices that structural engineers believe added to a staggering death toll that could reach 200,000.

  • Stung by a Republican win in a special Senate election in Massachusetts and the loss of their critical 60-seat majority, Democrats are putting a new stimulus and jobs bill on the legislative front burner, temporarily bumping health care reform aside. Senate Democrats are expected to unveil their $170 billion or so package this week.

  • South Carolina Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said Saturday he could have chosen his words more carefully when he compared people who take public assistance to stray animals. But Bauer, who's running for governor, said now is the time to start talking about something that others are unwilling to tackle.

  • As last week's political shock wave from Massachusetts rolls across the country, Missouri's heartland could begin to feel the impact. Will it be strong enough to topple Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton, one of the most senior lawmakers in Congress and a respected figure on both sides of the aisle?

  • The Obama administration soon may guarantee as much as $18.5 billion in loans to build new nuclear reactors to generate electricity, and Congress is considering whether to add billions more to support an expansion of nuclear power. Nuclear power generates about 20 percent of America's electricity, but many existing reactors are aging and no new plant has been authorized in decades.

  • Residents in the polluted town of Treece could start seeing offers for their property as soon as this summer if the state can agree to fund one-tenth of a $3.5 million buyout and appoint trustees to oversee the relocation, officials said.

  • Airport lawn-care man Basaney Simon lost his right leg in last week's earthquake. He fears it will cost him his job. He will struggle to rehabilitate in a city that thrives on physical labor, and doctors are predicting that many amputees will languish or even die without proper follow-up care, or access to prosthetic limbs or crutches.

  • California's controversial plan to reduce its prison population by 6,500 inmates over the next year begins today, with victims and law enforcement groups once again warning it will increase crime.

  • Environmentalists, fishermen and others in the Copper River region are spearheading a new effort to boost citizen monitoring of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

  • Brooding discontent, fanned by the nation's economic woes, is emerging as a driving force in the 2010 elections as voters put incumbents and establishment politicians on notice that they will no longer tolerate business as usual. Political analysts believe that voter disenchantment among Republicans and conservative independents is fueling the candidacy of Debra Medina, the third contender in the GOP gubernatorial race dominated by Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

  • Just as the Scott Roeder murder trial gets under way in Wichita, Phil Kline surfaces again. So fate allows for putting him in his place — somewhere on the continuum of abortion opposition, from its reasonable and thoughtful opponents, to the unethical and righteous to the insane and violent.

    Roeder, the confessed killer of abortionist George Tiller, obviously sits at the most violent point on the spectrum.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Justice Stevens disagrees

The real issue in this case concerns how, not if, the appellant may finance its electioneering. Citizens United is a wealthy nonprofit corporation that runs a political action committee (PAC) with millions of dollars in assets. Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), it could have used those assets to televise and promote Hillary: The Movie wherever and whenever it wanted to. It also could have spent unrestricted sums to broadcast Hillary at any time other than the 30 daysbefore the last primary election. Neither Citizens United’s nor any other corporation’s speech has been “banned,” ante, at 1. All that the parties dispute is whether Citizens United had a right to use the funds in its general treasury to pay for broadcasts during the 30-day period. The notion that the First Amendment dictates an affirmative answer to that question is, in my judgment, profoundly misguided. Even more misguided is the notion that the Court must rewrite the law relating to campaign expenditures by for-profit corporations and unions to decide this case.

Justice Stevens' full opinion

Truthout 1/24

Michael Winship | Progressives: Don't Mourn, Organize
Michael Winship, Truthout: "Tragic events continuing out of Haiti make all the bad news for progressives this week wither in comparison. Nonetheless, over these last few days, for liberals in particular, there has been no joy in Mudville - aka American politics."
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Greg Palast | The Supreme Court Just Handed Anyone, Including bin Laden or the Chinese Government, Control of Our Democracy
Greg Palast, AlterNet: "The Court's decision is far, far more dangerous to US democracy. Think: Manchurian candidates."
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Invasion of the Body Scanners
Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., Truthout: "The concept of 'stimulus' may soon take on new connotations in the days ahead. The federal government is poised to emplace full-body scanners at airports across the nation, capable of peering under a person's garments. As noted by a former Cabinet member, this new technology 'will give us the ability to see what someone has concealed underneath their clothing.' The prurient implications of this startling revelation are obvious, and one can only marvel at the full cultural import of widely available 'x-ray vision' technology being deployed. Indeed, for those who remember the old X-ray Specs advertised on the back of comic books to see through women's clothes, it is apparently a longstanding boyhood fantasy now set to become national policy. This is essentially a form of high-tech voyeurism masking as security, and it portends more such incursions into liberty and privacy. How did it come to this, and so suddenly at that?"
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William Astore | Corporations Are Citizens - What Are We?"
William Astore, Truthout: "This week's Supreme Court ruling that corporations are protected by 'free speech' rights and can contribute enormous sums of money to influence elections is a de jure endorsement of the de facto dominance of corporations over our lives. Indeed, corporations are the new citizens of this country, and ordinary Americans, who used to be known as 'citizens,' now fall into three categories: consumers, warriors and prisoners."
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Marijuana in the Classroom? Sometimes It's Legal
Brad Knickerbocker, The Christian Science Monitor: "Medical marijuana legally prescribed to young people is showing up in classrooms. This is putting teachers and principals in a new and challenging position."
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Stephen Crockett | No More Senate Super Majority Illusion
Stephen Crockett, Truthout: "There is very little upside to the election of a Republican far right senator to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) for Democrats, progressives and reformers. My list is very short: (1) everyone should now understand that we never had a real workable Senate Super Majority to begin with despite all the media hype, (2) watering down progressive legislation has now been shown to produce electoral defeat for Democrats and (3) Democratic candidates at all levels can now clearly see that they will suffer if Democratic House and Senate members do not start acting more aggressively in opposition to Republican actions and spin."
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US Lends Firepower to Yemen Fight
Haley Sweetland Edwards, GlobalPost: "Yemeni policemen sprinted up a rocky dirt road, firing AK-47s, lobbing grenades and detonating explosives at a cinderblock house, a supposed Al Qaeda hideout."
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Soldiers' Wives: Fighting Mental, Emotional Battles of Their Own
Brad Knickerbocker, The Christian Science Monitor: "A new study shows higher levels of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders among Army wives whose husbands have had lengthy deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. New programs aim to help, but there's a stigma in a professional culture that values toughness."
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GOP Hopeful: People on Public Assistance "Like Stray Animals"
Nathaniel Cary, McClatchy Newspapers: "Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has compared giving people government assistance to 'feeding stray animals.'"
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Ruth Marcus | A Case of Shoddy Scholarship
Ruth Marcus, Truthout: "In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty."
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Time for Change
Le Monde: "Barack Obama was preparing to celebrate the first anniversary of his presidency with relative confidence and the feeling of a job fulfilled. Specifically, he was counting on getting the definitive Senate vote on the emblematic reform of the health care system in very short order, which was the great political battle of his first year in the White House."
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Eugene Robinson | Will Obama Fight for Health Care Reform?
Eugene Robinson, Truthout: "If President Obama has decided to give up on health care reform, he should just come out and say so. Then we could all get on with our lives -- those of us with health insurance, that is. But I don't see how his talk about some sort of slimmed-down package, reduced to its "core elements," could possibly inspire Democrats in Congress to do anything but run for the hills."
Read the Article

Democrats on the verge of full-fledged retreat

After one bad Senate election, most Democrats in Washington are on the verge of full-fledged retreat and everything we've fought for together hangs in the balance.

President Obama has signaled he's open to dramatically scaling back health care reform. The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee says he might gut the financial reform bill to appease Republicans. And on top of all that, the Supreme Court just opened the floodgates of corporate cash on politics!

Retreat is exactly the wrong message for Democrats to take from recent election losses. The lesson from Massachusetts is that voters want more change -- not less. It's time for Democrats to stand up to corporate interests and fight for working families by passing healthcare reform and taking on Wall Street.

So Democracy for America members are joining with our friends at MoveOn in organizing emergency rallies nationwide on Tuesday to demand Democrats show backbone and leadership -- starting with passage of real healthcare reform.


We need a big turnout to show Democrats we're still waiting on them to deliver the change we voted for on healthcare and everything else.

Make no mistake; Democrats still have the ability to pass healthcare reform and other progressive legislation. Even after last Tuesday's election loss, Democrats still have larger majorities in Congress than Republicans ever did under George W. Bush.

All Democrats in Washington need is to show some backbone. It's up to us to demand they use it, becuase progressives don't retreat -- we lead.


Thank you for everything you do,


Charles Chamberlain, Political Director
Democracy for America

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Truthout 1/23

Rubbing Salt in Guantanamo's Wounds: Task Force Announces Indefinite Detentions
"With a stunning lack of sensitivity, President Barack Obama's Guantanamo Review Task Force chose the anniversary of the president's failed promise to close the prison to announce its conclusions regarding the eventual fate of 196 prisoners ... the Task Force said, with no trace of irony, that 'nearly 50' of the men still imprisoned at Guantanamo 'should be held indefinitely without trial under the laws of war.'"
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CIA and Intelligence Community Mythologies
Melvin A. Goodman, Truthout: "It is time for serious soul-searching regarding the role of the CIA and the intelligence community. Last month's operational and intelligence failures led to the deaths of seven CIA officers in Afghanistan and might have resulted in nearly 300 deaths on a Northwest Airlines plane headed for Detroit."
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Funding Public Health Care With a Publicly Owned Bank: How Canada Did It
Ellen Hodgson Brown J.D., Truthout: "When Canada first launched its national health service, the funding came from money created by its own central bank. Canada's innovative funding model is one that could still be followed by a president committed to delivering on his promises."
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Defense Secretary Robert Gates Confirms Blackwater in Pakistan
Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports: "In an interview with the Pakistani TV station Express TV, Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirmed that the private security firms Blackwater and DynCorp are operating inside Pakistan."
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Facing Frustrated Voters, More Senators Oppose Bernanke
David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers: "Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke's prospects for a second term became shakier Friday as two Senate Democrats, furious at his stewardship during the nation's economic crisis, said they'd oppose him."
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Clinton Bluntly Condemns China on Internet Censorship
Peter Ford, The Christian Science Monitor: "Hillary Clinton's fierce condemnation of Internet censorship in a speech Thursday, and her strong support for Google in its clash with Beijing, puts Washington on a collision course with China on a key issue of principle."
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GRITtv: Is it Fair to Compare Haiti to New Orleans?
Laura Flanders, host of GRITtv, speaks with Monika Kalra Varma, Melissa Harris-Lacewell and James Perry.
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Guantanamo Is Still Open: Obama's Unfinished Human Rights Agenda
Stephen Rohde, The Los Angeles Daily Journal: "One year ago today, President Barack Obama promised to close the Guantanamo detention camp, as soon as possible and in 'no later than 1 year.' Guantanamo is still open."
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Facebook, Orkut and the Caste System
Hanna Ingber Win, GlobalPost: "The ancient Indian custom of caste has made its way into the modern world of social media."
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ACORN Controversy: An Interview With CEO Bertha Lewis (Video)
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has been a prime target for conservative groups and politicians. Truthout sat down with Bertha Lewis, CEO and chief organizer for ACORN to discuss the recent events and the state of the organization.
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Join With Us to Stop Neuromarketing!

Advertisers and Politicians Hunt for the "Buy Button" in Your Brain

Video and Petition

Who's sorry now? or, The hubris of Edwards and Obama

Don Wheeler

Dustin Blythe and I were Co-Chairs of the local John Edwards 2008 volunteer service/campaign organization. Recently he wrote to me (and others):

Just when I thought that the alleged revelations about Elizabeth Edwards in the new book "Game Change" were bad enough, John Edwards comes out and tops them.

The latest bombshell, which really is not a bombshell as much as it is a confirmation of everyone's hunch, has given a hellish story new life.

I told a friend of mine that when this subject comes up, I sometimes wish I had been an Obama or Clinton supporter. If I were, I could read this stuff, shake my head and move on. Instead, revelations like this rip the stitches out of an old wound.

Now I'm not sure if some of this is tongue-in-cheek, but if it isn't I'm a bit surprised. Dustin and I each worked on the Iowa caucuses (separately), and I found a real difference in the camps of supporters of each of the three major primary candidates. For Hillary and especially Barack, supporters tended towards a worshipful attitude. There was a bit of that in the Edwards camp but more people (including me) were motivated by an aggressive, progressive agenda and in particular Edwards' effort to bring poverty issues to the forefront. Something that hadn't been done in major election since the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

I'm sure one aspect that bugs Dustin and others is the way that tidbits of the Edwards saga keep trickling out. It's in the interests of gossip columnists like Emily Miller and others to do so. But the real story is about two stupid, hubris-filled choices made by John Edwards. The first, to enter into an affair with Reille Hunter and the second to think he could keep that a secret. Everything that followed is the logical result of those two blunders. No matter what Edwards may or not have wanted to do he (as an attorney) knew he couldn't go public until formal agreements were made with Ms. Hunter about the financial support of their child. Finally he and we can move on.

I don't take any of this personally. I worked to further an agenda I believe in and it changed my life. I have become much more involved in social action campaigns and can point to a few small achievements along the way. It feels good and it wouldn't have happened if Edwards hadn't run for President.

People like to chide me by saying "Yeah, but what if he'd won the primary? Then McCain would have won! What about that?"

Edwards had pretty much no chance to win the primary and what little chance he had vanished when he failed to win Iowa. His campaign was designed to defeat Hillary Clinton and he probably had a decent shot at beating her one-on-one. But when Obama entered the race the Edwards campaign didn't have an answer. In one of the more curious tactics I have ever seen, the Obama campaign managed to wrest the label of change agent away from Edwards - even though their candidate was a bit more conservative than Clinton. Edwards had been flanked and had to end his campaign very early.

So when Dustin says he sometimes wishes he had been a Clinton or Obama supporter, I feel his pain. But I feel even sorrier for the starry-eyed Obama supporters at this point.

What's come to pass was pretty predictable. President Obama has indeed tried to be a change agent, but because he is actually a moderate things haven't gone so well. His stimulus plan was a help, but far less than what was needed. He failed to provide leadership on health care, and is now left holding the bag - the only one in power talking tough about implementing it. He's taken a run at addressing climate change, banking regulation, etc. He's redesigned the war in Afghanistan. In short, he's tried to address a huge array of issues foreign and domestic and has little to show for it - other than declining popularity.

This is also hubris. It's just not possible to make huge changes in so many things at once. The only effective approach is to focus on a very small number of challenges, put maximun effort into them and see it through to the end. That will build the confidence of the electorate and THEN the team can move on to other projects.

So I really feel for those people who put their souls into getting Obama elected. His inner circle needs to huddle with Congressional leaders and plot a new strategy. Otherwise, little he intends to accomplish may come to pass.

John Edwards has been quietly working on relief efforts overseas and now is in Haiti. Maybe his nightmare is ending. President Obama, I fear, may have tougher days ahead.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Common Dreams headlines 1/22

Lobbyists Get Potent Weapon in Campaign Finance Ruling

Last Decade Warmest Ever: NASA

RFK, Jr., Coal Baron Spar Over Mountaintop Removal, Climate Change

Judges Urge Congress to Act on Indefinite Terrorism Detentions

One Quarter of US Grain Crops Fed to Cars - Not People, New Figures Show

US Policy in Gaza Remains Unchanged

Truthout 1/22

Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling, which allows corporate cash to flood into our electoral process and further infect our failing democracy, is an astounding wake-up call. We encourage you, our readers, to get involved and join the effort to fight back against the five justices who decided to throw away a century of precedent.

This ruling re-emphasizes the need for an independent, noncorporate media infrastructure, which can bring you reliable reporting on influence peddling and campaign finance. We at Truthout plan to make this a priority.

It is plain to see that 2010 is going to be a monumental year in politics, both domestic and international, and Truthout is prepared to take on the big issues. Next week, we will be asking you to join with us in this effort by contributing to our cause. We need your investment to bring you honest, trustworthy news and information in this critical new era.

Friday 22 January 2010

Supreme Court Shreds Campaign-Finance Laws, Lifts Corporate Spending Restrictions
Ferguson, Leopold and Berlin, Truthout: "In a sweeping 5-4 ruling, the US Supreme Court on Thursday struck down several longstanding prohibitions on corporate political contributions, saying legislative measures to control such spending infringed upon corporate First Amendment free speech rights."
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Advertisers and Politicians Hunt for the "Buy-Button" in Your Brain
World Business Academy, Truthout: "Guard your reptilian brain. Corporations and politicians are trying to tap into it to use the latest brain research and sales techniques to influence your buying and voting patterns."
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Obama Proposes Tough New Restrictions for Nation's Top Banks
William Fisher, Truthout: "On the heels of a stinging defeat in the Massachusetts Senatorial race that dealt a major blow to passage of health care legislation, President Obama abruptly pivoted yesterday to change the subject to the state of the US economy and to back sweeping regulatory reforms on 'too big to fail' banks."
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Prolonged Deployment Associated With More Mental Health Problems Among Army Wives
Mary Susan Littlepage, Truthout: "Prolonged deployment was associated with more mental health diagnoses among US Army wives, according to a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine."
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Court Rules Ex-Guantanamo Prosecutor Likely Fired for Speaking Out About Military Commissions
Yana Kunichoff, Truthout: "In a final blow to the decision by the Library of Congress to fire the former Guantanamo prosecutor Col. Morris Davis, the 20th Federal Court has ruled Wednesday that the termination of Davis' employment following opinion articles he published in two national newspapers likely violated his rights."
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Air America Shuts Down
Brian Stelter, The New York Times: "Air America, the progressive talk radio network, said Thursday that it would cease broadcasting immediately, bowing to what it called a 'very difficult economic environment.'"
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Who's Activist Now? The Roberts Court
Michael Doyle, McClatchy Newspapers: "During his 2005 Senate confirmation hearing, Roberts assured lawmakers that he would strive to achieve more unified court decisions. He further insisted that 'judges have to have the humility to recognize that they operate within a system of precedent' that binds the court."
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Watchdog Says FBI Broke Law, Made Up Phony Terrorist Threats to Obtain Phone Records
Kyle Berlin, Truthout: "The FBI illegally obtained thousands of private phone records from telecommunications companies during the Bush administration's tenure in office, according to a report released Wednesday by the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General."
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After Massachusetts: Will Democrats Heed Call From Left, Unions for Populist Agenda?
Art Levine, In These Times: "From union leaders like the AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka to progressive advocates at the Campaign for America's Future, the lessons from the Massachusetts shellacking are crystal clear: the need to push ahead with a strong populist agenda, including healthcare reform and jobs creation, instead of kow-towing to corporate interests and center-right Democrats with weak proposals that only fuel voter anger."
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Roe v. Wade 30 Years Later: The Science on "Fetal Personhood" Hasn't Changed
Lynn Paltrow, RH Reality Check: "According to PersonhoodUSA, one of the reasons Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided is that the Court did not have available to it the 'well-known facts of fetal development.' ... Today, on the thirty-seventh anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we thought it would be valuable to fact check that claim."
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Building Hope in the Time of Obama
Joseph Nevins, Truthout: "The mayor of my town just north of New York City lives one street away. He was - until last month - a visibly proud supporter of Barack Obama: more than a year after the presidential election, his front porch displayed a couple of Obama campaign posters with words like 'hope' and 'change' on them, along with an American flag with a peace sign in place of the fifty stars. For unknown reasons, the posters and the flag are no longer there."
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Civil rights long overdue in America for LGBT

South Bend Tribune


A civil rights bill currently before Congress will, if passed, protect citizens from discrimination. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act seeks to prohibit the discriminatory treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees in the workplace. In 29 states, including Indiana and Michigan, it is currently legal to fire, refuse to hire or deny a promotion to lesbian, gay and bisexual workers; discrimination based on a person's real or perceived gender identity is tolerated in 38 states.

Too many of us know firsthand the devastating effects the loss of a job can have on individuals, families and communities. Loss of a job because of discrimination against one's identity results in an even more devastating sense of personal loss and humiliation. This prejudice is not benign. I experienced such discrimination many years ago. I know personally what it is like to be unemployed and unable to care for my child financially. How frustrating that it wasn't because of anything other than discrimination based on my sexual orientation.

People in Michiana continue to experience such discrimination today. ENDA provides our nation with the opportunity to correct an injustice that has stained our moral conscience for too long. ENDA represents fundamentally American and Christian values.

Some religious voices would have you believe otherwise. They claim ENDA threatens religious freedom in America. That is simply not true.

ENDA explicitly exempts the employment practices of any religious organization. This means churches, including mine, do not fall under the jurisdiction of this law. Similarly, parochial schools and seminaries, religious corporations, federations, societies and most religious day care centers, bookstores and media outlets are also exempt from hiring LGBT employees if it violates the organization's doctrine. In so doing, this legislation deliberately defends the freedoms of faith and conscience afforded by the First Amendment. I do not agree with some of my colleagues' teachings regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, but I respect their right to the free exercise of religion, as I do my own.

My faith, moved by the teachings of Christ and the life of compassion he modeled, requires me to speak out for justice on behalf of all who are socially and economically marginalized in our society. Time and again the gospels remind us that whatever wrong we do to the "least of these" we do unto Christ. As Christians we are bound to one another, to God, and people of all faiths when we honor the commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself." As heirs to these prophetic traditions we must demand equality for all in the American work force.

It is through work that we express our basic humanity and are able to contribute to the common good of our nation. The government has an obligation to remove barriers, especially those that deny employees the ability to contribute fully to their job.

Judging workers on anything less than their merits and talents is unethical, un-American, and in direct contradiction to Christian values.

It's long past time that we expand employment non-discrimination laws to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. I urge my fellow residents in South Bend and all of Michiana to honor the value of work and the inherent dignity of all their neighbors by supporting LGBT equality and this vital legislation.

Call your legislators and express your support for ENDA today!

Martha Carroll is minister at Southside Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in South Bend.

FP morning post 1/22

With aid flowing, attention turns to Haiti's homeless

Top news: Several additional options have been added for bringing much-needed foreign aid into Haiti. The U.S. military has begun using two additional airfields to bring in aid, one in the neighboring Dominican Republic and one south of devastated Port-au-Prince. Additionally, Port-au-Prince's earthquake damaged seaport has been partially reopened and will be able to handle around 250 shipping containers of aid per day, starting today.

With aid now flowing more freely, attention is turning to the plight of Haiti's nearly 1 million new homeless. There are reports that the government plans to move as many as 400,000 people to tent villages being set up on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. The tents will not be habitable by May when Haiti's hurricane season starts, but aid groups say they have little choice at this point.

The U.S. Navy is also setting up tents at its base in Guantanamo Bay, preparing for a possible influx of Haitians. The base is currently being used as a staging ground for aid flights into the country.

Environment: The past decade was the warmest on record, according to NASA data.


  • The United States will, for the first time, provide aerial spy drones to Pakistan.
  • The Chinese government denounced Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech on internet freedom yesterday.
  • A Filipino militant is believed to have been killed in a drone strike in Pakistan.

Middle East


  • Poland is planning to deploy U.S.-made surface-to-air missiles near the Russian border.
  • Just weeks before the general election, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will appear before a panel to discuss his role in planning for the Iraq war.
  • 100 likely Kurdish refuges landed on the shore of Corsica.


  • Under a new law, Angola's president will be picked by the parliament rather than popular vote.
  • A court has ordered Nigeria's cabinet to decide within 14 days whether President Umaru Yar'Adua is fit to lead.
  • Nicolas Sarkozy will travel to Rwanda next month, the first visit by a French president since the 1994 genocide.

-By Joshua Keating

Logan Abassi/MINUSTAH via Getty Images

Do the Right Thing

New York Times

A message to House Democrats: This is your moment of truth. You can do the right thing and pass the Senate health care bill. Or you can look for an easy way out, make excuses and fail the test of history.

Tuesday’s Republican victory in the Massachusetts special election means that Democrats can’t send a modified health care bill back to the Senate. That’s a shame because the bill that would have emerged from House-Senate negotiations would have been better than the bill the Senate has already passed. But the Senate bill is much, much better than nothing. And all that has to happen to make it law is for the House to pass the same bill, and send it to President Obama’s desk.

Right now, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, says that she doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate bill. But there is no good alternative.

Some are urging Democrats to scale back their proposals in the hope of gaining Republican support. But anyone who thinks that would work must have spent the past year living on another planet.

The fact is that the Senate bill is a centrist document, which moderate Republicans should find entirely acceptable. In fact, it’s very similar to the plan Mitt Romney introduced in Massachusetts just a few years ago. Yet it has faced lock-step opposition from the G.O.P., which is determined to prevent Democrats from achieving any successes. Why would this change now that Republicans think they’re on a roll?

Alternatively, some call for breaking the health care plan into pieces so that the Senate can vote the popular pieces into law. But anyone who thinks that would work hasn’t paid attention to the actual policy issues.

Think of health care reform as being like a three-legged stool. You would, rightly, ridicule anyone who proposed saving money by leaving off one or two of the legs. Well, those who propose doing only the popular pieces of health care reform deserve the same kind of ridicule. Reform won’t work unless all the essential pieces are in place.

Suppose, for example, that Congress took the advice of those who want to ban insurance discrimination on the basis of medical history, and stopped there. What would happen next? The answer, as any health care economist will tell you, is that if Congress didn’t simultaneously require that healthy people buy insurance, there would be a “death spiral”: healthier Americans would choose not to buy insurance, leading to high premiums for those who remain, driving out more people, and so on.

And if Congress tried to avoid the death spiral by requiring that healthy Americans buy insurance, it would have to offer financial aid to lower-income families to make that insurance affordable — aid at least as generous as that in the Senate bill. There just isn’t any way to do reform on a smaller scale.

So reaching out to Republicans won’t work, and neither will trying to pass only the crowd-pleasing pieces of reform. What about the suggestion that Democrats use reconciliation — the Senate procedure for finalizing budget legislation, which bypasses the filibuster — to enact health reform?

That’s a real option, which may become necessary (and could be used to improve the Senate bill after the fact). But reconciliation, which is basically limited to matters of taxing and spending, probably can’t be used to enact many important aspects of reform. In fact, it’s not even clear if it could be used to ban discrimination based on medical history.

Finally, some Democrats want to just give up on the whole thing.

That would be an act of utter political folly. It wouldn’t protect Democrats from charges that they voted for “socialist” health care — remember, both houses of Congress have already passed reform. All it would do is solidify the public perception of Democrats as hapless and ineffectual.

And anyway, politics is supposed to be about achieving something more than your own re-election. America desperately needs health care reform; it would be a betrayal of trust if Democrats fold simply because they hope (wrongly) that this would slightly reduce their losses in the midterm elections.

Now, part of Democrats’ problem since Tuesday’s special election has been that they have been waiting in vain for leadership from the White House, where Mr. Obama has conspicuously failed to rise to the occasion.

But members of Congress, who were sent to Washington to serve the public, don’t have the right to hide behind the president’s passivity.

Bear in mind that the horrors of health insurance — outrageous premiums, coverage denied to those who need it most and dropped when you actually get sick — will get only worse if reform fails, and insurance companies know that they’re off the hook. And voters will blame politicians who, when they had a chance to do something, made excuses instead.

Ladies and gentlemen, the nation is waiting. Stop whining, and do what needs to be done.

Read All Comments (28) »

McClatchy Washington report 1/22

  • The Supreme Court's ruling Thursday lifting longtime limits on corporate and union campaign spending could ratchet up special-interest pressure on lawmakers dramatically and change the way campaigns are conducted. But corporations are already giving a lot: The Center for Responsive Politics reports that so far in the 2010 election cycle, business political action committees have given a total of $115.9 million, 57 percent of it to Democrats.

  • Liberty Tax Service, the nation's fastest-growing tax preparation chain, reports that sales of refund loans already are running 10 percent ahead of last season. But are the loans a good deal? They're very profitable for the companies that make them, but consumers may be better served to avoid the fees and wait the 10 days for their refund from the government.

  • The United States has 20 ships off Haiti's coast and has been airlifting supplies to four central hubs established by the United Nations. The partial opening of Port-au-Prince's harbor will let the U.S. unload 100 to 150 containers a day, helping to speed aid to the country.

  • President Barack Obama is slated to appear in the Tampa Bay area on Thursday, one day after the State of the Union address and nearly one year after he pitched his economic stimulus plan in Florida. Vice President Joe Biden, who visited Miami Saturday to show the administration's commitment to Haiti's recovery, is scheduled to join the president.

  • The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state cannot impose legal limits on the amount of pot that medical marijuana users can grow or possess. In a ruling certain to exacerbate debate over the governance of medical marijuana in California, the court threw out legislation that limited medical pot users to 8 ounces of dried marijuana and six mature or 12 immature marijuana plants.

  • The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision Thursday to lift long-standing limits on corporate campaign spending exposes how the court's stark ideological divide is stronger than Chief Justice John G. Roberts' stated fealty to precedence and consensus building. It's a markedly activist decision, going well beyond what the justices were asked to do.

  • Ruffin Poole, a longtime senior aide to former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, corrupted his office by taking trips, liquor, money and other gifts from people he helped with state government action, a federal grand jury charged Thursday. Poole was charged with 51 counts that include extortion, bribery, racketeering, fraud, money laundering and engaging in transactions in "criminally derived" property. Many of the charges in the indictment from the grand jury flow from Poole's interference in environmental permits, in some cases for projects in which he had invested.

  • "SAC Command Post," an 18-minute film made in 1963 belittling the possibility of an unauthorized U.S. nuclear strike, has been unearthed at the National Archives in College Park, Md. There's no evidence that the film was ever released publicly. The film may have been produced to counter Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove," — a film about a rogue Air Force general, Jack Ripper, who is convinced that fluoridated water is a communist plot, and orders a nuclear attack on the Soviets, triggering Armageddon.

  • Former President George H.W. Bush is expected to endorse Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for Texas governor today in Houston, but his face was all over television statewide about 12 years ago stumping for the man Hutchison is challenging: incumbent Rick Perry, when he was running for lieutenant governor.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court decision Thursday allowing unlimited political campaign spending by corporations and labor unions is expected to affect state and local races and could mean immense amounts of money pouring into this year's race for governor, said key Alaska Republicans and Democrats, who had very different takes on whether the decision is good or bad.

  • Search warrants served on two Cook Inlet oil facilities in Alaska last week were based on federal environmental regulators' suspicions that Chevron Corp. had knowingly violated its air pollution permits and made false statements, court filings show.

  • As Haiti reeled and staggered and the rest of the world rushed to the aid of a humble, beleaguered people, two icons of American conservatism reared up last week and offered analyses of the earthquake that has devastated the impoverished island nation. It left me wondering, just for the briefest of seconds, whether conservatism has a conscience, whether conservatism has a soul.

    It has become routine that after disasters both natural and human, icons of conservatism spout hateful, hurtful, cynical words, words that belittle the victims and trivialize the suffering.

John Edwards Goes to Haiti, White House Silent

Michelle Levi
CBS News

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Former presidential candidate John Edwards, in the news today for his admission that he was the father of Rielle Hunter's daughter, is now in Haiti helping with earthquake relief efforts.

He said he had come with a group of 25 to 30 people, including doctors, and had brought supplies and medicine in an effort to "help in whatever way we can."

"We're going to do a variety of things, we're gonna get our intelligence, make sure we know where the medicine needs to go, which facilities can do the most good, where are other supplies – generators, food, water, water purifiers, where they can go and be distributed in the best way," Edwards said upon landing in the country. "And we're gonna figure out which places the physicians can provide the most help."

"Once we do all that, we're also gonna go to some places, for example, some of the street schools that we've been involved with in the past, that we understand have been destroyed, to see what rebuilding needs to start," he continued.

A senior administration official told CBS News chief political consultant Marc Ambinder that Edwards, who visited Haiti a year ago, had informed the Obama White House that he wanted to go to Haiti and help out before the trip.

"I am told that this declaration was met with silence," Ambinder told

Asked about his admission of paternity, Edwards said, "I've said what I have to say for now and I'm here to help people."

Edwards' wife Elizabeth told the Charlotte Observer that "whatever the naysayers say is the truth is, John actually cares about poverty issues."

She said her husband had been working on such issues around the world since his presidential run ended.

"He's been doing work outside of this country where his errors in judgment don't have any bearing on work," she said.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Instead of reconciliation...

Don Wheeler

Like many of you I’ve received many entreaties to urge my Senators and Representative to pursue passage of health care reform through the tactic of reconciliation. It’s an interesting option and because it has impact on the budget it likely is viable. But I’d suggest a different approach.

Before Mr. Brown of Massachusetts is seated, the Senate should vote to eliminate filibusters.

I don’t propose this lightly. Filibusters are an important tool which can be used to mitigate tyranny by a majority. Tacit requirement of a super majority in the Senate was envisioned to enhance the deliberative process. The thinking was that the more time elapsed between introduction of a measure and the passage or defeat of it, the more time would be available for investigation and analysis. But it turns out not to work that way.

In practice, filibusters amount to political posturing and the threat of them creates opportunities for political extortion and bribery.

Faced with an opposition which only opposes – having no desire to govern in any responsible way – Democrats should reluctantly take their opponents' favorite toy away while they’re still able. Republicans say they love democracy – I say let’s give it to them. Let’s try government by majority rule for a while and see how it works.

Eliminating the filibuster would clear the way for affirmative action on many other progressive issues which don't lend themselves well to the reconciliation approach. That's the biggest advantage.

If you agree, that’s the call you should make to your Senators.

Truthout 1/21

ACORN Controversy: A Video Interview With CEO Bertha Lewis
Matt Renner, Truthout: "The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has been a prime target for conservative groups and politicians. I sat down with Bertha Lewis, CEO and chief organizer for ACORN to discuss the recent events and the state of the organization."
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Supreme Court Decision Radically Overhauls Campaign Finance Laws in Favor of Corporations
Kyle Berlin, Truthout: "In a 5-4 Supreme Court decision that portends massive changes in campaign finance, corporations will no longer be banned from spending money on presidential or Congressional elections."
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Robert Reich | Why Obama Is Now (Finally) Getting Tough on Wall Street
Robert Reich, "Obama is now, finally, getting tough on Wall Street. Today he's giving his support to two measures critically important for making sure the Street doesn't relapse into another financial crisis: (1) separating the functions of investment banking from commercial banking (basically, resurrecting the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act) so investment banks can't gamble with insured commercial deposits, and (2) giving regulatory authorities power to limit the size of big banks so they don't become 'too big to fail,' as antitrust laws do with every other capitalist entity."
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Moving Beyond the Failed Consultancy Class
Joe Brewer, Truthout: "Are you one of the millions of progressives grieving about the catastrophic fiasco that happened in Massachusetts yesterday? Wondering why it is that a Republican took the Senate seat in one of our most beloved - and deeply blue - states? This event is a tremendous learning opportunity for us."
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Will You Be a Victim of Killer Coal?
Joshua Frank, Truthout: "So, you thought inhaling glue or driving without a seatbelt was bad for your health? Try living next to a coal-fired power plant. That's the diagnosis that Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) relayed to the public in a comprehensive medical study released on November 18, 2009, called 'Coal's Assault of Human Health.'"
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Robert Scheer | What Massachusetts Got Right
Robert Scheer, Truthout: "The president got creamed in Massachusetts. No amount of blaming this disastrous outcome on the weaknesses of the local Democratic candidate or her Republican opponent's strengths can gainsay that fact."
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Obama's Record on Civil Liberties Garners Mixed Results
Grace Huang, Truthout: "While the Obama administration has made progress in its first year on some civil liberties and civil rights issues, its record on others such as privacy and surveillance is mixed, according to a report prepared this week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)."
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Solidarity, Not Charity: Helping Haitians Help Themselves
Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., Truthout: "In the wake of a disaster such as Haiti is experiencing right now, there's a strong impetus to help coming from people across a wide range of persuasions and perspectives. This is a good thing, of course, and yet even empathetic intentions can go awry when they foster conditions that can leave vulnerable people in a permanent state of dependency."
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Tough Minds and Tender Hearts
Kathy Kelly, Truthout: "I spent Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday in Washington, DC, as part of the Witness Against Torture fast, which campaigns to end all forms of torture, and has worked steadily for an end to indefinite detention of people imprisoned in Guantanamo, Bagram, and other secret sites where the US has held and tortured prisoners."
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When the Media Is the Disaster: Covering Haiti
Rebecca Solnit, "Soon after almost every disaster the crimes begin: ruthless, selfish, indifferent to human suffering, and generating far more suffering. The perpetrators go unpunished and live to commit further crimes against humanity. They care less for human life than for property. They act without regard for consequences."
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Froma Harrop | The Real Miracle Happened Four Years Ago
Froma Harrop, Truthout: "The miracle in Massachusetts was made possible through a bigger miracle four years ago. That's when the commonwealth became the first and so far only state to guarantee near-universal coverage."
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The Voices of Participatory Democracy in Venezuela (Video)
Hans Bennett, "There are many different ways that the corporate media continues to misrepresent the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Many critics of this biased media coverage have directly challenged the demonization of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but very few critics, if any, have exposed the media's virtual erasure of the vibrant and growing participatory democracy in Venezuela."
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Six Deadly Chemicals You're Carrying in Your Body
E. Huff, "A recent biomonitoring study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, has revealed that out of 212 chemicals tested, all 212 were found to be in the blood and urine of most Americans. Six chemicals in particular, found in virtually every person, were identified by the CDC as probable health hazards."
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Haiti: Aid or the Marines?
Bruno Odent, L'Humanite: "Although Haiti needs an exceptional international mobilization, Washington's assumption of military control there assumes some counterproductive aspects and is not without ulterior geo-strategic motives."
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GRITtv: Resisting the Shock Doctrine in Haiti
GRITtv with Laura Flanders: "The Heritage Foundation didn't wait very long after the earthquake in Haiti to issue its recommendations for Shock Doctrine-style 'reforms,' and the IMF has already offered a conditional loan to help rebuild. Haiti has seen enough of this type of policy already, and is in need of a different type of thinking: one not imposed from without, but developed from within the country and its communities."
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Bill Moyers Journal | America's Energy Challenge
Bill Moyers Journal: "Faced with the increasing global demand for oil and the threat of climate change, America needs a new energy policy - but what are our options? Bill Moyers sits down with Public Agenda analysts Jean Johnson and Scott Bittle to discuss how we can power America's future and why we should 'work the problem' rather than listening to extremes on either side."
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FP morning post 1/21

Humanitarian crisis in Haiti continues

Top Story: The humanitarian crisis continues in Haiti after two large earthquakes struck near the population center of Port-au-Prince, one eight days ago, one yesterday. Aid workers are preparing mass graves as disease spreads, imperiling a broad swath of the population. More than two million are homeless.

Aid workers reported improvements in getting medicine, water, and food to the country, the poorest in the Western hemisphere. But they still reported difficulties dispensing the vital goods, clearing roads, and keeping the airport and seaports open. The United States announced it will send more troops to Haiti, bringing the total to 14,000; the U.S. military is controlling the airport and rescue missions.

Big Money: Banking giant Goldman Sachs earned $13.4 billion last year.


  • With the loss of its senate supermajority, U.S. Democrats weighed how to pass health care reform.
  • The Obama administration proposed limiting the size and leverage of banks.
  • Former Democratic candidate for president John Edwards admitted paternity of a young child.


  • Kenya deported a radical cleric back to Jamaica.
  • Fighting has quieted in central Nigeria.
  • Angola abolished direct voting for president, who will now be the head of the majority party.

Middle East

  • 113 Saudis have died in the fight between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
  • Yemen will stop issuing visas in its airport.
  • Israel is demanding to keep troops on the West Bank's border with Jordan.


  • The trial of a Dutch far-right and anti-Muslim member of parliament started.
  • A sign from the World War II concentration camp at Auschwitz has returned to the now museum.
  • The Bulgarian candidate to the European Commission dropped out, delaying a confirmation vote on the whole European government.


  • The Chinese economy grew 8.7 percent last year.
  • Pakistani military officials said the country would launch no new offensives for six months.
  • A U.S. missile strike killed a Filipino militant in Pakistan.
  • Chinese officials said the dispute with Google should not hurt relations with the United States

By Annie Lowrey.


McClatchy Washington report 1/21

  • President Barack Obama grappled Wednesday with the fallout from the stunning Republican Senate election in Massachusetts, a stinging loss that could drive him to stay the course in tough times — a la Ronald Reagan in 1982 — or tack toward the center and work more with the Republicans — as Bill Clinton did after 1994.

  • John Edwards admitted this morning to being the father of Frances Quinn Hunter, the two-year-old daughter of his former mistress Rielle Hunter. Edwards, former North Carolina senator and failed presidential candidate, has repeatedly denied being Quinn's father since August 2008.

  • With a growing presence of police, military and U.N. troops in Haiti, business leaders are hopeful they can reopen soon, though anxiety about security still permeates the capital of Port-au-Prince.

  • South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford offered one more apology to his state and family, and asked to put past differences with lawmakers aside to achieve a handful of goals in his eighth, and final, State of the State address as governor Wednesday.

  • Obama said Senate Democrats should wait on health care until after Republican Scott Brown, the victor in Tuesday's Massachusetts election, takes his Senate seat. "The Senate certainly shouldn't try to jam anything through," he told ABC News. He also said leaders should sift through recently passed legislation and find those elements on which there is wide agreement.

  • The opposing forces in California's war over gay marriage have found something else to squabble about: the gay-marriage camp's mockery of the traditional-marriage camp's logo. A stylized silhouette of a man and a woman and a boy and a girl, all with raised arms beneath a banner reading, "Yes On 8 Protect Marriage," is the logo of Proposition 8. The Courage Campaign Institute began using an almost-identical logo — the adult figures both are wearing dresses and the banner reads "Prop 8 Trial Tracker" — last week on a Web site it launched for updates and commentary on the San Francisco trial of a federal constitutional challenge to the amendment. Proposition 8 promoters are crying foul.

  • Texas Republicans marked the anniversary of President Barack Obama's inauguration Wednesday by saying thank you. Not to Obama and the Democratic-led Congress. To Massachusetts, where voters Tuesday elected Scott Brown — a Republican — to fill the U.S. Senate seat occupied for decades by Edward Kennedy, a staunch Democrat.

  • Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell used his first State of the State speech Wednesday night to criticize the federal government and defend his proposals for oil company tax breaks and a big new college scholarship program based on grades rather than need.

  • Cuba's Raul Castro may try to "institutionalize the revolution" before he leaves power by strengthening the military and legislature and "revising" the communist ideology, according to one scenario crafted by a Cuba expert at the University of Miami. The scenario was developed for a U.S. intelligence community review of Cuba's possible future paths. U.S. agencies regularly conduct such exercises and invite academics to take part.

  • Federal wildlife managers said Wednesday they will pursue a ban on the import of Burmese python and eight other giant exotic snakes that threaten the Everglades. The move, announced by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in New York, could make the snakes rarer in at least one place — pet stores.

  • A $300 million power plant in Afghanistan paid for with U.S. tax dollars was an ill-conceived and mismanaged project that the Afghan government can't afford to switch on now that it's almost finished, a watchdog agency has found. It's the third report since November to fault U.S. efforts to expand the electrical grid in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Truthout 1/20

President Obama, Remember Who Your Friends Are
Truthout, Editorial: "In the wake of a crushing Democratic defeat in the Massachusetts Senate race, we find ourselves faced with the one-year anniversary of a spirit-changing day in the history of the United States, the inauguration of President Barack Obama. This odd confluence of events provides an opening for a very timely warning: It is time to remember who your friends are, Mr. President."
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At San Isidro Air Base, a Missed Opportunity to Help Haiti
Emily Troutman, Truthout: "Last Wednesday, a team lead by the US State Department and the US Armed Forces, along with help from Dominican forces and the US Department of Homeland Security, quickly set up a receiving station for US citizen evacuees at San Isidro, a Dominican air base just outside of Santo Domingo. The facility is fully outfitted with the technology, space and equipment to support a complex, fast-moving aid operation to Haiti, but now sits empty, often fully staffed, nearly all of the time."
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Strong Aftershock Rattles Haiti as Rescue Efforts Continue
Jacqueline Charles, David Ovalle, Trenton Daniel, Lesley Clark and Frances Robles, The Miami Herald: "Authorities in Haiti scrambled to assess the damage caused by a powerful aftershock that rocked Haiti Wednesday morning, shaking unstable buildings and sending panicked people running into the streets only eight days after the country's capital was devastated by a previous, stronger quake."
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Right-Wing Populism Gets Help From Democrats
Norman Solomon, Truthout: "In his triumphant speech on election night, the next senator from Massachusetts should have thanked top Democrats in Washington for all they did to make his victory possible."
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Profiting From Haiti's Crisis: Disaster Capitalism in Washington's Backyard
Benjamin Dangl, Toward Freedom: "US corporations, private mercenaries, Washington and the International Monetary fund are using the crisis in Haiti to make a profit, promote unpopular neoliberal policies, and extend military and economic control over the Haitian people."
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Massachusetts Senate Race Results: Obama's Signal That All Is Changed
Peter Grier, The Christian Science Monitor: "Republican Scott Brown's upset victory in the Massachusetts Senate race results portends huge challenges ahead for President Obama and majority Democrats. National health care reform may well stall, and new carbon-emissions rules are now unlikely. What will be the revised agenda?"
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J. Sri Raman | India and Pakistan: Cold Start for the Hottest War?
J. Sri Raman, Truthout: "We have all been witness to a long and continuing war of words between New Delhi and Islamabad ever since the Mumbai terrorist strike of November 2008 disrupted the India-Pakistan 'peace process' and 'composite dialogue' which had kept going until then despite smaller problems and provocations. These statements and counter-statements, however, do not constitute the exchange that should cause the most serious concern over peace in South Asia."
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danah boyd: What Is Implied by Living in a World of Flow
Hubert Guillaud, "At the Web 2.0 Expo held in New York in mid-November, sociologist danah boyd, as is her wont, made a brilliant presentation on the consequences of living in a world of flow, notably by starting to draw up a list of its limitations. [...] Then the backchannel responses to her speech served as a living example of some of those limitations...."
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Ann Wright | Israel and Egypt Continue to Squeeze Gaza
Ann Wright, Truthout: "Two weeks ago, almost 2,000 internationals came to Egypt and Gaza in a massive show of civil society's support for the people of Gaza. Nearly 1,400 persons representing 44 countries in the Gaza Freedom March and over 500 persons with the Viva Palestina Convoy let the people of Gaza know of their concern for the tragic consequences of their governments' support of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade."
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An Open Letter to David Brooks on Haiti
Tom F. Driver and Carl Lindskoog, Truthout: "In your January 15, 2010, opinion piece in The New York Times, 'The Underlying Tragedy,' you present what you seem to believe is a bold assessment of the situation in Haiti and what you certainly know is a provocative recommendation for Haiti's future. You also offer some advice to President Obama. In order to successfully keep his promise to the people of Haiti that they 'will not be forsaken' nor 'forgotten,' the president, you say, has to 'acknowledge a few difficult truths.' What follows, however, is so shockingly ignorant of Haitian history and culture and so saturated with the language and ideology of cultural imperialism that no valuable 'truths' remain. Please allow us, therefore, to present you with some more accurate truths."
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William J. Astore | A Very American Coup: Coming Soon to a Hometown Near You
William J. Astore, "The wars in distant lands were always going to come home, but not this way. It's September 2016, year 15 of America's 'Long War' against terror. As weary troops return to the homeland, a bitter reality assails them: despite their sacrifices, America is losing."
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FP morning post 1/20

New earthquake hits Haiti

Top story: A new 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti this morning, the largest aftershock yet after last week's quake, which killed an estimated 200,000 people. The quake sent people fleeing into the streets in terror, but it's not yet clear what the extent of the damage to the country's already decimated infrastructure was.

Governments around the world have now pledged more than $1 billion in aid for the country, but the aid effort has been stymied by disorganization and the bottleneck at Port-au-Prince's one-runway airport. The world food program says it has only 16 million rations in the pipeline, with 100 million needed over the next 30 days.

With Haiti's main hospitals destroyed and field hospitals overwhelmed, many patients are dying for lack of supplies.

22,000 U.S. marines have established a beachhead to speed aid delivery, adding to 9,000 army soldiers already on the ground. The U.N. Security Council has also voted to add an additional 2,000 troops and 1,500 police to the international force in Haiti.

53 Haitian orphans were airlifted to the U.S. yesterday, the first wave of children being adopted under a special visa waiver program.

U.S. politics: Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy's former seat in a special election in Massachusetts last night, dealing a significant blow to President Obama's domestic agenda.

Middle East



  • Controversial Dutch MP Geert Wilders has gone on trial for inciting racial hatred.
  • Pope Benedict summoned Irish bishops to Rome to discuss the fallout of a recent sex abuse scandal.
  • Two policemen have gone on trial for the shooting of a teenager that sparked rioting throughout Greece in December, 2008.


  • A judge has ordered that the recently arrested Tijuana drug kingpin Teodoro "El Teo" Simental stand trial.
  • A political opponent of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been sentenced to two years in prison on graft chares.
  • 22 Americans, including an executive at Smith and Wesson, were charged with money laundering and bribing foreign officials in connection gun sales


By Joshua Keating


McClatchy Washington report 1/20

  • Republican state Sen. Scott Brown became the first from his party to win a U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts since 1972 in what many analysts interpreted as a rebuke for the first year of Barack Obama's presidency. Turnout was heavy as Brown ran up a 52-47 margin over Democrat Martha Coakley, the state's attorney general.

  • While MRAPs are far from a guarantee, American troops traveling in them have become far less likely to be killed in IED attacks than their Canadian and British counterparts traveling in other types of vehicles. In 2009, the percentage of American troops killed in IED attacks fell to 40 percent from 50 percent, while the odds of a successful IED attack against their two largest NATO partners increased dramatically.

  • Haitians woke up to a 6.1-magnitude earthquake on Wednesday morning. The U.S. Geological survey is reporting the earthquake happened at 6:03 a.m., about 35 miles away from Port-au-Prince. People panicked and people started running as damaged buildings shook in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, said Luckner Laurent.

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski's controversial effort to curb the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of greenhouse gas emissions put her this week in the cross hairs of both the New York Times editorial board and environmentalists. The Alaska Republican is seeking a way to keep the EPA from drawing up regulations for large emitters, such as power plants and manufacturers.

  • Although President Barack Obama's decision to send 30,000 or more additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan has captured headlines, the buildup that's beginning in this Taliban stronghold near the Pakistani border isn't just a combat operation.

  • Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said Tuesday that Congress has no constitutional right to force people to buy health insurance — and he'll sue to stop the proposal if it becomes law. McCollum said the commerce clause of the Constitution doesn't allow Congress to tax or penalize someone for not doing something — in this case, not buying insurance.

  • After months of being largely dismissed in a race dominated by the state's two Republican heavyweights, Debra Medina is making her presence felt with an anti-establishment message that has evidently struck a chord among a segment of Republican voters. Buoyed by her performance against Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in last week's televised debate, the conservative activist has climbed to 12 percent in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll.

  • South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford delivers his final State of the State address tonight with limited time left in office and politically limited after a bruising, unsuccessful fight over accepting federal stimulus money and the admission of an extramarital affair last year.

  • Florida is unlikely to see a wave of Haitian children orphaned by last week's killer earthquake, as Haitian and U.S. leaders do not favor a recreation of the famed 1960s Pedro Pan effort that rescued thousands of children from communist Cuba, the state's top social service administrator said Tuesday.

  • The wait may soon be over for California's 21 million HMO members, whose doctors must comply with first-in-the-nation rules prescribing how quickly they must see patients — and even how long they can leave them holding on the phone. The state's so-called timely access rules went into effect over the weekend after an eight-year delay during which doctors, health plans and consumer groups quibbled over details.

  • More than one of every four Columbia, S.C., residents is now living in poverty. Columbia has been hit harder than other cities in the Carolinas, but Charleston, Charlotte and Raleigh are also home to a growing number of poor people. The new study by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, looked at Census Bureau data for the country's 95 largest urban areas, which are called Metropolitan Statistical Areas by the U.S. government.

  • One year later.

    One year after that icy Washington day when Aretha Franklin sang and John Roberts muffed his lines and Barack Obama raised his hand and swore the oath that made him president of the United States, it turns out something fundamental has changed.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Truthout 1/19

Massachusetts Election: LIVE BLOG
Join Truthout as we bring you up-to-date information on the election in Massachusetts.
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Language and the Politics of the Living Dead
Henry Giroux, Truthout: "In a robust aspiring democratic society, language along with critical thought have a liberating function. At best, they work together to shatter illusions, strengthen the power of reason and critical judgment and provide the codes and framing mechanisms for human beings to exercise a degree of self-determination, while holding the throne of raw governmental, military and economic power accountable."
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Afghanistan: Women Dying and Torture Run Amuck
Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout: "Two reports coming out of Afghanistan illustrate the depth of hypocrisy and subterfuge characterizing the US/NATO intervention in that country. One could cite a myriad of such examples, so immoral and wrong is the US war there."
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The Economy Is a Disaster: We Should Fix It
Dean Baker, Truthout: "The unemployment rate is 10 percent and almost certain to rise further in the months ahead. This is truly a disaster. If anyone questions whether 10 percent unemployment is a big deal, consider that the first stimulus to boost the economy was passed in February of 2008 when the unemployment rate was 4.8 percent."
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Dark Revelations in the Bagram Prisoner List
Andy Worthington, Truthout: "On Friday, the ACLU secured a significant victory in its campaign to gain information about the prisoners held in the US prison at Bagram airbase, Afghanistan (known as the Bagram Theater Internment Facility), when the Pentagon released a list of the names of the 645 prisoners who were held on September 22, 2009."
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FBI Got 2,000 Phone Records With Fake Terrorism Emergencies
Tom A. Peter, The Christian Science Monitor: "The Federal Bureau of Investigation used false terrorism emergencies to illegally collect more than 2,000 phone records between 2002 and 2006. A series of e-mails and memos obtained by The Washington Post details how FBI officials violated their own procedures and strained their communication analysis unit with non-urgent requests."
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US Security Company Offers to Perform "High Threat Terminations" and to Confront "Worker Unrest" in Haiti
Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports: "We saw this type of Iraq-style disaster profiteering in New Orleans and you can expect to see a lot more of this in Haiti over the coming days, weeks and months. Private security companies are seeing big dollar signs in Haiti thanks in no small part to the media hype about 'looters.'"
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Election Experts Issue "Orange Alert" for Massachusetts Special Election
David Swanson, Truthout: "Representatives of nonpartisan election watchdog groups around the nation issued a last-minute 'orange alert,' warning that Tuesday's Massachusetts special election to elect a successor to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy is ripe for manipulation."
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Murders at Guantanamo: Exposing the Truth About the 2006 Suicides
Andy Worthington, Truthout: "It's hard to know where to begin with this profoundly important story by Scott Horton, for next month's Harper's Magazine, but let's try this: The three 'suicides' at Guantanamo in June 2006 were not suicides at all."
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Hard Lessons of a Rookie Year
Eugene Robinson: "President Obama begins his second year in the White House with such anemic approval ratings, you'd think he was another Ronald Reagan: Among recent presidents, only the Gipper had fallen so low in the esteem of voters at this stage of his presidency."
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Ukraine Election: Free, Fair and Headed for a Runoff
David L. Stern, GlobalPost: "Ukrainians brace themselves for a bitter second act of their national political soap opera, as Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's firebrand prime minister, and Viktor Yanukovich, the opposition leader from the country's east who suffered defeat five years ago, collected the most votes but failed to deal a knock-out blow in presidential voting on Sunday."
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Profiting From Haiti's Crisis
Benjamin Dangl, Toward Freedom: "US corporations, private mercenaries, Washington and the International Monetary Fund are using the crisis in Haiti to make a profit, promote unpopular neoliberal policies, and extend military and economic control over the Haitian people."
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US: Anti-Arpaio March Reignites Pro-Immigrant Movement
Valeria Fernandez, Inter Press Service: "Over 20,000 people marched in the streets of Phoenix Saturday in the first mass mobilization of the year, calling for an end to the criminalization of undocumented immigrants and the passage of immigration reform legislation."
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FP morning post 1/19

New challenges as aid arrives in Haiti

Top story: The pace of international food and medical aid into Haiti has finally picked up, though the effort is still hampered by the chaotic conditions on the ground and a host of new challenges, such as controlling disease and keeping order, loom on the horizon.

The U.N.'s World Food Program was able to deliver 200 metric tons of food to 95,000 people on Monday, and the pace may pick up further thanks to an agreement reached between the U.N. and the U.S. military, which controls the Port-au-Prince airport. Aid groups had criticized the U.S. for giving priority to military and search-and-rescue missions over aid flights.

More than 11,000 U.S. military personnel are now on the ground. U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon has also recommended that the Security Council increase the size of the current peacekeeping force in Haiti for at least the next six months. FP's newest blog, Turtle Bay, has up-to-date coverage of the U.N.'s handling of the crisis.

With the country's hospitals overflowing, controlling the spread of infection is another concern. After visiting one beleaguered hospital, former U.S. President Bill Clinton reported vodka being used to sterilized wounds and operations being performed in the dark.

With nowhere else to go, hundred of thousands of Port-au-Prince residents have now moved into tent cities. Violence has not yet gotten out of hand, but authorities worry about security as hunger and desperation grow in the days ahead. Many businesses are wary of reopening for fear of being ransacked. Further complicating the situation is the escape of 4,000 convicted criminals from the city's penitentiary.

Buses leaving Port-au-Prince are packed as thousands head into the country's interior, hoping to start over far from the destruction of the city.

The exact death count is still difficult to judge. Haitian officials now believe the number is somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000. Most victims are being buried in mass graves, in violation of Haitian burial rituals.

U.S. politics: Massachusetts voters head to the polls today for a surprisingly close senate election to fill the late Ted Kennedy's seat. The result could have profound implications for the Obama administration's domestic agenda.


  • A coordinated attack killed five at government offices in Downtown Kabul.
  • Despite increasingly bellicose rhetoric from the North, the two Koreas held talks on expanding their joint industrial complex on Tuesday.
  • The Gmail accounts of at least two foreign journalists in China were compromised by hackers.

Middle East


  • Religious violence between Christians and Muslims has erupted again in Central Nigeria.
  • Guinea's military junta has chosen a prime minister to oversee the country's transition to civilian rule.
  • Somali pirates released a Greek-owned oil tanker after payment of a $7 million ransom.



  • With almost all the ballots from Sunday's presidential election counted, opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych holds a strong lead over Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko heading into a runoff.
  • EU President Herman Van Rompuy has called for the creation of a new rapid action aid team to deal with crises like the earthquake in Haiti.
  • Iceland will hold a referendum on March 6 on whether to compensate British and Dutch investors who lost money in the Icesave bank collapse.

-By Joshua Keating


McClatchy Washington report 1/19

  • In Boston's suburbs, the gritty streets of Worcester or amid the crowd heading to the hockey game in downtown Boston, voters made the same points Monday: Republican Scott Brown has charisma, and something about Democrat Martha Coakley bothers them. If Coakley loses Tuesday's election to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, it could derail the health care crusade Kennedy called "the cause of my life."

  • A year after he took office to global acclaim, President Barack Obama has yet to translate his mantra of "change" into foreign policy success or to define how he'll use America's clout to advance its security, economic and political interests.

  • Navy Rear Adm. Michael Rogers, director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that what disorder there was in the country were "isolated events." "We've seen nothing to suggest to us widespread disorder," he said. But some aid groups reported treating more victims of violence. Seventy-one people have been pulled alive from the rubble.

  • A majority of voters stopped same-sex marriage in California simply by casting a ballot for Proposition 8. This week, when a federal trial resumes in San Francisco, attorneys challenging Proposition 8 will continue building a multi-layered argument that voters' action created an unconstitutional law based on prejudice and unfounded fear about homosexuality.

  • The Exxon tanker that briefly lost power in state waters Sunday while carrying more than 25 million gallons of crude oil has quickly become a poster child for pending federal legislation to beef up protection for Prince William Sound oil shipments. Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich introduced a bill last year requiring all tankers in the Sound to be escorted by at least two towing vessels.

  • Looking for something a little different this political season? If so, Green Party of Texas members believe that they'll be able to provide that. They know that most Texans are focusing on Republican and Democratic primaries and that no Green Party candidate has been on the state's ballot since 2002. But Green members say they hope for a revival in 2010.

  • U.S. Rep. Brad Miller predicted on Huffington Post that the GOP won't like President Barack Obama's tax on banks. But, he says, the GOP had the exact same idea a few years ago. Obama has proposed the fee on big banks in order to recover about $120 billion that the federal government expects to lose through TARP, the Toxic Asset Recovery Program bank bailout, Miller writes on the blog.

  • Carrying a pair of BlackBerries and an iPhone, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek made his way through one of the makeshift tent cities that dot earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince, talking with the newly homeless and shooting video he plans to show policymakers in Washington in an effort to draw the world's attention to Haiti's crushing needs.

  • Storms and turbulence continue to buffet Lockheed Martin's F-35 joint strike fighter program, as observers in the military, political and investment arenas keep a close watch for progress — or the lack of it. A study, by the Navy's aviation arm, says the cost to buy and operate that service's version of the F-35 will be dramatically higher than predicted — 40 percent more than existing aircraft — and will put a serious squeeze on future budgets.

  • Fish in every part of Florida were hammered by January's record-setting cold snap. The toll in South Florida, a haven for warm-water species, was particularly extensive, too large to even venture a guess at numbers. And despite the subsequent warm-up, scientists warn that the big bad chill of 2010 will continue to claim victims for weeks.

  • When reminded of the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the U.S. Catholic Church eight years ago, many faith leaders still struggle to find ways to protect their most vulnerable members. Religious leaders have adopted policies — from screening prospective workers to codes of conduct — that are sometimes as different as their approach to worship.

  • So when did evangelist Pat Robertson begin channeling Fred Phelps' style of irrational connections?

    One wonders, listening to Robertson's callous commentary regarding Haiti's plight.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"The Dream" Remains a Dream
Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III, Truthout: "What many fail to realize is that Dr. King was no dreamer. He was a visionary, not some abstract thinker or philosopher. He was a prophet and a true revolutionary."
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Which Dr. King Will We Honor?
Ryan Van Lenning, Truthout: "The fact that our militarism has only grown significantly in the intervening decades makes it more comfortable to sweep these aspects of King's message under the national rug. With Obama mobilizing more soldiers and military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan than Bush did, authorizing more drone attacks that have killed more innocent civilians than Bush did, expanding military bases in South America, and requesting and receiving the largest military budget ever in the history of not only this nation, but any nation in history, it is easier to simply close our collective lips about this King."
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Taliban Fighters Attack Afghan Capital, Target Government Buildings
Matt Renner, Truthout: "A coordinated Taliban attack in the heart of Kabul, Afghanistan killed at least five people and cast new doubts on the security apparatus in the capital city."
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Obama in Boston: Was it Enough to Turn Senate Race for Coakley?
Tracey D. Samuelson, The Christian Science Monitor: "President Obama brought the energy from his 2008 campaign to Boston Sunday in a rally for Democrat Martha Coakley. She's locked in a tight race with Scott Brown to succeed the late Ted Kennedy in the US Senate."
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Federal Mortgage Modification Plan Disappointing so Far
Patrik Jonsson, The Christian Science Monitor: "Red tape and limited savings are hampering the much-lauded $75-billion mortgage modification plan. A new round of government help may be on the way as foreclosures are expected to reach 3 million in 2010."
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Fear as a Money Machine
Tom Engelhardt, "Keep in mind that fear, wherever directed, is a remarkably profitable emotion to exploit. Just think of those controversial full-body-scan machines now being installed in airports at a cost of up to $170,000 each. One promoter of them is former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff, "who now heads the Chertoff Group, which represents one of the leading manufacturers of whole-body-imaging machines, Rapiscan Systems." He's part of a growing "full-body-scanner lobby" of ex-Washington politicos just made for our moment."
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Whistleblower Wendell Potter on Current State of Health Reform (Video)
GRITtv: "Wendell Potter worked for CIGNA health insurers for over 15 years, including a position as head of communications. He left that job, in a 180-degree switch, to fight for the rights of all Americans to affordable health care."
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Good Money After Bad in Afghanistan?
Jean MacKenzie, GlobalPost: "Helmand, even more than the rest of Afghanistan, is a bewildering labyrinth of competing interests: tribal affiliations, complex political ties and regional factionalism all lurk just below the surface coloring attitudes and dictating actions."
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Life of the Party: Roger Ailes Is the Real Head of the GOP
Howard Fineman, Newsweek: "Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum which is why God created Roger Ailes. The president of Fox News is, by default, the closest thing there is to a kingmaker in Anti-Obama America. And that, in turn, makes him the de facto leader of the GOP. In a relentless (and spectacularly successful) hunt for cable ratings, Ailes has given invaluable publicity to the tea partiers, furnished tryout platforms to GOP candidates, and trained a fire hose of populist anger at the president and his allies in Congress."
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McClatchy Washington report 1/18

  • President Barack Obama put it on the line Sunday for the people of Massachusetts — the entire Democratic agenda ranging from expanded health care to fighting big banks may rest on whether they vote Tuesday to send a Democrat to fill out the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's unexpired term.The president's stake in the outcome is huge, particularly for getting an overhaul of the nation's health insurance. The Democrats must keep the seat to maintain the 60 votes they need in the Senate to pass the health care proposal over Republican objections.

  • They were the voices of reason and compromise in a country where words are often used as weapons of political warfare, where political turmoil is a chronic condition, like hardship and economic chaos. And now these rising stars have been lost forever, swallowed in the rubble of the earthquake. They were women's rights leaders, political militants, university professors, men of God.

  • Taliban suicide bombers attacked a Kabul shopping mall near the Afghan Presidential Palace Monday morning, setting the building on fire and causing civilian and security force casualties. There were also scattered small arms attacks on several government ministries, a Kabul police official said.

  • This week the Senate is expected to vote on a bold proposal to discipline out-of-control federal spending, but it's not expected to pass, even though most members of Congress know that failure to act eventually will endanger the nation. The proposal would create a powerful bipartisan commission that would make deficit-cutting recommendations that Congress would have to vote on before Christmas.

  • South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford will have to tap his campaign fund to pay $28,000 in legal bills after the state attorney general's office denied a request to use taxpayer money to pay the bills. In total, Sanford — a two-term Republican governor who vanished for five days this summer and confessed to an affair when he reappeared — has incurred $213,000 in legal bills to fight off impeachment.

  • During visits to Miami's Little Haiti and Homestead Air Reserve Base, Vice President Joe Biden promised that U.S. earthquake aid would continue 'long after it's off the crawler at CNN.'

  • Alaska's lawmakers making their way to Juneau for Tuesday's start of the 2010 legislative session expect a bruising fight over whether to roll back Alaska's oil taxes. It's a huge political issue for Gov. Sean Parnell, who faces voters in November for the first time since he took the office following the abrupt resignation of Sarah Palin. Former legislator Ralph Samuels is running against Parnell in the Republican primary, saying the oil tax was a "feeding frenzy" and that Parnell is failing to do enough for Alaska's economy.

  • The Confederate flag will be a lot closer to those who gather at South Carolina's State House for the 10th annual King Day at the Dome march and rally than it was for the first march. No longer is the flag atop the State House dome. Now, the flag flaps on a 30-foot pole near a Confederate monument on the State House grounds. It is more visible, and, for many South Carolinians, it still stands for the things it always stood for — white supremacy and slavery, or Southern heritage and pride.

  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was insistent at his January budget presentation that his spending plan does not raise taxes. But Schwarzenegger again proposed a 4.8 percent surcharge on all residential and commercial property insurance to help pay for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

  • For nearly a decade, scientists have puzzled over the persistence of oil from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. A pair of Lower 48 researchers on Sunday published the first study to attempt an explanation for why that oil isn't degrading as much as expected.

  • With Congress on the verge of passing a historic health care bill, Paul Phinney is happy to be working as a pediatrician in Sacramento these days. For starters, he says it'll be easier to treat patients if Congress makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny treatment for pre-existing conditions. And he says it would be good if those companies could no longer place a cap on how much they'll pay for medical services.

  • In the Western democratic world, the idea of strengthening intermediary liability — making a company liable or legally responsible for everything its users do — is becoming increasingly popular in government agencies and parliaments. From France to Italy to the United Kingdom, the idea of holding online carriers and services liable for what their customers do is seen as the cheapest and easiest solution to the law enforcement and social problems that have gotten tougher in the digital age — from child porn to copyright protection to cyber-bullying and libel.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rep. John Lewis on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Truthout 1/17

William Rivers Pitt | The Scum of the Earth
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, GOP luminaries Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh have once again waded into a catastrophic tragedy with all the care and concern of hammerhead sharks unleashed into a fish tank full of orphans. For those not yet in the know, the dynamic global response in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti was accompanied by comments from Robertson and Limbaugh that would be unutterably sickening if they were not so completely predictable."
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Accountability Questions After Revelations of Immigrant Deaths Were Covered Up
William Fisher, Truthout: "In the treatment of thousands of immigrants held in government detention, the actions of the Obama administration are falling far short of its promises of transparency and accountability."
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US Spending in Afghanistan Plagued by Poor US Oversight
Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Newspapers: "The US has spent more than $732 million to improve Afghanistan's electrical grid since 2002, but delays and rising costs have plagued many of the projects in part because of poor oversight by the American government, a watchdog agency reports."
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Unions Call for Science-Based Reductions in Greenhouse Gases
Brendan Smith and Jeremy Brecher, Truthout: "Over the past couple of years, the American labor movement has become an enthusiastic supporter of expanding "green jobs" that fight global warming. But the actual practice of implementing emissions-reducing policies that scientists say are safe has been a harder pill to swallow. Now, in a significant breakthrough, three large unions have come out in favor of the science-based emissions targets called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)."
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Virginia People's Assembly Challenges State Budget Cuts and Layoffs, Demands "Jobs! Peace! Justice!"
Phil Wilayto, Truthout: "Defying freezing temperatures and bone-chilling winds, more than 100 people rallied January 9 in downtown Richmond, Virginia, then marched a mile and a half to the State Capitol. Winding their way through the city's financial district, the protesters - black, Latino, white, immigrant and native-born - marched behind a 12-foot multicolored banner that proclaimed 'Jobs! Peace! Justice! No to budget cuts & layoffs! Make the big corporations pay their fair share!'"
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Haiti Earthquake Relief: Voices in Rubble Drive One Rescue Team
Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor: "As Haiti earthquake relief efforts continue, one unit from south Florida works to free two people trapped near each other in a collapsed supermarket - and hopes it will find more."
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Robert Parry | Lessons from America's Lost Decade
Robert Parry, Consortium News: "As the United States takes the measure of Barack Obama's first year in the White House and looks beyond to what could be a difficult new decade, it might be useful to first stop and extract some lessons from the 2000s, which proved to be a lost economic decade for many Americans."
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World Social Forum: New and Old, US Groups Forge Broad Alliances
Matthew Cardinale, Inter Press Service: "With civil society gearing up for the 2010 World Social Forum, and later this summer, the 2010 U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, Michigan, activists here say new alliances created at the first USSF in 2007 are going strong."
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Everything Solid Melts: Dickens and Madoff
Michael Hittleman, Truthout: "I am not surprised that since the economic collapse, which began in late 2007, we have not heard mention of Charles Dickens' character Mr. Merdle. Mr. Merdle is the enormously wealthy and influential banker in the novel "Little Dorrit." The book, which was written between 1855 and 1857, was originally serialized before being packaged as a complete novel. Americans would wait at the dock for new chapters to arrive by boat. They were fascinated to see if Amy Dorrit had survived her ordeals. Few today seem to remember how eerily prescient the novel was."
Read the Article

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Truthout 1/16

Global Cooling? Tell It to the Jellyfish
Michael Winship, Truthout: "There are certain newspaper headlines that catch your eye and stop you in your tracks. Like the New York Post's famous 'Headless Body in Topless Bar.' Or such tabloid greats as 'Evil Cows Ate My Garden,' 'Double Decker Bus Found on Moon,' and my personal favorite, 'Proof of Reincarnation: Baby Born with Wooden Leg.'"
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Mistaken Science Leads to Texas Executions
Yana Kunichoff, Truthout: "An investigative report reveals that Texas continues to execute mentally retarded prisoners despite a US Supreme Court ban. The state has been basing its decisions on unreliable mental health testimony by a court-appointed psychologist."
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Too Little Too Late for Haiti? Six Sobering Points
Bill Quigley, Truthout: "Point One. $100 Million - Are You Kidding Me? President Obama promised $100 million in aid to Haiti on January 14, 2010. A Kentucky couple won $128 million in a Powerball lottery on December 24, 2010. The richest nation in the history of the world is giving Powerball money to a neighbor already suffering tens of thousands of deaths?"
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Keeping Same-Sex Marriage in the Dark
Marjorie Cohn, Jurist: "On Wednesday, a conservative majority of the Supreme Court overturned a ruling made by a federal trial judge that would have allowed limited television coverage of a trial that will decide the fate of California’s Proposition 8. The trial, which is currently proceeding in San Francisco, is one of the most significant civil rights cases of our time. The plaintiffs are seeking to overturn a ballot initiative that makes same-sex marriage illegal in California."
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Despite Prevention Efforts, US Military Suicides Rise
Halimah Abdullah, McClatchy Newspapers: "Eight years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have etched indelible scars on the psyches of many of the nation's servicemen and women, and the U.S. military is losing a battle to stem an epidemic of suicides in its ranks."
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Trade Policy: B
Mark Engler, Foreign Policy in Focus: "The Obama administration is earning a B on trade policy so far, mostly on the grounds that no news is good news in this area. Some analysts might feel it is more accurate to give the administration an 'incomplete.'"
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Community in Crisis Looks to Its Agricultural Roots
Kyra Ryan, Inter Press Service: "Renowned for its historic Native American pueblo, cultural ties to Spain, bohemian artists, and world-class ski resort, Taos is also one of the many communities in the U.S. facing food insecurity."
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Ukraine Election Signals Shift Toward Russia. Was Orange Revolution for Naught?
Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor: "In Sunday presidential elections, Ukraine appears poised to shift back toward Russia, just five years after the Orange Revolution. Polls show its pro-Western leader Viktor Yushchenko with only 3 percent support."
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Non-Christians Need Not Apply
Krista J. Kapralos, GlobalPost: "For a year and a half, Bara Kassambara kept his mouth shut. Every day, all of his coworkers paused for prayer time. There were frequent Bible studies, and constant talk about Jesus. Kassambara attended the required events, but otherwise quietly focused on his work: bringing clean water to rural Mali."
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NIEER - Early Ed hot topics 1/15

Head Start Study: Gains Made by 4-Year-Olds Don't Show Up in First Grade
The latest results from the Head Start Impact Study were released this week. As originally reported, providing access to Head Start has modest benefits for both 3- and 4-year-olds in the cognitive, health, and parenting domains, and for 3-year-olds in the social-emotional domain. However, the advantages of Head Start are no longer evident at first grade. NIEER Co-Director Steve Barnett said that, like the 2005 findings from the same study, the new results are likely to be taken out of context by opponents of publicly funded preschool education. He writes about the subject in his recent post on Preschool Matters ... Today!

White Students are No Longer a Majority in the South's Schools
Public schools in the American South no longer enroll a majority of white students when people of other backgrounds are considered, says a new report released by the Southern Education Foundation (SEF). Whites now comprise 49 percent of the student population while Blacks comprise 27 percent, Hispanics 20 percent, Asian-Pacific people 3 percent and Native Americans and others 1 percent. The SEF also says that in 2007, children eligible for free or reduced-price lunch became a majority in the South's public schools.

Universal Pre-K Recommended for Michigan Economic Development
If Michigan invested the additional $300 million per year required to raise participation of 4-year-olds in state pre-K from the current 18 percent level of attendance to 70 percent, the present value of that investment in enhanced workforce productivity would be $834 million, says Timothy Bartik, senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo. The universal pre-K recommendation is one of eight Bartik presented at the University of Michigan economic forecast conference. They're detailed in his new working paper What Should Michigan Be Doing to Promote Long-Run Economic Development?

NACCRA Report: The List of State Budget Cuts to Children's Program is Long
State Budget Cuts: America's Kids Pay the Price is a report just published by the National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies (NACCRA) that provides a state-by-state run-down of early childhood programs that have fallen victim to the budget axe. California and Connecticut are leading the pack by cutting nine programs each. Included are recommendations for future investment.

Jerlean Daniel to Become NAEYC Executive Director
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has announced that Jerlean Daniel is the executive director designate of the association. She will replace outgoing Executive Director Mark R.Ginsberg on July 1 of this year. Dr. Daniel has most recently served as a deputy executive director of the association and is also a past president. A member of NAEYC for more than 30 years, she joined NAEYC as a staff member after 21 years at the University of Pittsburgh where she served as a Chair of Psychology in Education. In addition, she was director of the University Child Development Center for 18 years and it received NAEYC accreditation under her leadership. Dr. Ginsberg, who has been NAEYC executive director since 1999, will become Dean of the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University. We wish both of them great success in their new endeavors.

"Enough already!"

Friday, January 15, 2010

Common Dreams headlines 1/15

Massachusetts Vote Could Threaten Health Reform

Arctic Permafrost Leaking Methane at Record Levels, Figures Show

Homeowners Say Banks Not Following Rules for Loan Modifications

Activists Ask for Peace Dividend

Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Turns Up the Heat

Obama Aid to Yemen Could Risk Backlash in Arab World

Haiti Streets Blocked With Corpses as Quake Death Toll Mounts

Truthout 1/15

William Rivers Pitt | Red Mass?
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "The nature of modern American politics has been off-the-wall weird for a dozen years now. We've seen a president impeached for lying about sex. We've seen another president who was selected instead of elected in an orgiastic festival of Florida and federal fraud. We saw an administration use the darkest day in our history as an excuse to scare us, spy on us, steal from us and start false wars in our name. We've seen a vice president go on national television and advocate the benefits and blessings of torture. We came within an eyelash of seeing the first woman president elected in this still-misogynist nation, and did see the first African-American president elected in this still-racist nation."
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Dahr Jamail | Iraq Political Fissures Widen as March Vote Nears
Dahr Jamail, Truthout: "With all attention on Afghanistan as violence and US troop commitment there surge, the occupation in Iraq has received less attention in recent months than it has since the invasion of Iraq took place in March 2003."
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Ewen Cook | Fort Hood: The "Incomprehensible" Irony
Ewen Cook, Truthout: "As the Western world rubs its eyes and blinks expectantly in the direction of a new decade, its distracted inhabitants would do well to reflect on an event that is unlikely to have graced many end-of-year lists at the close of 2009: the alleged killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, by US Army Maj. Nadil Malik Hasan."
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Her Crime? Sex Work in New Orleans
Jordan Flaherty, ColorLines: "Tabitha has been working as a prostitute in New Orleans since she was 13. Now 30 years old, she can often be found working on a corner just outside of the French Quarter. A small and slight white woman, she has battled both drug addiction and illness and struggles every day to find a meal or a place to stay for the night."
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Senate, House Health Reform Bills Change Abortion Status Quo
Jessica Arons, RH Reality Check: "Opponents and supporters of abortion rights agreed early on, in theory, to maintain the 'status quo' with 'abortion neutral' health care legislation. The idea was that health care reform is not the appropriate place to continue the fight over abortion and neither side should attempt to use health care reform as a vehicle to further expand or restrict access to abortion."
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Dexter Whitfield | Global Auction of Public Assets
Dexter Whitfield, Truthout: "A new study exposes the impact of the emerging global infrastructure market and widening use of Public Private Partnerships, which is fueling a new era of public asset sales in the US and other countries."
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Seth Sandronsky | More (or Less) on Reform of Health Care
Seth Sandronsky, Truthout: "Claudia Chaufan, MD, is an Argentine physician and assistant adjunct professor in the Institute for Health and Aging and Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. She is also vice president of the California Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program. According to its web site, PNHP supports 'single-payer national health insurance - a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private.' Dr. Chaufan talks to, and writes for, lay and expert audiences on the social dimensions of the diabetes epidemic and on single-payer health care reform. This is a recent email interview with her."
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Obama Rallies Worried Democrats on Health Care Reform
Gail Russell Chaddock, The Christian Science Monitor: "With approval ratings for Democrats tumbling, President Obama called on the House majority caucus to look beyond the politics of the moment and fight for health care reform."
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Lawmakers Agree to Scale Back Tax on Health Plans
David Lightman and Margaret Talev, McClatchy Newspapers: "The White House, Congressional leaders and union officials on Thursday announced a tentative agreement in their health care negotiations, to pare back a proposed excise tax on high-end insurance policies for middle-class workers."
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Special Report: Haiti After the Quake and How to Help
Alison Hamm, The Media Consortium: "Over 100,000 people are believed dead after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck near the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, Tuesday afternoon. The quake buried countless buildings, from shantytowns to the presidential palace. All hospitals in Port-au-Prince have been leveled or abandoned. The United Nations headquarters and the city's main prison have collapsed as well. Thousands of residents are homeless and without food, water or electricity."
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The underlying tragedy

Bankers without a clue

FP morning post 1/15

Security deteriorates as desperation grows in Haiti

Top story: While the international rescue operation is beginning to swing into full gear, desperation is growing for Haiti and the security situation is beginning to deteriorate. Looters in Port-au-Prince broke into a U.N. warehouse stocked with 15,000 tons of provisions. Elsewhere, people formed roadblocks with the bodies of victims to demand faster aid. With Haiti's national police nowhere to be seen, international troops must be relied on to keep order.

The first contingent U.S. troops have arrived on the scene. Their first priority is to restore order to the Port-au-Prince airport which lost its control tower in the quake, complicating the efforts of pilots to land. The U.S. has also negotiated an agreement with Cuba to allow U.S. planes access to restricted Cuban airspace, cutting 90 minutes from flight times to and from the naval base at Guantanamo Bay. President Barack Obama has pledged $100 million in relief aid and longterm support to Haiti's government. A U.S. aircraft carrier is due to arrive on the scene today. 31 countries have now offered assistance.

President Rene Preval says 7,000 corpses have been removed from the streets of Port-au-Prince and buried in a mass grave. But with morgues overflowing, many are still lying in the open. The Haitian Red Cross now estimates the death toll at 45,000-50,000.

The only good news may be that aftershocks, of which there were 37 on Wednesday, tapered off to four on Thursday.

Google/China: Microsoft has admitted that its Internet Explorer was used the the Chinese cyberattacks against Google that prompted the company to change its stance on doing business in China.


Middle East

  • Yemen's government is negotiating terms for the surrender of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al Awlaki.
  • Iran will try 16 people for last month's antigovernment protests.
  • A roadside bombing in Jordan narrowly missed a group of traveling Israeli diplomats.


A U.S. grand jury convicted four people in connection with the Mumbai terror attacks and a plot to attack a Danish newspaper.
The U.S. contractor arrested in Cuba last month was helping Jewish groups get access to the Internet.
The former president of Panama was put under house arrest on suspicion of money laundering.


  • Kenyan Muslims rioted in protest of the detention of a controversial Jamaican cleric.
  • South Sudan's leader is planning to run for reelection rather than challenge President Omar al-Bashir for national office.
  • With presidential elections a few weeks away, the Ivory Coast government is investigating allegations of voter fraud.


  • Rumors that German chancellor Angela Merkel was planning to resign affected Euro exchange rates but were dismissed as false by her spokesman.
  • Russia's parliament ratified reforms to put the country in compliance with the European Court of human rights.
  • A runoff appears likely for the two challengers in this weekend's Ukrainian election.

-By Joshua Keating


To help Haitians

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee View in Web Browser | Share with Friends

Dear friend,

UUSC and the Unitarian Universalist Association have launched a joint earthquake relief fund to help the survivors of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12.

The magnitude 7.0 earthquake centered near Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. The situation is chaotic, communications systems are down, and debris impedes movement around the city. The U.N. estimates that 2.2 million people are affected and fears that the loss of life may reach into the tens of thousands.

Please donate now — your generous support will help us help the people of Haiti recover from this disaster.

Major news outlets are all reporting severe devastation, with extensive damage to hospitals, roads, water and sanitation services, and electrical and communication systems. An alarming number of buildings, including the National Palace and the United Nation’s Headquarters, have collapsed.

Haiti is the Western Hemisphere’s most impoverished and least-developed nation. Its society is rife with radical inequality, where large numbers of the population are systematically left out. Eighty percent of the population lives in poverty. These are the very people likely to suffer the most during this crisis.

Your generous donation to the UUSC/UUA Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund will help ensure that the most marginalized people in Haiti are able to access aid.

Many people live day-to-day on what they’re able to earn in the informal sector. For those hundreds of thousands of poor people in Port-au-Prince, the daily struggle for food, water, and medical attention already amounted to an emergency — the earthquake has made these challenges infinitely more difficult to overcome, creating a humanitarian disaster on top of an existing humanitarian crisis.

Please give as generously as you can — help ensure that the most marginalized people of Haiti recover from this devastating disaster.


Charlie Clements signature

Charlie Clements
President & CEO

McClatchy Washington report 1/15

  • President Barack Obama's decision to boost U.S. aid to Yemen to help the small Arabian Peninsula country fight al Qaida risks tying the U.S. more closely to an autocratic ruler whose repression of economic and political grievances is strengthening the terrorists and pushing his impoverished nation toward breakup.

  • Government workers dug mass graves and buried more than 7,000 dead Thursday as corpses overwhelmed this earthquake-ravaged city awaiting a surge of relief supplies amassing in Miami and elsewhere. Casualty estimates were still unknown but the Haitian Red Cross in Port-au-Prince estimated the dead at 45,000-50,000, a figure reported in Geneva by spokesman Jean-Luc Martinage of the International Red Cross.

  • Turning its scrutiny to bigger fish in the subprime mortgage scandal, the Justice Department is investigating whether lenders or Wall Street firms defrauded investors in the sale of risky mortgage securities, its Criminal Division chief disclosed Thursday.

  • The White House, congressional leaders and union officials on Thursday announced a tentative agreement in their health care negotiations, to pare back a proposed excise tax on high-end insurance policies for middle-class workers. Many of the details however, were unresolved.

  • Although several punches were landed by all candidates, there was no clear winner in Thursday night's opening debate of the 2010 Texas GOP gubernatorial campaign. The debate was at times marked by smirks and mocking statements between Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and former Wharton County Republican Party Chairwoman Debra Medina.

  • Dozens of Flight 1549 passengers are gathering in New York to toast the first anniversary of what is known as the "Miracle on the Hudson." For many of the 150 passengers aboard the bird-struck flight, the year since the near catastrophe last Jan. 15 has been transformative.

  • Privacy doesn't guarantee honesty, a jury expert said. Dennis Elias, a psychologist who specializes in jury research, was asked about a judge's decision to question jurors in private about sensitive issues like abortion in the first-degree murder trial of Scott Roeder. Roeder, 51, is charged with killing Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller in the doctor's church on May 31.

  • Gov. Sean Parnell is asking the Legislature to change Alaska's oil tax laws so that companies won't have to pay as much in taxes if they spend money to drill. It's an incentive that could cost the state treasury hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • California Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher is a smooth-talking lawmaker — a talent that came in handy this week when the San Diego Republican persuaded a man not to hang himself on a downtown Sacramento bike bridge over the American River.

  • Jim and Sandy Wilkins thought the shaking was coming from the generator for their second-floor apartment in Gressier, Haiti. Sandy, a nurse, and Jim, 59, a family physician, moved to Gressier from Girard, Kan., 11 years ago. Just last year, their nonprofit Haiti Health Ministries Inc. treated more than 25,000 patients. Now the clinic is destroyed, along with medical equipment that took years to buy. Their supplies of medicine are buried under rubble. But patients keep coming.

  • Federal prosecutors said Thursday that they executed search warrants on Chevron Corp. properties in Alaska this week. Chevron Corp. said the federal Environmental Protection Agency is investigating air emissions at two of its Cook Inlet properties operated by California-based Unocal.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Truthout 1/14

Click here for information about reliable options for donating to support Haitian earthquake victims.

Army Files Charges Against Single Mother

Dahr Jamail, Truthout: "The Army has filed charges for a special court-martial against Spc. Alexis Hutchinson, a single mother of a one-year-old baby. Hutchinson missed her deployment to Afghanistan late last year when her child-care plans for her son, Kamani, fell through at the last minute."
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VIDEO: Healing Suicidal Veterans
Truthout: "Vietnam-era veteran Vic Montgomery III, author of 'Healing Suicidal Veterans,' spoke with Truthout's Robert Corsini about the growing tsunami of veterans' mental health needs. A specialist in crisis intervention and addiction therapy, Montgomery outlined the urgent need to address this crisis that he witnesses as a counselor first hand."
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Haiti Earthquake Live Blog
Join Truthout as we provide you with day two of continuing updates on the aftermath of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti.
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Can Cheryle Jackson End the War in Afghanistan?
Robert Naiman, Truthout: "Add Illinois to Pennsylvania as states where there is a contested Senate primary in which the war in Afghanistan has become an issue. The Chicago Tribune reports that the two leading contenders for the Democratic nomination for Barack Obama's former seat in the Senate have staked out diametrically opposed positions."
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Ten Things the US Can and Should Do for Haiti
Bill Quigley, Truthout: "Allow all Haitians in the US to work. The No. 1 source of money for poor people in Haiti is the money sent from family and workers in the US back home. Haitians will continue to help themselves if given a chance. Haitians in the US will continue to help when the world community moves on to other problems."
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Israeli Threats Against Gaza Grow
Ira Chernus, Truthout: "Israel's hawks are starting to make frightening noises. If Israel attacks Gaza again, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant will run the operation. Galant recently said that right now 'the sun is shining - but one can see dark clouds in the distance.' His soldiers are training to face trouble ahead, and 'civilians are rightly preparing themselves for another round of fighting.'"
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Schakowsky Prepares Legislation to Ban Blackwater
Jeremy Scahill, The Rebel Report: "As multiple scandals involving Blackwater continue to emerge almost daily, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is preparing to introduce legislation aimed at ending the US government's relationship with Blackwater and other armed contracting companies. 'In 2009, the U.S. government employed well over 20,000 armed private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there is every indication that these figures will continue to rise in 2010,' Schakowsky wrote in a 'Dear Colleage' letter asking for support for her Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act."
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Froma Harrop | Google's Heroism (Sort of), Self-Interest and Parasitism
Froma Harrop, Truthout: "So Google wants to play human-rights superhero. Five years ago, it compromised its standing as the global avatar of cyber-freedom by blocking certain searches on its Chinese website at the behest of the government in Beijing. Now it's threatening to leave China after discovering a massive campaign to hack the Gmail accounts of dissidents there. If it follows through, Google would be abandoning a potential $1 billion annual market for search engines."
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666 to 1: The US Military, Al-Qaeda and a War of Futility
Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt, "In his book on World War II in the Pacific, War Without Mercy, John Dower tells an extraordinary tale about the changing American image of the Japanese fighting man. In the period before the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, it was well accepted in military and political circles that the Japanese were inferior fighters on the land, in the air, and at sea - 'little men,' in the phrase of the moment."
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Goldman Sachs Admits "Improper" Actions in Sales of Securities
Greg Gordon and Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers: "The chairman and CEO of investment titan Goldman Sachs acknowledged Wednesday that his company had engaged in 'improper' behavior when it made financial bets against $40 billion in securities backed by risky U.S. home loans that it was selling to investors as safe products."
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How we can help Haiti

Our hearts go out to the women, children, and all people of Haiti who are suffering in the wake of the recent earthquake. Many of our members are asking how they can help out. We've been told that cash donations to humanitarian organizations that are working in Haiti are the most efficient and effective way to help the relief effort in Haiti right now. They allow humanitarian organizations to purchase (often within the affected region itself) the exact type and quantity of items needed by those affected by the crisis.

If you're interested in helping out families in Haiti immediately, here are some organizations to which you can contribute:

- You can contribute online to the Red Cross here: (You can also donate $10 to be charged to your cell phone bill by texting "HAITI" to "90999")

- Donations to Doctors Without Borders can be made here:

- In addition, you can also find more ways to help through the Center for International Disaster Information, or through USAID's interactive website, which has a list of NGOs and instructions on how to help.

We each have a nearly endless capacity to stretch our hearts when the need arises. This is a critical time to help children and families in crisis.

-- The MomsRising Team

FP morning post 1/14

Tens of thousands feared dead in Haiti as aid trickles in

Top story: Aid has begun to trickle in, but the situation in most of Haiti remains desperate on the second day following a deadly earthquake. With communications spotty, the death toll is still difficult to estimate but is thought to be in the tens of thousands. Haitian government officials believe it could reach the hundreds of thousands.

"Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed,'' President Rene Preval told the Miami Herald. He described the extent of the devastation as "unimaginable."

Aid workers are facing a logistical nightmare in their attempts to bring food and medical supplies to the country. Damage to the main port at Port-au-Prince is preventing ship deliveries. The main airport lost its control tower, severely limiting the number of planes that can land. Supplies have begun filtering in from the neighboring Dominican Republic, but the border is a six-hour drive over difficult roads from the earthquake region.

The United Nations, whose Haitian headquarters collapsed leaving 150 people and the head of its mission unaccounted for, has pledged $10 million in aid. The World Bank has promised $100 million. The United States has dispatched an aircraft carrier and an amphibious assault ship to assist in the aid effort. Citing their own experience with natural disasters, Asian leaders have also promised to pitch in.

China/Google: In their first official response to Google's threat to pull out of China, officials said internet companies must obey Chinese law and gave no hint of compromise.


Middle East


  • Nigerian lawyers have filed suit to force absentee president Umaru Yar'Adua to step down.
  • Burkina Faso's president held an emergency meeting with Guinea coup leader Moussa Dadis Camara, who is recovering in that country after a failed gunshot attack.
  • Southern African leaders are meeting in Mozambique to discuss the ongoing political crises in Zimbabwe and Madagascar.



  • Spain convicted five people of aiding the Madrid train bombers.
  • Ukrainian Presidential Candidate Yulia Tymoshenko has accused her rival Vikto Yanukovych of planning fraud in the upcoming election.
  • French President Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated his view that burkas are "not welcome" in France.

-By Joshua Keating


McClatchy Washington report 1/14

  • Rescue workers dragged corpses from collapsed buildings, dazed homeless wandered the streets and the death toll climbed Wednesday as dozens of aftershocks from a massive earthquake rattled Port au Prince, Haiti.

  • With public furor rising over big bonuses for bankers, the White House, Congress and financial regulators all suddenly say they want strong restrictions on executive pay. They're offering bold ideas, probing hearings and a pledge that something finally will get done.

  • The chairman and CEO of investment titan Goldman Sachs acknowledged Wednesday that his company engaged in "improper" behavior when it made financial bets against $40 billion of securities backed by risky U.S. home loans it was selling to investors as safe products.

  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was in Cary, N.C., on Wednesday night to speak to more than 600 people attending a dinner of the conservative John Locke Foundation. Before the dinner, Gingrich, a potential presidential candidate in 2012, answered questions from the media.

  • Over the weekend, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, walked through a bazaar in Garmsir, a town in Afghanistan's unstable Helmand province. That she was able to do it was remarkable, said Murkowski, who returned this week from a whirlwind, 15,000-mile journey with three other Republican senators through 15 times zones and one war zone. Seeing firsthand the U.S. effort in the region put Murkowski in an unusual posture: largely agreeing with the Obama administration's approach to the troop buildup in Afghanistan.

  • After news outlets, including The Wichita Eagle, petitioned the Kansas Supreme Court, a judge agreed Wednesday to release a jury questionnaire and open portions of jury selection in the first-degree murder trial of Scott Roeder. Roeder, 51, is charged with the killing of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller last May, a case that has drawn national attention. Roeder would face life in prison if convicted.

  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent another letter to California's congressional delegation Wednesday asking for help in securing $6.9 billion, this time including past quotes from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein that the governor implies were contradictory to her criticisms of him last week.

  • Military wives often try not to complain, but a large-scale study published today suggests that they have a right to, citing elevated rates of depression, sleep disorders, anxiety and other mental-health problems among women whose husbands were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • On the eve of another budget battle in the Legislature, California's worst-in-the-nation credit rating took another hit Wednesday. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services downgraded California a notch to an "A-minus" rating, citing the $19.9 billion deficit and the "impending recurrence of a cash deficiency."

  • A U.S. government subcontractor jailed in Cuba and branded as a spy was helping Jewish groups get "unfiltered" Internet access to sites like Wikipedia, sources said Wednesday. The identification of Alan P. Gross, 60, of Potomac, Md., and his mission on the island cast a new light on a case that has sharpened the discord between Washington and Havana.

  • A federal judge ruled late Wednesday that former Alaska House Speaker Pete Kott received a fair trial in 2007 on corruption charges and that the "court has not found a sufficient basis" to order a new trial or dismiss the case.

  • Everyone should take a deep breath and stop flapping about the "failure" to identify Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a likely terrorist. What went wrong - and what's gone right? Intelligence analysis is more than putting the pieces together in one puzzle. It's more like working on many puzzles simultaneously, and then deciding which puzzle and which piece of that puzzle should take precedence.

The case for gay marriage

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A new low for Pat Robertson

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Truthout 1/13

Haiti Earthquake Live Blog
Join Truthout as we provide you with continuing updates on the aftermath of the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti.
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DC's Excise Tax Cult Battles Unions, Critical Research and Taxing the Rich
Art Levine, Truthout: "The centrist natives of Washington are banding together to defend their faith-based totem: the wildly unpopular excise tax on high-cost health plans."
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San Francisco Hotel Arrests - Sign of a Bigger Conflict to Come
David Bacon, Truthout: "San Francisco, California - AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm joined 1,400 hotel workers and their supporters last week as they rallied and marched to the San Francisco Hilton demanding a fair contract. Over 100 protesters, including Trumka and Wilhelm, were then arrested for sitting in and blocking the doors. The action culminated in the launch of a boycott of the hotel, one of the city's most luxurious."
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New VA Statistics Show Young Veterans Committing Suicide at an Alarming Rate
Mary Susan Littlepage, Truthout: "New figures released this week by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) show a dramatic increase in suicide among veterans aged 18 to 29 years old, due in large part to multiple deployments and the overall stress of combat."
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ACLU Sues Library of Congress Alleging Ex-Guantanamo Prosecutor Wrongfully Fired
Yana Kunichoff, Truthout: "The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against the Library of Congress on behalf of Col. Morris Davis, the former top prosecutor at Guantanamo and an outspoken critic of the military commissions system, alleging he was unfairly terminated from his position with the Library's Congressional Research Service (CRS)."
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Canada No Longer a Haven for War Resisters
Sandro Contenta, Global Post: "Canada has long been a haven for Americans escaping their wars. During the American Revolutionary War in the late 1700's, an estimated 50,000 colonists who wanted to remain loyal to Britain fled north to what would later become Canada. Thousands more crossed the border during the Civil War, using an underground railroad that led escaped slaves to freedom."
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Regime Change in Tehran?: Don't Bet on It ... Yet
Dilip Hiro, "The dramatic images of protesters in Iran fearlessly facing - and sometimes countering - the brutal attacks of the regime's security forces rightly gain the admiration and sympathy of viewers in the West. They also leave many Westerners assuming that this is a preamble to regime change in Tehran, a repeat of history, but with a twist. After all, Iran has the distinction of being the only Middle Eastern state that underwent a revolutionary change - 31 years ago - which originated as a mild street protest."
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The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage

Theodore B. Olson: "Together with my good friend and occasional courtroom adversary David Boies, I am attempting to persuade a federal court to invalidate California's Proposition 8 - the voter-approved measure that overturned California's constitutional right to marry a person of the same sex."
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Jim Hightower | Selling a City's Soul - for Chicken Scratch

Jim Hightower, Truthout: "Fire hydrants deserve more respect. They are utilitarian and ubiquitous icons of America's urban landscape, yet they're rarely noticed by anyone but dogs - who give them no respect whatsoever. Now, though, a brand-name corporation has noticed that these pieces of our public infrastructure are everywhere, and, like a dog, it wants to lift its leg on them!"
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Haiti Earthquake: With Aid Groups Already There, Relief Efforts Ramp Up Quickly

Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor: "Haiti is reeling from a 7.0 earthquake that hit 10 miles of its coast early Tuesday evening. Poor communications are making it difficult to immediately assess the extent of the damage and fatalities, but as daylight comes, the scale of the quake's destruction is slowly coming into focus."
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Bill Moyers Journal | Peace Through Education

Bill Moyers, Truthout: "America has committed billions to escalate military action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but humanitarian and bestselling author Greg Mortenson argues that there's a better path to peace: building schools and nurturing local communities."
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McClatchy Washington report 1/13

  • In rural communities and urban areas alike, one of the least expensive and most unheralded new initiatives of the stimulus bill is quietly saving hundreds of thousands of Americans from homelessness.

  • Teams of rescue and aid workers were rushing to Haiti on Wednesday to assess damage from a powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake that crippled the island nation, severing communications with the outside world and crumbling countless buildings, including the historic National Palace.

  • Gov. Mark Sanford's day in the General Assembly has finally arrived. Today, South Carolina lawmakers will vote on a censure resolution, expressing their disapproval of his actions surrounding his June disappearance and his admission to an extramarital affair.

  • California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano emerged Tuesday from a victorious committee vote to legalize marijuana proclaiming history was in the making. It didn't matter that his bill was dead on non-arrival. The political theater Ammiano stirred in winning a 4-3 vote in the Public Safety Committee for pot's legalization raises the curtain on a near-certain November ballot fight and heated skirmishes in the Legislature over the future of marijuana use in California.

  • Up-and-coming U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio has become the hottest ticket on Florida's tea-party circuit. The movement of disaffected, disillusioned and generally fed-up conservative voters has helped fuel his increasingly competitive campaign against the more moderate Gov. Charlie Crist.

  • A Sedgwick County district judge Tuesday said Scott Roeder could pursue a defense of voluntary manslaughter. Prosecutors had asked Judge Warren Wilbert to block Roeder, 51, from building a case that might lead to a lesser charge than first-degree premeditated murder. Roeder is charged with killing Wichita abortion provider George Tiller on May 31 at the doctor's church. Roeder has admitted to the shooting but said he killed to protect the unborn.

  • Drivers distracted by cell-phone talking and texting cause 28 percent of traffic accidents, the National Safety Council said in a study released Tuesday. Safety advocates cited the new estimates as they introduced a national organization, patterned after Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to fight phone use while driving. The nonprofit group FocusDriven will be led by people whose parents, children or other relatives were killed by drivers using cell phones.

  • A historian who testified for the Proposition 8 challenge in federal court Tuesday cited examples from 1950s magazines and others as evidence that the November 2008 ballot measure barring gay marriage in California continued a long U.S. history of discrimination against gays.

  • In a state-versus-oil company battle with major implications for the development of Alaska's untapped North Slope gas, a state judge this week issued a ruling in favor of oil companies. State Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason said the state violated Exxon Mobil and its partners' constitutional right to due process last year when it terminated their Point Thomson unit — potentially the second-most lucrative collection of gas leases on the Slope.

  • California could tap the energy stored in wood, garbage, plants and animal waste to fuel a job creation engine that could pull the state out of its economic doldrums, biomass energy advocates said Tuesday.

  • Another prominent politician has said something honest about race and the predictable tut-tutting has ensued.

    This time the offender is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In, "Game Change," a book about the Obama presidential run, the Nevada Democrat is quoted saying that then-Sen. Barack Obama had a good chance of winning because he was "a light-skinned" African American and had "no Negro dialect" What's untrue about that?

FP morning post 1/13

Haiti devastated by massive earthquake

Top Story: The devastation is near total and the death count is thought to be in the thousands after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti yesterday. As many as 3 million people may have been affected by the quake, according to the Red Cross. The United States and other countries have begun to organize a relief effort. The United Nations headquarters was also decimated and the head of the U.N.'s peacekeeping mission in country is thought to be among the dead.

The quake hit at about 4:53 yesterday and was centered just 10 miles from the capital city of Port-au-Prince. It was the largest earthquake the island has suffered in over two centuries and was felt as far away as Cuba.

Power is still out in much of the country making it difficult to assess the full extent of the damage. Haiti's years of political turmoil, desperate poverty, and other recent natural disasters like the four hurricanes that decimated the country in 2008, have also left it ill-equipped to cope with the damage.

Tech: In a dramatic shift, Google says it will no longer tolerate censorship of its search engine in China and has threatened to quit the country altogether after cyberattacks against its systems.

Middle East

  • Yemeni security forces killed a suspected al Qaeda militant.
  • Iraqi security forces say they uncovered a plot to bomb government ministries in Baghdad.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is attempting to defuse a diplomatic flap with ally Turkey.



  • Mexico arrested top drug trafficker Teodoro Garcia Simentel at his vacation home in Baja California.
  • A U.N. panel has found that the Guatemalan lawyer who made a video blaming the country's president for his own impending killing, in fact arranged his own death.
  • Venezuelans are rushing to stores as merchants raise prices in response to President Hugo Chavez's currency devaluation.


  • Guinea's wounded junta leader traveled to Burkina Faso to recuperate.
  • Nigeria's parliament voted to send a delegation to Saudi Arabia to check on ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua's health.
  • Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is distancing himself from a controversial antigay bill saying it had become a "foreign policy issue."


  • Controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders is petitioning the court to avoid prosecution for inciting racial hatred.
  • The British government says it will appeal a European Court of Human Rights ruling against its antiterror stop-and-search procedures.
  • Germany's GDP contracted by 5 percent in 2009, its worst recession in postwar history.

-By Joshua Keating

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Truthout 1/12

Impassioned Pleas Dominate Opening of California's Same-Sex Marriage Trial
Kyle Berlin, Truthout: "On the first day of a landmark federal trial concerning the right of same-sex couples to marry, David Boies, the high-profile constitutional attorney representing Proposition 8 challengers, opened the plaintiff's case by calling the couples who brought the suit to the witness stand to plead their case."
Read the Article

Dirty Truths About Iraq
Nick Mottern, Truthout: "It's probably safe to say that most Americans think the US military involvement in Iraq is coming to an end this year - that the Iraq War is effectively over. There are, however, some very nasty facts having to do with detention, torture and execution that must be considered in judging what will be happening this year for Iraqis and US soldiers."
Read the Article

My Crazy Trip to a Goldman Sachs Executive's Brazilian Slave Plantation, or Why We Need a Special Prosecutor
Mike Elk, Truthout: "I have made friends with a lot of people in my life. But as working-class kid from Pittsburgh, perhaps my most unusual friendship was with a Goldman Sachs executive, Pedro Henrique Fragoso Pires Garcia."
Read the Article

Howard Zinn | Three Holy Wars
Howard Zinn, Truthout: "So, now I will try to sober things up a little. I thought I would introduce an idea which I have been toying with and I thought this is a good crowd to introduce this idea with. It's about three holy wars. In my head that's my title of this talk - although it's not a very formal talk. Three holy wars. What does that mean? I'm not talking about religious wars. I'm talking about the three wars in American history that are sacrosanct - the three wars that you cannot say anything bad about: The Revolutionary War, the Civil War and World War II."
Read the Article

Why We Will March in Arizona
Pablo Alvarado, La Jornada (Translation: Ryan Croken): "The United States currently faces a crisis that it must resolve while preserving its character as a nation of immigrants. This begins with recognizing and respecting the dignity and integrity of human beings. Characterizing the phenomenon of immigration as a matter of criminality moves the United States further and further away from these universal principles. When 12 million people flee their homes in fear of violence, natural disasters and destitution, we are not talking about crime, we are talking about a humanitarian crisis."
Read the Article

Sailing a Liferaft Into Gaza
Pam Rasmussen, Truthout: "As I write this, I am still in Cairo. The Gaza Freedom March is officially over - most delegates flew home January 3-5. There are about 30 of us 'die-hard' individuals who have the flexibility to try to wait out the Egyptian government and the dedication/commitment to stay in for the long haul. There are six of us who have planned our lives (at least in the first half of the year) on jobs (paid or voluntary) in Gaza, two journalists/filmmakers, and one whose husband lives there and she hasn't seen him in more than six months. The rest are an eclectic combination of the curious, compassionate, political and adventurous."
Read the Article

Lobbyists Aided Alaska's Murkowski in Writing EPA Limits Bill
Erika Bolstad, McClatchy Newspapers: "Two lobbyists had a hand in writing language proposed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski that could curtail the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate major emitters of greenhouse gases."
Read the Article

The Truth, Crudely Put
Eugene Robinson: "Skin color among African-Americans is not to be discussed in polite company, so Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's newly disclosed remark about President Obama - that voters are more comfortable with him because he's light-skinned - offended decorum. But it was surely true."
Read the Article

Activists Worried About "Secret" Internet Treaty
Emilio Godoy, Inter Press Service: "An international treaty to combat copyright infringement and piracy, being negotiated by Mexico and other countries, could curtail expansion of the internet, violate people's rights to privacy and freedom of expression, and undermine multilateral accords on intellectual property, activists warn."
Read the Article

Stop the gutting of the Clean Air Act

Despite the chorus of alarm bells sounding the need to address the climate crisis and stop polluting the air our families breathe and the water we drink, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and her allies are attacking the Clean Air Act -- for the second time in six months.

And it gets worse. Last night, news broke that the original version of the amendment was literally drafted with lobbyists for the oil and coal industry.*

We can't let this attack succeed. Write your Senators right now and tell them to vote NO on Senator Murkowski's proposal.

We defeated this same effort once already, just six months ago -- but the fossil fuel lobby is at it again. The amendment would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate most carbon pollution, letting the worst polluters completely off the hook.

Efforts like this are designed to do one thing and one thing only -- slow our transition to a clean energy economy that will create millions of new jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and solve the climate crisis.

Help flood your Senators with messages to vote NO on this attack on the Clean Air Act.

The very last thing we should do in the fight to end the climate crisis is throw away tools that we already know are effective at reducing pollution. But that's exactly what Senator Murkowski's proposal does.

For decades, the Clean Air Act has kept millions of tons of pollutants out of our air and water. Senator Murkowski's proposal would create an Alaska-sized loophole in the Clean Air Act, giving a pass to the biggest carbon polluters.

Email your Senators now and tell them to vote NO on Senator Murkowski's amendment -- and protect our air, water and climate:

In 2010, our movement to solve the climate crisis will face its biggest test yet -- passing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. But if Senator Murkowski's amendment passes, some in Congress will use it as an excuse to keep stalling -- and the long overdue promise of progress toward a 21st century clean energy economy will be lost.

You helped stop this toxic amendment once before. Together, we can and must stop it again.

Thank you,

Al Gore
* "Murkowski and her lobbyist allies," The Washington Post, January 11, 2010

A serious proposal

New York Times

The president of the American Federation of Teachers says she will urge her members to accept a form of teacher evaluation that takes student achievement into account and that the union has commissioned an independent effort to streamline disciplinary processes and make it easier to fire teachers who are guilty of misconduct.

In a speech to be delivered Tuesday in Washington, Randi Weingarten plans to call for more frequent and more rigorous evaluations of public schoolteachers, and she says she will assert that standardized test scores and other measures of student performance should be an integral part of the evaluation process. The use of student test scores to measure teacher performance has been anathema to many teachers. Ms. Weingarten is not proposing that they be the only — or even the primary — element in determining teacher quality.

But she told me in an interview over the weekend that she wants to “stop this notion” that her membership is in favor of keeping bad teachers in the classroom. “I will try to convince my members that, of course, we have to look at student test scores and student learning,” she said.

The use of test scores, as Ms. Weingarten sees it, would be part of a new, enhanced process of teacher evaluation that would offer clear professional standards for teachers. It would replace current practices, which in many districts across the country are lax, haphazard and, in the words of Ms. Weingarten and others, often amount to little more than “drive-by” evaluations.

It is not uncommon for teachers to be observed in the classroom just a couple of times a year for only a few minutes each time and then get a satisfactory rating. Under those circumstances, hardly anything is learned about the quality or effectiveness of the teachers. Most teachers are routinely rated as satisfactory, and many are never evaluated at all.

Ms. Weingarten is urging school administrators to observe teachers more closely and more frequently. (The enhanced, clearly articulated professional standards she is calling for are already in use in some districts. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.) Experts trained in best practices and using a variety of objective data, including measures of student achievement, would do the evaluating. Teachers who are struggling would be given an opportunity to improve their performance. If, after remedial efforts, they still did not measure up, they would be fired, whether tenured or not.

As Ms. Weingarten put it, “We would have to say, ‘Look, we helped you. We tried. You’re just not cut out to be a teacher.’ ”

Ms. Weingarten also addresses the fact that it is sometimes scandalously difficult to remove teachers who have engaged in serious misconduct. While emphasizing the need for due process, she bluntly asserts, in a draft of her speech: “We recognize, however, that too often due process can become a glacial process. We intend to change that.”

The union has asked Kenneth Feinberg, the federal government’s so-called pay czar, to develop a more efficient protocol for disciplining — and when necessary, removing — teachers accused of misconduct.

This would be a big deal. Mr. Feinberg is highly respected and widely viewed as independent. He administered the government fund that compensated those who were injured and the families of those who were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. He also administered a fund set up in the wake of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007.

He is not the kind of guy to go into the tank for the teachers’ union. (John Ashcroft chose him to lead the 9/11 fund.) It will be very interesting to see whether the union actually goes along if Mr. Feinberg fashions a workable plan to streamline teacher discipline that is viewed favorably by school administrators.

“We look forward,” said Ms. Weingarten, “to working with Mr. Feinberg on this critical undertaking.”

If the union follows through on Ms. Weingarten’s proposals, it would represent a significant, good-faith effort to cooperate more fully with state officials and school administrators in the monumental job of improving public school education. More than 90 percent of American youngsters go through the public schools. The schools were struggling and failing too many youngsters even before the latest economic downturn, which is taking a terrible toll.

My view is that America’s greatest national security crisis is the crisis in its schools.

Ms. Weingarten’s ideas for upgrading the teacher evaluation process are good ones and should be embraced and improved upon where possible by those in charge of the nation’s schools. The point is not just to get rid of failing teachers, but to improve the skills and effectiveness of the millions of teachers who show up in the classrooms every day.

If the union chooses not to follow through on these proposals, its credibility will take a punishing and well-deserved hit.

FP morning post 11/12

On Pacific trip, Clinton downplays tension with Japan and China

Top story: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is kicking off a nine-day tour of the pacific region with a meeting in Hawaii with her Japanese counterpart, Foreign Minister Katsuyo Okada. The meeting will likely focus on the relocation of the U.S. airbase on Okinawa, which the United States wants to keep on the island but which the Japanese want moved elsewhere. More generally, the talks may be aimed at defusing tensions that have emerged since the election of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who is looking to make Japanese security policy less dependent on the United States. Clinton said she's hoping the talks will "reaffirm the centrality of our 50-year-old alliance."

Clinton will visit Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia on this trip. En route to Hawaii she also discussed U.S. relations with China, denying that recent arms sales to Taiwan and President Obama's upcoming meeting with the Dalai Lama would damage the relationship. "What I'm expecting is that we actually are having a mature relationship," she said. "That means that it doesn't go off the rails when we have differences of opinion."

Culture: A new Brazilian movie glorifying the early life of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva may be aimed at swaying the country's upcoming presidential election.

Middle East



  • Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua made his first public comments since being hospitalized seven weeks ago.
  • A new Rwandan government report holds Hutu extremists responsible for the assassination of the country's president in 1994 which sparked an anti-Tutsi genocide.
  • Three Britons and a Colombian were kidnapped in Nigeria's Niger Delta region.


  • Britain has banned a controversial Islamist group that planned to hold a march in the town where casualties from Afghanistan are first honored.
  • Northern Ireland's first minister is stepping down temporarily amid a sex scandal involving his wife and her 19-year-old lover.
  • The U.S. and Russia will restart talks on a new arms control treaty this month.


  • Honduras' top court agreed to hear a case against military leaders involved in last year's coup.
  • Venezuela made a diplomatic protest against the United States and the Netherlands for a what it says was a violation of its airspace.
  • Chile has opened a new museum for victim's of Augusto Pinochet's regime.

-By Joshua Keating

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McClatchy Washington report 1/12

  • Nine days before Christmas, a federal judge ordered Saeed Hatim to be released from the Guantanamo Bay prison after U.S. government lawyers failed to prove that the 33-year-old Yemeni man was linked to terrorism. Then came the thwarted Christmas Day airline bombing.

  • Hard rock thumped through the speakers and nonalcoholic beer flowed as more than 1,000 amped-up American soldiers crowded around a makeshift boxing ring one evening earlier this month at a U.S. base in southern Iraq. "Let's get ready to ruuuumble!" the emcee bellowed, kicking off Contingency Operating Base Adder's first Friday Night Fights, where American servicemen, special forces and private contractors beat each other bloody in mixed martial arts bouts that are spreading fast on U.S. installations throughout Iraq.

  • Two lobbyists had a hand in writing language proposed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski that could curtail the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate major emitters of greenhouse gases. Both of the lobbyists, Jeff Holmstead and Roger Martella Jr., represent a number of high-profile energy clients. Both had top positions in the EPA during the Bush administration.

  • A new book paints stinging portraits of Democrat John Edwards as an "ego monster," his mistress as an eccentric flirt and his wife, Elizabeth, as a fiery presence whose private behavior was often at odds with her public image. The book is based on more than 200 off-the-record interviews with key players in the 2008 campaign. It describes the backstage drama as Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter became a sore point in his campaign, straining relationships with aides as well as his wife.

  • Four gay plaintiffs took the stand Monday on the opening day of a historic federal trial over gay marriage, describing in personal terms the emotions they experienced as they came out, formed relationships and were barred from obtaining marriage licenses in California. The trial over Proposition 8, the Nov. 2008 initiative that banned gay marriage in California, could last two weeks in U.S. District Court in San Francisco before presiding Chief Judge Vaughn Walker.

  • Prosecutors today will make a final attempt to stop Scott Roeder from telling a jury he killed Wichita abortion provider George Tiller in defense of the unborn. Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert scheduled a hearing for 1:30 p.m. today on the state's arguments that Roeder should be prohibited from using voluntary manslaughter as his defense while on trial for first-degree premeditated murder.

  • As the U.S. unemployment rate hovers at around 10 percent, a key question is emerging in the unfolding immigration reform debate: whether legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants will further erode the economy or speed its recovery. The answer is hard to pin down because of clashing conclusions in recently issued reports.

  • Pakistan suffered its worst year of terrorist violence last year, with more than 3,000 people killed, as Islamic insurgents, some of them allied with al Qaida, targeted civilians and destabilized the country, according to a new report.

  • Texas workers got $28.9 million in compensation for workplace sexual harassment, religious intolerance, and age and race discrimination in fiscal 2009 — about $2.7 million more than the previous year. Nationwide, discrimination complaints stayed near all-time highs last year.

  • Exports to one of Florida's top trading partners, Venezuela, are likely to keep sinking after the South American nation devalued its currency by as much as 50 percent in a bid to rein in a budget deficit and bolster its national industries amid depressed oil prices and a struggling economy. The move punishes many U.S. exports to Venezuela at a time when it is counting on revived international trade to fuel its recovery.

  • 2010 is shaping up as a pivotal year for the ethanol industry, and a Kansas company has a major role in how things will turn out. The industry's future growth will depend on turning cellulose from a solid material — such as prairie grasses, wood and corn stalks — into liquid ethanol. Missouri and Kansas could be big sources of cellulose, with farmers growing switchgrass.

  • California health officials think they've found a way to deliver information to the youthful masses: text messaging. With the H1N1 flu virus disproportionately striking younger people, the state Department of Public Health is looking to harness the popularity of cell phones and text messaging to make it easier for people to get vaccinated.

Rudy Guliani: "We had no domestic terror attacks under Bush"

News to me, too.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Truthout 1/11

President Obama, the CIA and the Master of the Cover-Up
Melvin A. Goodman, Truthout: "The Obama administration quietly announced Friday the appointment of John McLaughlin, former deputy CIA director, to head the internal investigation of the intelligence failures that led to the Christmas Day attempted bombing of a Delta airliner headed for Detroit as well as the events leading to the shootings at Fort Hood in November."
Read the Article

Fear and Paranoia as Guantanamo Marks Its Eighth Anniversary
Andy Worthington, Truthout: "On the eighth anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, the fate of the 198 prisoners still held is, in many ways, no clearer than it was a year ago. President Obama has released 42 men since taking office on January 20, 2009, but has already admitted that he will miss his self-imposed deadline for the prison's closure on January 22."
Read the Article

Does Congress Want to Default on the National Debt?
Dean Baker, Truthout: "The deficit hawks in Congress are pushing again to establish a special commission to deal with the problem of the deficit. They are trying to include a provision establishing such a commission as part of a bill to increase the country's debt ceiling."
Read the Article

Afghanistan: Necessity Isn't Always Just
Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III, Truthout: "As Americans usher in a new year and new decade, they find themselves confronted with old problems: war and terror. The epicenter of these problems has shifted from Iraq to Central Asia - Afghanistan/Pakistan."
Read the Article

The Shadow War
Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse, "It was a Christmas and New Year's from hell for American intelligence, that $75 billion labyrinth of at least 16 major agencies and a handful of minor ones. As the old year was preparing to be rung out, so were our intelligence agencies, which managed not to connect every obvious clue to a (literally) seat-of-the-pants al-Qaeda operation."
Read the Article

Tip of the Iceberg
Eliot Spitzer, William Black and Frank Partnoy, New Deal 2.0: "In a December New York Times op-ed, we called for the full public release of AIG email messages, internal accounting documents and financial models generated in the last decade. Today, a Bloomberg story revealed that under Timothy Geithner's leadership, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York told AIG to withhold details from the public about its payments to banks during the crisis. This information was discovered when emails between the company and the Fed were requested by representative Darrell Issa, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee."
Read the Article

Nuclear Terrorism: How It Can Be Prevented
Lawrence S. Wittner, History News Network: "The recent furor over an unsuccessful terrorist attempt to blow up an airliner is distracting us from considering the possibility of a vastly more destructive terrorist act: exploding a nuclear weapon in a heavily-populated area."
Read the Article

Yemen: The Mood in Sanaa
Heather Murdock, GlobalPost: "In an unassuming mosque, adorned only with graffiti and ancient stained-glass windows, about 30 women and children sat on the floor, listening to a sermon. The women wore black robes, but the veils that usually covered their faces were flipped up."
Read the Article

Iran Uses Fear of Covert Nuclear Sites to Deter Attack
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service: "The New York Times reported Tuesday that Iran had 'quietly hidden an increasingly large part of its atomic complex' in a vast network of tunnels and bunkers buried in mountainsides. The story continued a narrative begun last September, when a second Iranian uranium enrichment facility near Qom was reported to have been discovered by U.S. and Western intelligence."
Read the Article

Learning from Europe

McClatchy Washington report 1/11

  • A new report that reviewed 200 years of economic data from 44 nations has reached an ominous conclusion for the world's largest economy: Almost without exception, countries that are as highly indebted as the United States is today grow at sub-par rates.

  • A new state-of-the-art radar system on the Washington coast will make it easier for meteorologists to track heavy weather coming off the Pacific Ocean, as some scientists say the intensity of winter storms and waves pounding the Northwest shore is increasing.

  • The so-called individual mandate, a centerpiece of the sweeping effort to overhaul the country's health care system, seemed a non-issue during most of the early debate just months ago, but in recent weeks it has emerged as another obstacle in the effort to pass legislation providing health insurance to millions of Americans who lack it. Groups of people on both the right and the left ends of the political spectrum are objecting to proposals in Congress that would compel nearly every American to buy health insurance or face a fine.

  • A historic trial over California's Proposition 8 starts today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, promising to feature clashing witness testimony over equal rights, the meaning of bigotry and the purpose of marriage. The outcome could affect not only California but also the broader national question of equal rights for gays and whether their federal constitutional rights supersede a state's right to ban same-sex marriage.

  • There are signs that General Motors, after the bleakest year in its 101-year existence, which included a forced entry into bankruptcy, could be on the verge of a new dawn. The new GM has been stripped down to four core brands with a product lineup boasting many new, appealing and high-quality products. It's a company with opportunity to reverse decades of mismanagement and decline, according to GM officials, industry analysts and GM dealers.

  • Scott Roeder has admitted that he killed abortion provider George Tiller, but his trial is likely to shine a spotlight on the nation-wide battle between abortion-rights advocates and the anti-abortion movement.

  • A collection of Red Cross photos gives a rare glimpse inside the Guantanamo Bay prison camps that President Barack Obama wants to close. Taken in 2009 and scattered around the world, the photographs are among the most extensive public collection of detainee portraits anywhere. Only the closed files of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which took the photos, and U.S. Defense agencies have more.

  • Barrie Davis has long wanted to look into the eyes of the pilot who nearly blasted his P-51 Mustang out of the sky over a field in Romania during World War II. After 65 years, he'll finally get his chance. In a rendezvous arranged by a magazine writer and his filmmaker son, Davis and his wartime nemesis, Ion Dobran, will meet face to face for the first time later this month.

  • Swine flu disproportionately hits the young and the asthmatic, the pregnant and the diabetic. A federal study says American Indians also are at high risk. American Indians and Alaska Natives are four times more likely to die from H1N1 than all other ethnic groups combined, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that looked at the indigenous population in 12 states, representing half of America's total.

  • Freezing temperatures in Colombia have had a devastating impact on roses that are exported to the United States for Valentine's Day. Some of the dozens of greenhouses that dot the savannah surrounding the Colombian capital, Bogota, lost their entire production to unusually low temperatures that dipped to 19 degrees, according to the Colombian Association of Flower Producers. Colombia supplies about 60 percent of all the roses sold in the United States for Valentine's Day and 77 percent of all fresh-cut flowers through the year.

  • Alaska has always had a unique relationship with the federal government, but in recent weeks, Gov. Sean Parnell has taken the fist-shaking at Washington to a new level. Parnell said he has seen growing evidence of what he called the federal government under the Obama administration attempting "to over-regulate and overreach, and their attempt to determine our destiny as a state."

  • Hoping to end abuse at puppy mills, a group of animal welfare organizations is working to put a ballot initiative before Missouri voters this year. Missourians for the Protection of Dogs will try to gather 100,000 signatures of registered voters so the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act can be placed on the November statewide ballot.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Truthout 1/10

CO2 Trade War Hits Midwest
Joshua Frank, Truthout: "It's round one in the 2010 fight against global warming and Minnesota has landed the first punch against coal-fired electricity that crosses its borders. The state is seeking to place a tariff on carbon dioxide turned out by coal plants in North Dakota."
Read the Article

The Bad Job Numbers and the Secret Second Stimulus
Robert Reich, "The Labor Department reports that 85,000 jobs were lost in December. The official rate of unemployment (which measures how many people are looking for jobs) held steady at 10 percent nonetheless. That's because so many more people have stopped looking. Reportedly, 661,000 Americans dropped out of the labor force last month, deciding there was no hope of finding a job. Had they continued to look, the official unemployment rate would have been 10.4 percent."
Read the Article

Can China Save General Motors?
Thomas Mucha, Global Post: "Seven thousand miles from Detroit, GM builds a great wall of Buicks."
Read the Article

Influenza A: "They Organized the Psychosis"
In L'Humanite, Jean-Emmanuel Ducoin describes scandals of state in the approval and distribution of the influenza A vaccine, while his colleague Bruno Odet conducts a no-holds-barred interview with the president of the Council of Europe's Health Commission, German Wolfgang Wodarg, who, in a searing expose, accuses pharmaceutical lobbies and governments of serious irregularities.
Read the Article

"The Uh-Ohs": A Decade of Conservative Failure
Terrance Heath, The Campaign for America's Future: 'Forget about 'the Aughts.' Never mind 'the Naughts.' The decade just passed - and which promises to leave a lingering, bitter aftertaste - deserves a far better, more descriptive name. So for what it's worth, I hereby dub the past ten years 'The Uh-Ohs: A Decade of Conservative Failure.'"
Read the Article

Lawmakers Press for Geithner AIG Testimony
David Lawder, Reuters: "US lawmakers on Friday pressed for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to testify on whether the New York Federal Reserve Bank improperly pressured AIG to withhold information on payments it made to banks after its government bailout."
Read the Article

As Old-Timers Depart, Congress Breaks Down Under New Dynamics
David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers: "Congress is breaking down under the pressures of a number of modern, rapidly changing political dynamics. Among them: the rise of hyper-partisanship magnified by today's Internet, talk radio and cable TV ideologues; the drawing of legislative district lines to maximize partisan purity and to avoid making lawmakers have to appeal to voters of all stripes; and the passing from the scene of legislative veterans who came of age politically in the pre-technology age and who were schooled in the art of compromise."
Read the Article

Media Battles in Latin America Not About "Free Speech"
Mark Weisbrot, The Center for Economic and Policy Research: "For at least a month now in Ecuador there has been a battle over regulation of the media. It has been in the front pages of the newspapers most of the time, and a leading daily, El Comercio, referred to the fight as one for 'defense of human rights and the free practice of journalism.' This was in response to the government's closing down of a major TV station, Teleamazonas, for three days beginning December 22."
Read the Article

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Truthout 1/9

William Rivers Pitt | Go
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "I've been writing about unbelievably bad news for more than a decade now, so when the New Year came around this time, I made up my mind to try and come up with something to write about that was optimistic, positive, more upbeat, or something. It's all been so grim for so long now, with recent events providing no exception - a less-than-half-a-loaf health care ‘reform’ process, underwear bombers and a new nascent war in Yemen, the Afghan escalation, more suicide attacks in Iraq, bad housing stats, bankers running banking ‘reform’ and a bunch of Congressional Democrats whose imminent retirement could put Congress back in the hands of the people who lined up behind George W. Bush like ducks on a pond, which matters less thanks to the stark level of spinelessness evinced by those aforementioned Democrats and their ilk - and the first chore I gave myself after the holidays was to turn that frown upside down."
Read the Article

Michael Winship | California, Here We Come
Michael Winship, Truthout: "A number of years ago, when I would travel to California on business with my friend, the late journalist and comedy writer Eliot Wald, we always carved out time to visit a couple of those massive Los Angeles grocery chains, like Ralph's or Vons. It wasn't because we had a lust for retail or a massive munchie attack. Rather, we geekily would explore the aisles looking for the odd new products that had started in California, stuff we figured might soon migrate East.
Read the Article

Study: More Families Using Food Stamps to Feed Kids
David Goldstein, McClatchy Newspapers: "The United States has more poor children now than it did a year ago. As recession-hammered families increase, more are using food stamps to feed their kids, according to a study by the Brookings Institution and First Focus, a bipartisan child advocacy group."
Read the Article

Ray McGovern | Answering Helen Thomas on Why They Want to Harm Us
Ray McGovern, Truthout: "Thank God for Helen Thomas, the only person to show any courage at the White House press briefing after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner on Christmas Day."
Read the Article

Quick Hearing for Bomb Suspect, but Probably a Long Road Ahead
Peter Grier, The Christian Science Monitor: "At a hearing in Detroit, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab pleaded not guilty to charges that he tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day. US authorities will undoubtedly want to examine every step of his journey before proceeding with a trial."
Read the Article

Camillo "Mac" Bica | A New Strategy for America
Camillo "Mac" Bica, Truthout: "Despite President Obama's lack of courage and forthrightness in fulfilling his promise for change during a hectic first year in office, a year that began with much excitement, expectation and hope, I choose to believe, perhaps naively, that he is an intelligent, reasonable, well-intentioned and honest man. As we begin this New Year, however, with the patience of many growing thin, I urge President Obama to pause for a moment, put aside the political posturing, both national and global, and reflect upon and reevaluate his vision of America's role in the world as it exists today."
Read the Article

Mark Weisbrot: Proposed Amnesty Serves to Whitewash Honduran Coup
The Center for Economic and Policy Research: The international community should offer no support for planned amnesty for the perpetrators of the Honduran coup, Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said today. Noting that both ousted President Manuel Zelaya and coup leaders previously agreed on a deal to resolve the crisis that did not include amnesty for crimes, Weisbrot cautioned that current efforts to grant amnesty to the coup leaders would be merely an attempt to 'whitewash the coup.'"
Read the Article

Factory Farmed Meat Can Trigger a Global Pandemic That Wipes Out Sixty Percent of Those Infected
Kathy Freston, AlterNet: "The chicken and pork industries have wrought unprecedented changes in bird and swine flu. Billions could die in a deadly flu pandemic, the likes of which we have never seen."
Read the Article

Democracy Now! Interview With Andy Worthington
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy NOW! interview Truthout contributor Andy Worthington.
Read the Article

Whale Wars: Sea Shepherd Lodges Piracy Charge Against Japanese Whalers
Dan Murphy, The Christian Science Monitor: "Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society allege piracy following the collision between the antiwhaling ship Ady Gil and Japan's Shonan Maru Number 2 earlier this week."
Read the Article

Moms Rising: Hungry Children Can't Wait!

1 in 4 children in our nation are on the brink of hunger and need help now.

Tell your Representative to support the Access to Nutritious Meals for Young Children Act
Take Acti

"'I ask why they don't have any energy, and they say they haven't had enough to eat,' Jackson said. 'Then I talk to their mothers and they tell me there's no food in the house. It breaks my heart every day,' says program director Rita Jackson."[1] That's why she stashes bread and peanut butter that she personally pays for in her desk.

1 in 4 children in our nation are on the brink of hunger; and we need to fight together to get them help right away. Passing the Access to Nutritious Meals for Young Children Act would be a big step forward for hungry kids by helping programs like Jackson's ensure that millions more children across our country have access to healthy foods. [2]

Sadly, passage of this bill isn't a slam-dunk. We've got to redouble our efforts to end child hunger in America. Thanks to your 18,000 letters, the U.S. Senate is actively considering this bill, and now the House is poised to consider it as well. But this fight is just beginning.

Urge your Representative to make sure children have access to healthy foods as soon as possible:

How this bill will help: The Access to Nutritious Meals for Young Children Act will strengthen the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) by adding meal or snack options for children who need them, helping cover the cost of more meals for children who are in care for longer hours, and making more child care providers eligible for assistance. [3]

Why does improving children's access to healthy foods matter now more than ever? More moms are returning to work and more parents are working two jobs to make ends meet, so more children are in child care. [4] For many children, a child care program is their primary source of food. Studies show that children who were malnourished as babies and young children can suffer lasting behavioral and cognitive issues, including slower language development and lower grades. [5] With 1 in 4 U.S. children on the brink of hunger and the ever-increasing cost of nutritious foods, strengthening the CACFP now is crucial.

Hungry children can't wait. Tell your Representative to support the Access to Nutritious Meals for Young Children Act of 2009 today:

Please take another moment to forward this email to your friends and family. Everyone should have a chance to weigh in urging their Representative to support this crucial bill. Together, we can help children across our country have a healthy start.


Sarah, Kristin, Donna and the whole Team

PS: Thanks to the National Women's Law Center for all the great work they do on this important issue!

[1] "The Last Hope for Hungry," Washington Post, May 30, 2009

[2] "1 in 7 Americans Went Hungry in 2008," CBS News Story, November 16,2009

[3] Access to Nutritious Meals for Young Children Act

[4] "In Downturns Wake, Women Hold Half of U.S. Jobs," Wall St. Journal, November 12, 2009

[5] Zero to Three

Friday, January 8, 2010

On Pots And Kettles, Or, Peter King: Tool Of Terrorism, Victim Of Irony

As a result of a recent event involving an aircraft and underpants Representative Peter King (R-Not From Iowa), the senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, has again come forth to bring his expertise on questions of international terrorism to the national debate.

King, a Congressman who represents a district that straddles New York’s Long Island (NY-3), previously served as the Comptroller of Nassau County and a member of Hempstead, New York’s Town Council, which wouldn’t seem to be the kind of résumé that would give you much credibility in this arena—but Mr. King is a special case.

You see, Mr. King knows a great deal about terrorism...from the inside...because for many years the personal cause that drove his life was to be an active and public supporter of a terrorist group.

And that’s why, today, we’ll be connecting the dots between Congressman King and the Irish Republican Army.

“If this is a war on terrorism, then this person should not be treated as an ordinary criminal.”

--Peter King, on Good Morning America, January 6, 2010

When King says don’t treat them like an ordinary criminal, what he really means is that he supports a variety of interrogation methods for those who might be terrorists. In fact, in an interview with Politico last August King took offense to the very idea that Attorney General Holder would even investigate CIA interrogation practices:

"It’s bulls***. It’s disgraceful. You wonder which side they’re on..."

In the same interview King defended the practice of threatening the family of those being interrogated as well as the use of a power drill as a tool of coercion, both practices that qualify as torture under US law:

"Why is it OK to waterboard someone, which causes physical pain, but not threaten someone and not cause pain?"

He’s so fervent about stopping terrorism that, in a 2001 WABC interview, King even offered his support for the use of tactical nuclear weapons against terrorists.

And just the other day, he wondered why a terror suspect would even be allowed to fly at all.

With all due respect, Congressman...they allow you to fly, don’t they?

The (mostly Catholic) Irish Republican Army (and its political wing, Sinn Féin) has been seeking to unite Northern Ireland with the rest of Ireland for nearly a century. This has been challenged by the (mostly Protestant) Ulster Volunteer Force, who want to continue Northern Ireland’s status as a separate entity within the United Kingdom.

It is reported that the IRA killed more than 2000 people from 1972 to 2002 (in fact, they apologized for those killings); the British Army response includes the events that were the inspiration for the U2 song Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Among the most famous of the IRA’s terror attacks was a 1974 bombing targeting the House of Commons in London and the assassination of Lord Mountbatten, the Queen’s cousin, in 1979.

Americans have been among the victims of IRA bombings; the recently departed Bush Administration made a deal for compensation for some of those victims.

The IRA had a foreign policy, as well, including a relationship with Libya’s Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi that was well underway as early as 1973, involving, at a minimum, the illegal importation of weapons and Semtex explosive into Ireland.

Americans played a major part in the fundraising support for the IRA’s campaign of terror—and prominent among those Americans...was...wait for it...(not yet a Congressman) Peter King, who, ironically, had his telephone calls monitored due to his status as a terrorist sympathizer by the same intelligence establishment he now oversees in his Congressional capacity.

How sympathetic was King? Consider this comment, from a 1982 speech King gave at pro-IRA rally in Nassau County, New York:

"We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry."

(Now Congressman) King was on the dais for the 28th Annual Irish Northern Aid Testimonial Dinner in 1999 (NORAID being the IRA’s US fundraising arm). In 2005 the Bush Administration ordered such fundraising stopped; this because the IRA, in the Administration’s view, was still involved in criminal activity in Ireland.

According to Federal Election Commission records NORAID’s publicity director, attorney Martin Galvin, has only contributed to one Federal political campaign from 1979 to 2008—Peter King’s. This is the same Martin Galvin that reportedly supported the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, which was eventually designated by the US State Department as a “foreign terrorist organization”.

NORAID gave back to King as well. In 1985 they arranged for King to be named Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade—which, in New York City, is about as big a deal as a politician could ever hope for.

King is also reported to have frequented a Belfast bar known as an IRA hangout, the Felons Club.

An Irish judge once refused to allow King to attend a trial for an IRA member because the judge felt King “...was an obvious collaborator with the IRA."

By the way, this is the same Peter King that once told John McCain he:

"...shouldn't shy away from raising the Ayers connection, to raise questions about Obama's judgment."

(Remember William Ayers? He’s the terrorist that Sarah Palin wanted everyone to know Obama was “palling around with” during the 2008 campaign.)

The American fundraising was driving the political leadership in the UK to fits, including former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who, according to notes taken by her staff in 1979, felt that:

“The Americans must be made to realise that for so long as they continued to finance terrorism, they would be responsible for the deaths of US citizens as well as others...The Americans must be brought to face the consequences of their actions.”

So at this point I could end the story by yelling: “Hypocrite, hypocrite, big stinky-butt hypocrite!”...or by suggesting we get all Cheney on the guy and waterboard him to see what other IRA plots he may still be aware of...but the fact is, the picture is a lot more complex than what’s been presented up to this point.

There is reporting that suggests King was willing to meet with representatives of both Sinn Féin and the opposition Ulster Unionist movement, and that his efforts not only helped the Irish peace process, but came at considerable personal risk.

He was also closely associated with Bill Clinton’s efforts to promote peace in Ireland, an unusual partnership for a Republican Congressman and a serving Democratic President in the “modern era” of post-Watergate politics.

And it wasn’t just King—Teddy Kennedy, Alfonse D’Amato, and [insert the name of virtually any “downstate” New York politician here] were working the same rallies and knew some or all of the same people King knew—and were hoping to harvest from the same community of voters and donors and volunteers.

And that’s how we get to the great irony of today’s story:

There is one man in American Government who has literally “palled around” with terrorists—in their own bar, back home in Belfast—and he wasn’t content to just pal around with the terrorists, he went further and actually helped the terrorists fundraise on US soil...for years...despite the fact that the terrorists were also attacking Americans.

And if that wasn’t enough, he kicked it up a notch and palled around with two opposing groups of terrorists, and in doing so, actually made the world a better place.

And yet, in today’s Republiteabag Party Express© environment, when he might be able to apply some of that Irish experience to this conflict, he can’t...which is too bad, because if he did something big, bipartisan, and statesmanlike, right now, it might give him the best shot he’ll ever have at becoming a a time when Republiteabaggers badly need a few seats.

In fact, if he was able to tell his own Party this story, it might be the best thing he could do to get more than one new Senator elected...but, ironically, he can’t, because if he ever promoted his own history, he would be rejected by his own a “dagblessid terr-ir-ist”...which would mean that the guy who once told John McCain to exploit a terrorist connection...might well be outed as one by McCain’s former running mate.

Which, my friends, is some pretty deep irony.

Truthout 1/8

Dahr Jamail | Army Imprisons Soldier for Singing Against Stop-Loss Policy
Dahr Jamail, Truthout: "Army Specialist and Iraq war veteran Marc Hall was incarcerated by the US Army on December 11, 2009, in Liberty County Jail, Georgia, for recording a song that expresses his anger over the Army's stop-loss policy."
Read the Article

Senate's Tax on High-Cost Health Plans: Democratic Suicide Pact?
Art Levine, Truthout: "A much-vaunted Senate proposal to tax high-cost health plans, once seen as all but inevitable, came under new attacks Wednesday from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, members of the Democratic caucus and influential health policy experts - even as President Obama was reported as pressing Pelosi to accept the Senate version. The Senate bill would impose a 40 percent excise tax on plans worth more than $23,000 for families and $8,500 for individuals, with the purported aim of raising $150 billion in revenues and reducing health care costs from these so-called 'Cadillac' plans."
Read the Article

Torture Report Still Under Review, Should Be Released "Soon"
Jason Leopold, Truthout: "The Department of Justice is still working on the report prepared by an agency watchdog that probed several legal opinions John Yoo and two other former attorneys who worked at the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) wrote for the Bush White House on torture, an agency spokeswoman said Wednesday."
Read the Article

Double Standards: How Our Lawlessness Strengthens Our Enemies
Shahid Buttar, Truthout: "We have failed to even investigate torturers, yet we have prosecuted and imprisoned millions for lesser offenses. And we allow mass murderers the benefit of constitutional rights that we deny detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. Until policymakers examine and fix these double standards, they will continue to undermine our foreign policy, as well as our domestic criminal justice system."
Read the Article

Pelosi Says Congress Nearing Final Health Bill
Yana Kunichoff, Truthout: "On the second day of closed door meetings with President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congressional Democrats are nearing agreement on a merger of the Senate and House health care bills into a comprehensive piece of legislation."
Read the Article

President Obama's Foreign Policy Report Card: A Gentleman's "C"
Melvin A. Goodman, Truthout: "Nearly a year into the Obama presidency, it is time to gauge Barack Obama's performance in the foreign and national security arena, assessing his policy, personnel and process. The president arrived in Washington five years ago with virtually no international experience and with conventional liberal views about American interests."
Read the Article

Three Approved GMO's Linked to Organ Damage
Rady Ananda, Truthout: "In what is being described as the first ever and most comprehensive study of the effects of genetically modified foods on mammalian health, researchers have linked organ damage with consumption of Monsanto's GM maize."
Read the Article

Economy Loses 85,000 Jobs in December, Ends Decade With Job Loss

Dean Baker, The Center for Economic and Policy Research: "The economy lost another 85,000 jobs in December, driven by continued job losses in construction and manufacturing. While the current data still show a 378,000 job gain for the decade, these numbers will be lowered by approximately 824,000 when the benchmark revision is incorporated into the data with the release of the January employment report. The data show a decline in private sector jobs of 1,549,000 for the decade. The benchmark revision will increase the private sector job loss for the decade to more than 2.4 million."
Read the Article

Proposition Eight Trial Tape Might Be Shown on Web

Susan Ferriss, The Sacramento Bee: "Pending approval by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the public will be able to see delayed tapes of the high-profile federal trial on Proposition 8 that begins Monday in San Francisco."
Read the Article

Avatar Obama and the United States of Hype

Angel Luis Lara, La Jornada (Translation: Ryan Croken): "We live in the era of hype. The word, which bounces and bounds throughout the matrices of our information age, refers to a cultural product that has been so juiced up with marketing that its popularity takes off independently and regardless of its quality. It is the wrapping that matters: the advertisement is louder, more important and more real than what is advertised."
Read the Article

FP morning post 1/8

Pants bomber to appear in court today

Top news: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas day, is due to appear in Federal Court in Detroit today to be arraigned on six charges, including attempted murder and attempted use of a "weapon of mass destruction." If convicted on all six counts, Abdulmutallab would face life in prison.

A senior national security official in Yemen said on Thursday that Abdulmutallab had met there with members of Al Qaeda, as well as the radical American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki before setting out on his journey. However, he denied reports that Abdulmutallab had received the explosives in Yemen, saying that he acquired them when he changed planes in Lagos, Nigeria.

In response to the attempted bombing, President Barack Obama yesterday directed officials to patch up holes in the U.S. intelligence system, particularly how information about potential security threats is checked against terrorism watchlists. Obama stopped short of ordering a major overhaul of the U.S. intelligence system or firing senior officials.

Staying put: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will stay in place for at least another year.


  • Six suspected militants in Karachi were killed when their explosives detonated accidentally .
  • Malaysia is on high alert for ethnic violence after a church bombing that killed three Christians.
  • Sri Lanka has rejected UN claims that a video showing extrajudicial killings by its military is real.

Middle East

  • Responding to a rocket attack yesterday, Israel launched an airstrike against Gaza smuggling tunnels.
  • Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi was reportedly shot at while driving in his care.
  • Five explosions targeting law enforcement officials ripped through Iraq's Anbar province on Thursday.


  • France deported a radical Egyptian imam accused of calling for violence.
  • Direct flights between Georgia and Russia have resumed for the first time since the 2008 war.
  • A car bombing in Northern Ireland injured a policeman.


  • The Ugandan government has asked a lawmaker to withdraw an anti-gay bill that has caused controversy around the world.
  • The Nigerian House of Representatives plans to debate President Yar'Adua's long absence from public life.
  • French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner traveled to Rwanda to attempt to defuse recent tensions between the countries.


  • The charges against six senior Honduran military officers for the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya last year are likely to be dropped.
  • A Mexican human rights activist was killed in violence-wracked Ciudad Juarez.
  • Two members of the U.S. congress say Venezuela belongs on the list of terrorist-sponsoring states.

-By Joshua Keating

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Bubbles and the banks

New York Times

Health care reform is almost (knock on wood) a done deal. Next up: fixing the financial system. I’ll be writing a lot about financial reform in the weeks ahead. Let me begin by asking a basic question: What should reformers try to accomplish?

A lot of the public debate has been about protecting borrowers. Indeed, a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to help stop deceptive lending practices is a very good idea. And better consumer protection might have limited the overall size of the housing bubble.

But consumer protection, while it might have blocked many subprime loans, wouldn’t have prevented the sharply rising rate of delinquency on conventional, plain-vanilla mortgages. And it certainly wouldn’t have prevented the monstrous boom and bust in commercial real estate.

Reform, in other words, probably can’t prevent either bad loans or bubbles. But it can do a great deal to ensure that bubbles don’t collapse the financial system when they burst.

Bear in mind that the implosion of the 1990s stock bubble, while nasty — households took a $5 trillion hit — didn’t provoke a financial crisis. So what was different about the housing bubble that followed?

The short answer is that while the stock bubble created a lot of risk, that risk was fairly widely diffused across the economy. By contrast, the risks created by the housing bubble were strongly concentrated in the financial sector. As a result, the collapse of the housing bubble threatened to bring down the nation’s banks. And banks play a special role in the economy. If they can’t function, the wheels of commerce as a whole grind to a halt.

Why did the bankers take on so much risk? Because it was in their self-interest to do so. By increasing leverage — that is, by making risky investments with borrowed money — banks could increase their short-term profits. And these short-term profits, in turn, were reflected in immense personal bonuses. If the concentration of risk in the banking sector increased the danger of a systemwide financial crisis, well, that wasn’t the bankers’ problem.

Of course, that conflict of interest is the reason we have bank regulation. But in the years before the crisis, the rules were relaxed — and, even more important, regulators failed to expand the rules to cover the growing “shadow” banking system, consisting of institutions like Lehman Brothers that performed banklike functions even though they didn’t offer conventional bank deposits.

The result was a financial industry that was hugely profitable as long as housing prices were going up — finance accounted for more than a third of total U.S. profits as the bubble was inflating — but was brought to the edge of collapse once the bubble burst. It took government aid on an immense scale, and the promise of even more aid if needed, to pull the industry back from the brink.

And here’s the thing: Since that aid came with few strings — in particular, no major banks were nationalized even though some clearly wouldn’t have survived without government help — there’s every incentive for bankers to engage in a repeat performance. After all, it’s now clear that they’re living in a heads-they-win, tails-taxpayers-lose world.

The test for reform, then, is whether it reduces bankers’ incentives and ability to concentrate risk going forward.

Transparency is part of the answer. Before the crisis, hardly anyone realized just how much risk the banks were taking on. More disclosure, especially with regard to complex financial derivatives, would clearly help.

Beyond that, an important aspect of reform should be new rules limiting bank leverage. I’ll be delving into proposed legislation in future columns, but here’s what I can say about the financial reform bill the House passed — with zero Republican votes — last month: Its limits on leverage look O.K. Not great, but O.K. It would, however, be all too easy for those rules to get weakened to the point where they wouldn’t do the job. A few tweaks in the fine print and banks would be free to play the same game all over again.

And reform really should take on the financial industry’s compensation practices. If Congress can’t legislate away the financial rewards for excessive risk-taking, it can at least try to tax them.

Let me conclude with a political note. The main reason for reform is to serve the nation. If we don’t get major financial reform now, we’re laying the foundations for the next crisis. But there are also political reasons to act.

For there’s a populist rage building in this country, and President Obama’s kid-gloves treatment of the bankers has put Democrats on the wrong side of this rage. If Congressional Democrats don’t take a tough line with the banks in the months ahead, they will pay a big price in November.

McClatchy Washington report 1/8

  • President Barack Obama Thursday declined to fire anyone for the lapses that allowed a suspected terrorist carrying explosives to board a plane for Detroit on Christmas Day, and said for the first time that he bears the ultimate responsibility for any breach that endangers Americans.

  • While the U.S. economy slogged through its deepest tailspin since the Great Depression and Americans slashed spending last year, food prices kept rising sharply for much of 2009, as they have for years.

  • In the weeks before Timothy Geithner's confirmation as treasury secretary, his underlings at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York directed American International Group (AIG) to delay publicly disclosing that tax dollars were used to pay in full $62 billion in insurance-like bets it owed to major U.S. and foreign banks.

  • South Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell said Thursday the S.C. Senate may not ever vote on a censure of Gov. Mark Sanford that the House expects to approve next week. McConnell, R-Charleston, worried that the nonbinding resolution had the potential to bog down Senate business.

  • Citing "overwhelming" evidence and recent federal reports that confirm growing ties between Venezuela and international drug trafficking networks, Republican members of Congress have this week asked the Obama administration to put the oil-producing country on the list of nations that require monitoring because they pose a security risk.

  • Federal authorities are investigating whether the former commissioner of the state Division of Motor Vehicles illegally wiretapped the phone calls of agency employees. George Tatum, who resigned in 2007 amid a corruption scandal, had a special telephone in his office that allowed him to listen in on the calls of his subordinates without their knowledge, according to current DMV officials.

  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will propose ending furloughs for state workers at the end of June but seek permanent pay cuts and higher employee retirement contributions in their place, administration officials said Thursday. Schwarzenegger will ask the Legislature to approve those changes as part of his budget proposal today, which is a "Furlough Friday" for state workers.

  • This much is certain about the U.S. contractor arrested in Cuba last month: He gave civilian groups communications gear. But the specific nature of the equipment, which remains a mystery, threatens to complicate his legal case in Cuba — and some experts say it could bolster the Castro government's contention that he was a spy on a mission to destabilize the regime. The U.S. State Department denies the accusation.

  • One in seven juveniles incarcerated at McLaughlin Youth Center report being sexually victimized, and most of the perpetrators are staff members, a new national study by the U.S. Justice Department says. The rate of sexual victimization at McLaughlin, Alaska's biggest juvenile offender facility, was 15 percent, just above the national rate at similar facilities of 12 percent, the Bureau of Justice Statistics study said.

  • Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission Thursday pleaded for financial support from the international community to hold parliamentary elections on May 22, but donors want reforms.

  • Bankruptcy filings in Sacramento and the Central Valley soared to an all-time high in 2009, up nearly 50 percent from 2008's totals, figures from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento showed Thursday. The tally: 45,924 bankruptcy cases filed in the district's federal courthouses in Fresno, Modesto and, the busiest, Sacramento, where nearly 29,000 of the cases were filed.

  • Now might be a good time to remind everyone that terrorists don't literally have to hit their mark to make a mark. The young Nigerian failed to blow up that Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.

    But considered from another perspective, he hit the bulls-eye. Killing people, by whatever means, is just the terrorist's method. The goal is to disrupt, to strike fear, to sew discord among the enemy. And listen to us now, so willing to oblige.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Common Dreams headlines 1/7

US Scientists Demand Government Ban on Mountaintop Mining

Geithner's New York Fed Pushed AIG to Keep Sweetheart Deals Secret

Afghan War Kills 3 Children a Day: Report

Two Ex-Blackwater Staff Charged With Afghan Murders

Court Tosses Washington Voting Ban for Felons

Israel to Pay UN Compensation of US $10m

Stricter Rules for Oil and Gas Leasing on Federal Land

Truthout 1/7

Retired Army General Predicts 300 to 500 Casualties Per Month in Afghanistan
Mary Susan Littlepage, Truthout: "The US could see as many as 300 to 500 soldiers killed and wounded per month in Afghanistan as 30,000 additional troops are sent to the country to launch a major offensive against insurgents, retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey said in a recent report."
Read the Article

Guantanamo Recidivism: Mainstream Media Parrot Pentagon Propaganda (Again)
Andy Worthington, Truthout: "Last May, The New York Times uncritically published a front-page story entitled, '1 In 7 Detainees Rejoined Jihad, Pentagon Finds,' in which Elisabeth Bumiller, relying on an unpublished Pentagon report, stated that '74 prisoners released from Guantanamo have returned to terrorism, making for a recidivism rate of nearly 14 percent.'"
Read the Article

Energy Department, NRC Back Nuclear, Ignore Industry's Dirty Little Secrets
Art Levine, Truthout: "Edith Hood isn't part of the grand debate over climate change as leading environmental groups and President Obama's secretary of energy increasingly accept nuclear power as a necessary part of any solution to the global warming crisis. She is just a Native-American woman living in the Coyote Canyon reservation area of New Mexico, and back in 2007, she tearfully tried to convince a House oversight committee that the federal government should do more to clean up the uranium waste where she lives - and the legacy of death and illness all the mining caused."
Read the Article

Rove's Scheherazade Strategy: The Art of Political Storytelling
Luc Mandret at Marianne2 and Pierre Labasse with Jean-Marie Charpentier at Les Echos argue the centrality of communications strategies to social cohesion - or dissolution.
Read the Article

The Byron Dorgan Thunderclap
E.J. Dionne Jr.: "A politically shrewd Senate Democratic staff member chatting about the future of health care negotiations stopped in midsentence late Tuesday afternoon as news flashed across his computer screen. 'My God,' he said. 'Byron Dorgan is retiring.'"
Read the Article

The Melting of America
Orville Schell, "Lately, I've been studying the climate-change induced melting of glaciers in the Greater Himalaya. Understanding the cascading effects of the slow-motion downsizing of one of the planet's most magnificent landforms has, to put it politely, left me dispirited. Spending time considering the deleterious downstream effects on the two billion people (from the North China Plain to Afghanistan) who depend on the river systems -- the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Irrawaddy, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Amu Darya and Tarim -- that arise in these mountains isn't much of an antidote to malaise either."
Read the Article

Pat-downs for Nigerians, Pakistanis... and Cubans
Nick Miroff, Global Post: "Travelers from this island making the 90-mile trip to the United States already face a gauntlet of roadblocks. First there are the bureaucratic hurdles - a visa from the US government, and permission to travel from Cuban authorities. Then there is the cost of the 45-minute flight to Miami, which, at more than $500, can feel like a galling rip-off. Hefty baggage fees further gouge Cuban wallets."
Read the Article

Iran Move to Defrock Dissident Ayatollah Opens Rifts in Theocracy
Iason Athanasiadis, The Christian Science Monitor: "The decision to defrock a dissident ayatollah ñ widely considered to wear the mantle of spiritual leader of the opposition ñ has pried open conflicts within the Islamic Republic's religious core."
Read the Article

If Health Care Bill Passes, Some Changes Would Start Fast
David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers: "More money for community health centers. Immediate help for the uninsured. No more lifetime limits on coverage. Under the health care legislation that's moving through Congress, these and other benefits would take effect quickly and should produce a noticeable impact on consumers, according to many independent analysts and Democrats."
Read the Article

Hillary Clinton: Yemen Needs More Than Airstrikes and Diplomacy
Howard LaFranchi, The Christian Science Monitor: "As it deals with the challenges presented by poor countries like Yemen, the United States aims to elevate development assistance to equal footing with the traditional foreign-policy tools of diplomacy and defense."
Read the Article

Suspect in Airplane Bombing Attempt Indicted, Faces Life in Prison
Shashank Bengali, McClatchy Newspapers: "A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted the suspect in the foiled Christmas Day airline bombing on six criminal counts that could bring a life sentence if he's convicted. In a seven-page indictment, a grand jury in Michigan charged that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, attempted to use 'a weapon of mass destruction' by starting a fire with explosive chemicals he'd smuggled onto Northwest Airlines Flight 253, which was carrying 289 other passengers and crew members to Detroit."
Read the Article

FP morning post 1/7

Violence rocks Coptic Christmas in Egypt

Top story: At least six Egyptian Coptic Christians and a security official were killed in a drive-by shooting while leaving a Christmas Eve mass yesterday, part of a growing wave of inter-religious violence in the country. Today, rioting broke out at a a funeral procession for the victims.

The shooting, which took place outside a church in the town of Naj Hammadi, is thought to be in retaliation for the rape of a 12-year-old Muslim girl by a Christian man in November. Five days of rioting followed that crime. The Church's bishop said they had been warned of an attack on Christmas eve and had cut services short.

At today's funeral, thousands of protesters threw rocks and clashed with police. They were frustrated by the hospitals delays in releasing the bodies to be buried.

Copts account for about 10 percent of Egypt's population. Attacks against the community have increased in recent years according to Amnesty International.

Kimonomics: North Korea's recent decisions to crack down on private markets and revalue the country's currency have led to rampant inflation.


  • Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for last week's attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan.
  • A 20-hour gun battle between militants and Indian security forces in Kashmir ended with four dead.
  • Thousands of former Maoist child soldiers have been released the camps where they have been held, as part of a peace deal.

Middle East

  • Eight people were killed in bomb attacks in the Iraqi city of Hit.
  • Iraq and Iran have begun talks on their disputed border.
  • Yemen says attempted plane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab may have met with a radical Yemeni-American cleric linked to the Ft. Hood shooting.



  • At least 139 people may have been killed in a tribal attack in Southern Sudan last weekend.
  • Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is urging the softening of his country's controversial proposed anti-gay bill.
  • The Nigerian opposition has accused the government of forging ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua's signiture on offcial documents.


  • Honduran prosecutors issued arrest warrants for six of the country's top generals in connection with last year's coup.
  • The Cuban government says the U.S. contractor who was arrested in Havana last month was working for U.S. intelligence.
  • Mexican President Felipe Calderon said that creating jobs and reducing poverty will be higher priorities than fighting the drug war this year.

-By Joshua Keating