Thursday, February 4, 2010

FP morning post 2/4

China escalates trade spats with U.S. and E.U.

Top news: One day after U.S. President Barack Obama promised to "get much tougher about enforcing existing rules" on trade with China and said he would pressure Beijing to let the Yuan appreciate, the Chinese government has hit back. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said that the Yuan -- currently pegged at about $6.83 per dollar -- is at a reasonable level and is not the cause of the trade imbalance between China and the United States.

"We hope the American side sees the problems within the China-US trade co-operation objectively and reasonably and continues to negotiate on an equal basis," Ma said. "Accusations and pressure do not help to solve the problem."

Obama made his comments at a meeting with Democratic lawmakers and added that while all countries must abide by existing trade rules, it would be a mistake to resort to protectionism. "What I don't want to do is for us as a country or as a party, to shy away from the prospects of international competition," he said.

The United States has had little success in the past in pressuring China to revalue its currency. The markets seemed bearish on Obama's latest push as well with one-year dollar/yuan non-deliverable forwards implying just a 2.8 percent rise in the yuan over the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, China has also escalated a trade fight with the European Union, filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization about anti-dumping duties imposed on Chinese-made shoes.

Toyota: Still reeling from a massive international recall due to faulty gas pedals, Toyota has acknowledged brake problems on its Prius model.


Asia and Pacific

Middle East

  • Israel's foreign minister warned Syria that it would lose if the two goes went to war again.
  • A leading Iranian human rights activist and journalist was arrested on Wednesday.
  • An Iraqi appeals court overturned a controversial ban on hundreds of election candidate who had ties to the Baath party.

Americas

  • The U.S. baptists accused of child trafficking in Haiti will appear before a prosecutor today.
  • The U.S. has opened two new centers to treat evacuated earthquake victims in Tampa and Atlanta.
  • The Mexican military arrested 10 people in connection with three headless bodies found near Ciudad Juarez.

Europe

Africa

-By Joshua Keating

http://link.email.foreignpolicy.com/r/GKKXWOY/WBUE/LPXW/SA1O/RRJV/VU/h

ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images

McClatchy Washington report 2/4

  • A feisty but occasionally frustrated President Barack Obama tried Wednesday to calm nervous Senate Democrats about their political futures and prospects for passing major legislation, as he urged them to keep pushing hard for solutions to the nation's most vexing problems.

  • The Obama administration Wednesday announced plans to boost the use of biofuels - including more ethanol from corn - and speed up work on a plan to capture carbon dioxide from coal, now the biggest source of global warming pollution.

  • In the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling that ended most restrictions on corporate funding in elections, a congressional panel was asked Wednesday to enact greater limits on the influence of foreign companies in U.S. elections.

  • Thousands of Port-au-Prince's newly destitute residents aren't waiting for the government or the United Nations to provide shelter. As they have for decades, they're taking matters into their own hands, cobbling shelter together from whatever's at hand. Government leaders worry that scores of makeshift shacks rising from the dust of the quake will become permanent slums and frustrate plans to rebuild Port-au-Prince.

  • A South Carolina ethics panel that is investigating Gov. Mark Sanford is not likely to resolve soon whether the two-term Republican broke state law with his travel and campaign expenses. The nine-member panel has not yet asked to schedule a hearing on 37 charges that Sanford's use of state aircraft, business-class tickets and campaign money violated state ethics laws.

  • Three American soliders were killed and two were wounded Wednesday in troubled northwestern Pakistan when a roadside bomb exploded. The deaths, the first known U.S. military casualties in Pakistan since 1979, brought unwanted attention to the small U.S. troop presence that American officials have sought to downplay so as not to feed anti-American sentiment.

  • The peaceful plains of Kansas wouldn't seem to be fertile ground for medical marijuana. Yet in the same week that state lawmakers voted to make Kansas the first state to outlaw a synthetic form of pot, a Wichita legislator introduced a bill to legalize marijuana with a doctor's prescription.

  • Former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley's press secretary said in sworn testimony that the governor wanted e-mail messages to and from his office deleted so they would not become public. Easley finished his second and final term last year. Since then, federal investigators have conducted a wide-ranging investigation into the privileges and benefits that Easley's administration granted to his friends and associates.

  • A reemergence of the paramilitaries, and their successors, are terrorizing Colombia anew. In a new report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch, the U.S.-based NGO said the successor groups pose a growing threat to human rights and security in Colombia.

  • A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that the Schwarzenegger administration acted legally when it enforced a new law that eliminated two former state holidays — Lincoln's Birthday and Columbus Day.

  • It was probably just a matter of time. But less than one day? Sacramento sheriff's officials say that's how long it took for an inmate who was set free Monday under an early-release plan, which is aimed at reducing California's prison population, to be arrested again, this time on a charge of attempted rape.

  • Alaska's Board of Game voted this week to allow Alaskans to own hybrids of wild cats — provided their gene pool is watered down — while rejecting calls to legalize monkeys, sloths and other exotic pets.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Common Dreams headlines 2/3

Israeli Commander: 'We Rewrote the Rules of War for Gaza'
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/03-1

Rendition Victim Moves to Sue US
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/03-2

Gitmo Judge Urged to Recuse Himself After ProPublica Interview
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/03-4

Obama Eyes Biofuels, Clean Coal in New Climate Push
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/03-9

As House and Senate Fumble Health Reform, Free Clinics Still Serving the Uninsured Sick
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/03-8

Obama's Silent War Shocks Pakistan
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/03-6

and more...

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Video...

Jeff Cohen on Progressives and the Democratic Party
http://www.commondreams.org/video/2010/02/03

"America's Secret Afghan Prisons": Investigation Unearths New US Torture Site, Abuse Allegations in Afghanistan
http://www.commondreams.org/video/2010/02/02-0

Truthout 2/3

Patriot Act - Eight Years Later
William Fisher, Truthout: "After 2009 - a year when federal prosecutors charged more suspects with terrorism than in any year since the attacks of September 11, 2001 - and in today's atmosphere of heightened fear triggered by the aborted plot to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, Congress will begin again next month to consider reauthorization of key parts of the USA Patriot Act."
Read the Article

Henry A. Giroux: "If You Can Think Differently, You Can Act Differently."
Leslie Thatcher, Truthout: On Wednesday, January 27, 2010, Leslie Thatcher spoke over the phone with Henry Armand Giroux about his book, "Youth in a Suspect Society." Public pedagogy and the war on democracy were also discussed. He declared, "No category seems to me more central to democratic life - and the ethical and moral underpinnings required to support it. What kind of society will young people inherit? What are we doing to them now? How are we betraying them?"
Read the Article

Senate Committee Set to Take Up Nomination of Dawn Johnsen
Kyle Berlin, Truthout: "The Senate Judiciary Committee will 'most likely' vote Thursday on whether to resend Dawn Johnsen, the nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel, to the Senate floor, according to a senior Senate staffer."
Read the Article

Taliban Kill Three US Soldiers in Pakistan Roadside Bomb Attack
Liam Stack, The Christian Science Monitor: "A roadside bomb attack killed at least seven people, including three Americans, in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, news agencies report. The US fatalities represent a significant victory for Taliban militants, who claimed responsibility for the attack, after months of increasing drone attacks. The US embassy in Islamabad has confirmed that three US military personnel were killed and two wounded in the blast, Pakistani daily Dawn reports."
Read the Article

Homeland Insecurity: Why "No-Fly" Just Doesn't Fly
Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., Truthout: "Here's a quick quiz: What do Ted Kennedy, Cat Stevens and Nelson Mandela have in common? Okay, so that's an easy one for you folks with attention spans longer than it takes to type out a tweet. Indeed, all of these luminaries have appeared on the 'No-Fly List,' also known as the 'Terrorist Watch List,' which is used to prevent suspect persons from being able to fly on commercial aircraft in or out of the United States. The list was established after 9/11, and is estimated to contain perhaps half a million names, although its precise workings are shrouded by the vicissitudes of 'national security.'"
Read the Article

Robert Naiman | Eat Your Spinach: Time for Peace Talks in Afghanistan
Robert Naiman, Truthout: "In the last week, The New York Times and Inter Press Service have reported that the Obama administration is having an internal debate on whether to supports talks with senior Afghan Taliban leaders, including Mullah Muhammad Omar, as a means of ending the war in Afghanistan. Senior officials like Vice President Biden are said to be more open to reaching out because they believe it will help shorten the war."
Read the Article

The Iraqi Oil Conundrum: Energy and Power in the Middle East
Michael Schwartz, TomDispatch.com: "How the mighty have fallen. Just a few years ago, an overconfident Bush administration expected to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, pacify the country, install a compliant client government, privatize the economy, and establish Iraq as the political and military headquarters for a dominating US presence in the Middle East. These successes were, in turn, expected to pave the way for ambitious goals, enshrined in the 2001 report of Vice President Dick Cheney's secretive task force on energy."
Read the Article

Jim Hightower | Republicans Out of Touch as Middle Class Sinks
Jim Hightower, Truthout: "American politics is a hoot! Where else can raw ignorance rise to such high places - and then flaunt itself shamelessly for all to see?"
Read the Article

Afghan Anguish
Dominique Bari in L'Humanite and Sara Daniel in Le Nouvel Observateur explore some of the contradictions, incongruities and losses associated with the new Afghanistan strategy of "national reconciliation."
Read the Article

Deb Price | A Cheat Sheet for Straight Allies
Deb Price, Truthout: "'So what's the big deal?' That was the question from a young colleague when the issue of gays in the military came back up. Those of us who're gay hear that response more and more often from heterosexual coworkers, relatives and friends."
Read the Article

Bill Moyers Journal | Big Money in Politics
Bill Moyers Journal: "In the wake of a controversial Supreme Court decision giving corporations and unions more freedom to spend on elections, many federal and state lawmakers are hoping to curb Citizens United v. the FEC's effect on elections. The 'Journal' explores how some legislators are fighting to curb Big Money spending even as the court invalidates laws in 24 states aimed at keeping elections clean."
Read the Article

FP morning post 2/3

U.S. soldiers and children killed in Pakistan school bombing

Top news: A bomb planted outside a girls' school in the Lower Dir district of Pakistan Northwest Frontier Province killed three U.S. soldiers, three children and a Pakistani soldier on Wednesday. The Americans were part of a small group of troops working to train the Pakistani Frontier Corps, which is responsible for security in the volatile northwest.

They were reportedly on their way to attend the inauguration of a school built with U.S. humanitarian assistance when the bomb went off. More than 50 people were injured in the blast. No U.S. soldiers are formally stationed in Pakistan, though a number are involved in intelligence and training missions. That U.S. troops are involved in development assistance was not previously known.

The U.S. carried out its largest ever drone attack in Northwest Pakistan on Tuesday night with a 16-18 missile barrage in Waziristan that killed at least 10 people.

Gays in the military: At a hearing on Capitol Hill, both Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates advocated ending the U.S. military's "don't ask don't tell" policy.


Middle East

  • A motorcylce bombing killed at least 20 at a gathering of Shiite pilgrims in Karbala, Iraq.
  • Iran successfully launched a research rocket into space.
  • Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now says he has "no problem" with shipping uranium abroad for enrichment.

Asia


  • The White House says President Obama will go ahead with plans to meet the Dalai Lama, despite Chinese protests.
  • Sri Lanka's elections commissioner says no rigging took place during the country's presidential voting but there were abuses during the campaign.
  • Japanese prosecutors will probably not file charges against Democratic Party leader Ichiro Ozawa for misreporting funds.

Africa

  • Appeals judges say the International Criminal Court was wrong in not charging Sudanese President Omar al Bashir with genocide.
  • A Guinean inquiry has found one renegade soldier solely responsible for last September's massacre of protesters.
  • The World Food Program says the number of people needing food aid in South Sudan has quadrupled to nearly 4 million.

Americas

  • An orphanage director says many of the Haitian children that a U.S. baptist group was attempting to take out of the country last week had parents.
  • Officials say Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has begun talking to federal agents again.
  • A shootout at a shopping center in Northern Mexico killed one policemen and seven suspected cartel gunmen.

Europe

-By Joshua Keating.

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STR/AFP/Getty Images

McClatchy Washington report 2/3

  • After a slow start, states struggling with record unemployment are scrambling to create and expand subsidized jobs programs that could employ thousands of poor adults, teens and even disabled people. They're running out of time, however, because nearly $4 billion in unspent stimulus money that would finance the efforts is set to expire on Sept. 30.

  • The nation's top military officer told Congress Tuesday that gay men and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military, the strongest endorsement ever by the nation's military leadership for overturning the law that excludes them from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

  • One day after being publicly scolded by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Lockheed Martin officials overseeing the F-35 joint strike fighter program insisted it is in better shape than recent events suggest.

  • President Barack Obama's 2011 budget got a cool — at times frosty — reception Tuesday from the lawmakers he needs most, as congressional Democrats offered a host of reasons they're skeptical of the White House plan.

  • Rep. Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican who shouted at prsident Obama in September, and challenger Rob Miller raised more than $626,000 combined in the last quarter of 2009, giving Wilson a 2009 fundraising total of $3.42 million, while Miller raised just over $2 million.

  • The oil and trucking industry sued to block California's new carbon fuel regulations Tuesday, saying the rules will raise costs but do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Fresno, lobbyists for oil refiners, truckers and other groups charged that the state's "low carbon fuel standard" is unconstitutional.

  • Gov. Rick Perry holds a 15-point lead over U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, while Tea Party activist Debra Medina is continuing to gain ground and may be wresting support from Hutchison, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports poll.

  • Haiti's economy was turned inside out after the earthquake, with prices soaring and entire companies disappearing. Now, as Haitians still dig for their dead and the government struggles to reorganize, the business community is trying to figure out how to jump-start the economy amid a historic opportunity to reshape the nation.

  • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's "Medicaid Reform" experiment looks like it won't expand statewide beyond Broward County and four Jacksonville-area counties as he had hoped. The HMO industry doesn't like parts of the plan. Liberals say the program hasn't been properly studied. And Republican legislators are concentrating on solutions of their own to control growing costs of the program.

  • Despite its status as an emerging hub for human trafficking, Kansas City may soon lose nearly $1 million in federal funds for police training and aid for trafficking victims. Two local agencies — the Independence Police Department and Hope House — received three-year Justice Department grants in 2006 but will not reapply, officials said. The grants expired at the end of last year.

  • California is on the verge of losing $93 million in federal money earmarked for home weatherization grants, according a report released on Tuesday. The money is contingent on the state Department of Community Services and Development proving it has effectively used $93 million already received for the same purpose.

  • A push to increase the size of the Legislature so rural Alaska doesn't lose representation after this year's census is proving contentious, with a price tag running in the millions. Alaska's legislative districts will be redrawn in 2012 using the population numbers that come from the census. That is bad news for many parts of rural Alaska, where population has dropped or remained flat.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Truthout 2/2

Melvin A. Goodman | President Obama and the CIA: What Must Be Done
Melvin A. Goodman, Truthout: "New presidents (and President Barack Obama is no exception) fall in love with three Washington institutions: the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency and Camp David. The Camp David love affair makes sense; it contributes to the president's physical and mental health. The infatuation with the military and intelligence communities, however, can create serious problems for both the administration and the nation."
Read the Article

Obama Administration's Budget Calls for Billions of Dollars in New Spending for Drones
Jason Leopold, Truthout: "This is how major US defense contractors reacted to the Obama administration's unveiling of its fiscal year 2011 spending plan for the Pentagon, part of the president's overall $3.8 trillion budget proposal."
Read the Article

Leslie Thatcher | Reign of Moloch
Leslie Thatcher, Truthout: "When, in a casual aside during a Macroeconomics lecture at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 1976, Dr. Jamshed K. S. Ghandi mused about how and when children had gone from being 'investment goods' to becoming 'consumer goods,' I assumed that he was referring to the already-noticeable trend among middle class baby boomers like myself to prepare for the arrival of a new baby with the purchase of vast quantities of baby 'materiel' in constant need of disposal, upgrade, restocking, making the child a locus of unremitting consumption."
Read the Article

Obama's One-Dollar Promise to Women
Dick Meister, Truthout: "One of the most important promises made by President Obama in his State of the Union address has been largely overlooked: his promise to crack down on violations of equal pay laws, so that women get equal pay for an equal day's work."
Read the Article

Obama Discusses War, Jobs and the Environment Live on YouTube
Mary Susan Littlepage, Truthout: "President Obama sat down with an interviewer from YouTube Monday afternoon to sell his $3.8 trillion budget for fiscal year 2011. It's the latest step by an administration relentlessly focused on finding new ways to connect with the public."
Read the Article

Landmark Case Could Restore Felon Voting Rights
Matthew Cardinale, Inter Press Service: "A historic ruling earlier this month on behalf of felons who lost the right to vote could call into question the disenfranchisement of felons and ex-felons in the State of Washington and indeed across the United States."
Read the Article

Norman Solomon | Don't Call It a "Defense" Budget
Norman Solomon, Truthout: "This isn't 'defense.' The new budget from the White House will push US military spending well above $2 billion a day. Foreclosing the future of our country should not be confused with defending it."
Read the Article

Does President Obama Really Want a "Better Approach" to Fix Health Care?
Kevin Zeese, Truthout: "Obama keeps saying he wants better ideas, but then will not meet with doctors desperately trying to let him know a better approach."
Read the Article

US, Karzai Clash on Unconditional Talks with Taliban
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service: "On the surface, it would seem unlikely that Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who presides over a politically feeble government and is highly dependent on the U.S. military presence and economic assistance, would defy the United States on the issue of peace negotiations with the leadership of the Taliban insurgency."
Read the Article

Your Ticket to Violence and Squalor
Mark Chou, Truthout: "'Save a life, create jobs and rebuild communities.' Three reasons to travel you can't say no to. That's the pitch of Los Angeles's newest tourist attraction: LA Gang Tours. And it's a pitch that seems to be working. Even before the company opened for business earlier this month, tickets had already sold out."
Read the Article

Prop 8 Trial Week Three: The Cliffhanger
Eric Malone, OpEdNews: "The fabled trial to overturn Proposition 8 in California is wrapping up after almost three weeks of testimony, and it's looking good for the plaintiffs who support same-sex marriage. (The defense is backing Prop 8, the initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, denying that same right to gay people.) The attorneys working to overturn Prop 8 concluded most of their evidence and testimony last week, and this week the supporters of the gay marriage ban presented only two witnesses, pared down from a much larger number."
Read the Article

Robert Reich | Our Incredible Shrinking Democracy
Robert Reich, RobertReich.org: "I wish conservatives would stop complaining about big government and start worrying about the real problem - small democracy. I wish we'd all worry more about our incredible shrinking democracy."
Read the Article

Mexico Considers Clamping Down on Twitter
Michael E. Miller, GlobalPost: "Mexico has racked up its fair share of menacingly named outlaws in a three-year drug war: the Zetas, Aztecas and even a band of female assassins called the Panthers. Now, if the government gets its way, another name will also make the wanted list: los Twitteros."
Read the Article

NOW | Has the Democratic Party Traded Principles for Power?
NOW: "To gain their historic control of Congress, Democrats fielded moderate candidates who didn't always follow the party line, especially when it came to abortion. Now that the Democratic Party has the legislative upper hand, are they willing to negotiate away reproductive rights for other political gains?"
Read the Article

Norman Solomon on Guiding the Democratic Party in a Progressive Direction (VIDEO)
Norman Solomon spoke at the Santa Rosa Democratic Club meeting on January 27, 2010. In a short video clip he gives a summation of his speech.
Read the Article

Common Dreams headlines 2/2

US, Karzai Clash on Unconditional Talks with Taliban
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/02-8

New Defense Strategy Envisions Multiple Conflicts
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/02

Large Portion Of GOP Thinks Obama Is Racist, Socialist, Non-U.S. Citizen: Poll
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/02-9

Global Warming Makes Trees Grow at Fastest Rate for 200 Years
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/02-3

Woodland Caribou Under Threat in Oilsands Area, Group Says
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/02-6

Judge Blocks Further Protests Against Massey Energy Mountaintop Mining
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/02-5

Washington's Refusal to Talk about Drone Strikes in Pakistan Meets Growing Opposition
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/02-7

Study Finds 'No Child' Has Low Teacher Support
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/02-4

and more...

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Video...

Prayer Breakfast Reflects Poorly on Obama
http://www.commondreams.org/video/2010/02/02

FP morning post 2/2

Iran to execute more opposition activists

Top news: With major opposition protests planned for Feb. 11, Iran plans to execute nine more protesters for the crime of moharebeh, or waging war against god. Activists Arash Rahmanipour and Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani were hanged last week. They were arrested before the disputed June 12 presidential elections but their cases became intertwined with those of the "green" protesters arrested over the summer.

"Nine others will be hanged soon. The nine and the two who were hanged on Thursday, were surely arrested in the recent riots and had links to anti-revolutionary groups," said senior judicial official Ebrahim Raisi today.

Senior cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati praised the executions during last Friday's prayer sermon saying that if the state "shows weakness, we will suffer more. There is no room for Islamic mercy.”

The opposition has called for mass demonstrations on the anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic on Feb. 11. In a statement on his website, opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi said that the Islamic Revolution had failed to achieve most of its goals.

"Stifling the media, filling the prisons and brutally killing people who peacefully demand their rights in the streets indicate the roots of tyranny and dictatorship remain from the monarchist era," he said.

Haiti: U.S. geologists say there is a 90 percent chance of the island being hit by a magnitude 5 earthquake or greater in the next month with a 3 percent chance of a magnitude 7 quake.


Middle East

Asia

  • China warned that a planned meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama will further damage U.S.-China relations.
  • Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim goes on trial for a second time to face sodomy charges that are widely considered to be politically motivated.
  • The Pakistani military has offered to help train Afghan troops.

Europe

Africa

  • Somali pirates abandoned an Indian-flagged dhow they had hijacked two weeks ago.
  • The Sudanese army accused the United Nations of arming Darfur's rebels.
  • South Africa's polygamist President Jacob Zuma is under fire after a newspaper reported that he had fired his 20th child out of wedlock.

Americas

  • The aircraft carrier USS Vinson is leaving Haitian waters after delivering 500 tons of food aid.
  • Haitian prosecutors questioned the 10 U.S. missionaries being held on child trafficking charges.
  • The mayor of Ciudad Juarez says the massacre that killed 16 at a children's birthday party last Saturday may have been a "random" act.

-By Joshua Keating

http://link.email.foreignpolicy.com/r/188GBJO/2CBJ/YV3N/G1MX/7C85/YT/h

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

McClatchy Washington report 2/2

  • The Obama administration projects rosier economic-growth prospects than most mainstream economists do but a sobering jobless recovery, according to documents released Monday about underlying assumptions in the government's $3.83 trillion federal budget for 2011.

  • U.S. and Russian negotiators Monday began finalizing a new 10-year nuclear arms reduction treaty after President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev resolved the last major differences over a pact to cut both nations' deployed strategic nuclear warheads by about a third.

  • South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham plans to introduce a bipartisan bill Tuesday to block funding for civilian trials of five alleged plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks who are now being held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

  • California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner leveled charges that a top adviser to rival Meg Whitman's campaign attempted to bully him out of the two-way GOP gubernatorial primary race by issuing "crystal-clear" threats. Poizner called on state and federal law enforcement officials to investigate what he characterized as potentially criminal intimidation tactics.

  • The chance of another big earthquake in Haiti in the near future is great enough that people in Port-au-Prince should sleep in tents, geologists said Monday. The probability of an aftershock of magnitude 7 or greater in Haiti in the next 30 days is 3 percent, the probability of one magnitude 6 or greater is 25 percent, and of one magnitude 5 or greater is about 90 percent, according to a report by the United States Geological Survey.

  • Secretary of Defense Robert Gates voiced strong dissatisfaction Monday with a lack of progress on the F-35 joint strike fighter program, publicly taking prime contractor Lockheed Martin to task. Gates said he decided to replace the Pentagon's manager overseeing the F-35, Marine Major Gen. David Heinz, with a higher ranking officer — a three star general or admiral — to run the program. Gates also said $614 million will be withheld from Lockheed to help the government cover rising F-35 expenses.

  • President Barack Obama's budget is not a California rescue plan. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants $6.9 billion in additional federal money to help plug the state's $19.9 billion deficit, but Obama's plan provides only about $1.5 billion, according to Schwarzenegger officials.

  • The federal trial over Proposition 8's constitutionality ended its witness testimony in San Francisco last week with just two witnesses for the defense and one simple claim. The defense argued that even if Proposition 8 harms gays and lesbians and any children they may have, voters had a right to exclude gays from marriage because of concerns that children are best raised by their biological mothers and fathers.

  • Mills Bigham was a 19-year-old Marine in Iraq when he made his first kill. Less than four years later on Oct. 19, Lance Cpl. Mills Palmer Bigham sat in his red Chevy Tahoe, put a .410-gauge shotgun to his forehead and pulled the trigger one last time. Family said Bigham suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In hopes they can prevent another veteran's suicide, Bigham's family recently founded Hidden Wounds, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Columbia, S.C.

  • Rene Preval had hoped the defining moment of his five-year reign over the crippled nation of Haiti would be this: building new roads, creating a stronger government and stabilizing the political landscape. But in the aftermath of last month's earthquake, his moment is now, as he seeks to lead Haiti out of its most daunting disaster before his presidential terms ends Feb. 7, 2011.

  • China, India, the U.S. and the rest of the world's biggest polluters turned in their official pledges to reduce emissions, a move that gives global climate protection a start, the United Nations announced on Monday.

  • News of a higher price tag than expected and competition from other gas supplies are growing skepticism among Alaska's state legislators that TransCanada Corp. can deliver on the long-awaited natural gas pipeline to the Lower 48.

Indiana Property Tax Caps: Should They Be In The Constitution?

Indianapolis, IN - The Indiana Institute for Working Families released a policy brief, Indiana Property Tax Caps: Using Dollars and $ense to Make the Right Decision, which examines the property tax restructuring legislation, and discusses whether a key component of the property tax restructuring - the caps - should be placed in the State's constitution.


"Property taxes are a real hot button issue. We want all Hoosiers to be educated about the issue when they vote this fall," said Lisa Travis, Team Leader of CAA Network Support.


In March 2008, the Indiana General Assembly enacted legislation overhauling the State's property tax system. The purpose of the "1-2-3" legislation as it has come to be known, was to cap property taxes for homeowners, rental property owners, and businesses at 1%, 2 %, and 3% of assessed value, respectively. In 2009, the caps were in the process of being phased-in and were set at 1.5%, 2.5%, and 3.5%. Under the 2009 caps, 2.7% of all property tax cap credits were distributed to homeowners with the vast majority of the tax cap credits (97.3%) being given to owners of rental properties and businesses taxed under 2.5% and 3.5% caps.


Beginning in 2010, the 1%, 2%, and 3% caps will be in full effect, which means the use of the tax cap credits could change dramatically in 2010. A March 2009 analysis, by the Indiana Legislative Services Agency (LSA), estimates that the cost of the homestead tax caps could grow by nearly 600% when the homeowners' cap is tightened from 1.5% to 1%.3


While property taxes were reduced for many Hoosier homeowners, these tax cuts were paid for through an increase in the state's sales tax and the elimination of a number of existing property tax relief mechanisms. As a result, renters are shouldering a large portion of the cost of property tax relief for homeowners. One estimate found that as many as 60% of Indiana renters would pay more in taxes under the restructuring, while close to 80% of homeowners would pay less.


The next stage of the property tax debate requires deciding whether or not to place the tax caps in the State constitution. Voters will have their say at the polls this November. However, the property tax caps are already in Indiana state statute. Adding the caps to the constitution will not result in increased property tax cuts for homeowners. Instead, it will tie the hands of future Hoosiers and their representatives to adjust the property tax caps in times of economic distress (as it takes two legislative sessions to remove an amendment from the State constitution).


"The full impact of the caps on local services such as schools, fire and police protection, and road maintenance will not be clear until much later. Protecting these untested provisions from future alteration is unnecessary and irresponsible," said Lisa Travis, Team Leader of CAA Network Support.


To view the policy brief in its entirety, please visit www.incap.org.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Truthout 2/1

William Rivers Pitt | Schooled
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "In my last article, I made the following observation regarding the challenges President Obama faced on the eve of his Wednesday evening State of the Union address: 'The American people, well-trained in the art of short-term memory loss, have come to the conclusion that everything happening now is Obama's fault, and the polls reflect this without dispute. One speech on Wednesday night won't fix all that ails us, but if Mr. Obama doesn't hit precisely the right notes in the delivery, his second year could come to make his first year seem like a Cape Cod clambake by comparison.'"
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Art Levine | What Happens If Obama's Plan Can't Create Enough Jobs?
Art Levine, Truthout: "The president pivoted in last week's State of the Union speech to emphasizing jobs as his health care plan stalled. But there are serious doubts among progressive economists, independent analysts and even small businesses that could receive his proposed tax credits whether his jobs creation package will actually work."
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Shiite Pilgrims Targeted as Iraq Bombings Intensify
Jane Arraf, The Christian Science Monitor: "A female suicide bomber walked into a tent full of Shiite pilgrims on Monday, killing at least 46 people and wounding another 100 in the latest attack in the run-up to Iraqi elections next month."
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Obama Budget Aims at Solidifying Women's Support
James Rosen, McClatchy Newspapers: "With women's advocacy groups voicing growing unease with administration policy, President Barack Obama will propose a $3.8 trillion budget on Monday that would exempt programs for women and girls from spending restrictions he's proposed for other programs."
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Dean Baker | The Second Great Depression Bogeyman
Dean Baker, Truthout: "Our political leaders continually assert that we should be thanking them that we are not in a second Great Depression rather than complaining about how bad things are. The second Great Depression theme came up repeatedly in the debate over the reappointment of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke. It also featured prominently in Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's defense of his handling of the AIG bailout."
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Haiti Women's Micro-Lending Bank Brings Big Cash to Rescue (VIDEO)
Peggy Simpson, Women News Network: "A micro-credit program and banking system for more than 200,000 women in Haiti has come to the rescue of the overall economy in the wake of the devastating earthquake. At a time when Haitian commercial banks remain closed, Fonkoze, the Haitian branch of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, mobilized over one weekend to get funds to its members in rural towns as well as Port-au-Prince."
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Seven Days in January: How the Pentagon Counts Coups in Washington
Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com: "Sometimes it pays to read a news story to the last paragraph where a reporter can slip in that little gem for the news jockeys, or maybe just for the hell of it. You know, the irresistible bit that doesn't fit comfortably into the larger news frame, but that can be packed away in the place most of your readers will never get near, where your editor is likely to give you a free pass."
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Personal Corporatehood: Coping With the Reason Divided of Citizens United
Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., Truthout: "There's great consternation brewing over the recent Supreme Court decision that cements and extends the misbegotten logic of 'corporate personhood,' and rightly so. Surely, one of the most farcical and tortuous doctrines ever established in our system of jurisprudence, this conflated concept has drawn the ire of (small-d) democrats at least as far back as Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in 1816, 'I hope we shall ... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.'"
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On the Ground in Port-au-Prince
Bill Quigley, Truthout: "Hundreds of thousands of people are living and sleeping on the ground in Port-au-Prince. Many have no homes, their homes destroyed by the earthquake. I am sleeping on the ground as well - surrounded by nurses, doctors and humanitarian workers who sleep on the ground every night. The buildings that are not on the ground have big cracks in them and fallen sections, so no one should be sleeping inside."
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Taxing the Rich
Lawrence S. Wittner, Truthout: "Decades ago, right wingers began championing cuts in income taxes for the rich and - when that lowered government revenue - turned around and claimed that government could no longer "afford" to maintain vital public services like education and health care. Unfortunately, in an effort to curry favor with the wealthy and their corporations, many state and national officeholders began to adopt the right wing's tax-cutting model."
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Remembering Our Humanity
Michael N. Nagler, Truthout: "The decade has not begun with a paean to human wisdom. Two recent acts of folly in particular share a deep and pernicious connection that bears some pondering, and I am not even referring to the capture of Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts. I am referring to the 5-4 Supreme Court decision on Thursday last week ratifying an absurd and dangerous notion that had been let loose in the public discourse almost by accident nearly a century ago, namely the legal 'personhood' of corporations, and secondly to the introduction of full-body scanning for 'security' that is coming soon to airports near you."
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Big Bodies vs. the Biosphere
W. David Kubiak, Truthout: "In the fog of war, climate chaos and economic ruin, the import of the United Nations' COP10 biodiversity treaty conference in Nagoya in October 2010 may be easily overlooked. Given the mighty array of corporate forces now encircling this treaty's premises, that could prove a huge mistake."
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James Perry's Run for Mayor of New Orleans
Jordan Flaherty, ColorLines Magazine: "On New Year's Eve in 2004, nine months before Hurricane Katrina hit, bouncers in the Bourbon Street club Razzoo's killed a black college student named Levon Jones. The outrage led to near-daily protests outside the club, threats of a black tourist boycott of the city and a mayor's commission to explore the issue of racism in the French Quarter. Despite widely publicized advance warning, a 'secret shopper' audit of the Quarter found rampant discrimination in local businesses. Bars had different dress codes, admission charges and drink prices - all based on whether the patron was black or white."
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Common Dreams headlines 2/1

'Peace Prize' President Submits Largest War Budget Ever
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/01-9

'Climate Emails Hacked by Spies'
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/01-5

Afghan 'Geological Reserves Worth a Trillion Dollars'
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/01-6

CIA Operatives Moonlight in Corporate World
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/01-0

Detente with Iran Recedes as US Strengthens Gulf Defenses
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/01-4

'Orphan Rescue' Attempt Hits Nerve among Haitians
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/01-1

and more...

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Video...

Free Speech for Corporation: What Does the Citizens United v. FEC Decision Mean for You and for Democracy?
http://www.commondreams.org/video/2010/02/01-0

Afghanistan's Embattled Hospitals
http://www.commondreams.org/video/2010/02/01

FP morning post 2/1

China threatens sanctions over U.S.-Taiwan arms deal

Top story: Reacting angrily to a planned U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, China has threatened to slap sanctions on U.S. companies participating in the deal. China has also suspended planned visits between high-ranking military officials, postponed a planned arms control meeting, and summoned U.S. ambassador John Huntsman to voice its disapproval of the deal, which was announced on Friday. The $6.4 billion deal includes 60 Black Hawk helicopters, 114 Patriot air defense missiles, and two Osprey mine-hunting ships.

The Chinese media lambasted the United States for the deal with the government-run China Daily saying it, "exposes [its] usage of double standards and hypocrisy on major issues related to China's core interests." The People's Daily described as evidence of "rude and unreasonable Cold War thinking".

The latest tensions could be the first of a series of diplomatic flare-ups between the United States and China this year. President Barack Obama is also expected to meet soon with the Dalai Lama, further straining ties with Beijing.

Haiti

  • The United States is resuming airlifts of injured Haitians to U.S. hospitals, five days after the flights were suspended.
  • Aid agencies have launched a new food distribution program focusing primarily on women.
  • Ten Americans from an Idaho church group were arrested for trying to transport 33 children over the Dominican border without proper identification.

Middle East

  • Envoys of the Dalai Lama met with Chinese officials in Beijing.
  • The Pakistani Taliban denied reports that leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone strike and says it will produce evidence that he is alive.
  • North and South Korea held talks on Monday, days after gunfire was exchanged across the border.

Africa

  • The African Union elected Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika as its new president, despite a bid from Libyan leader Muammar al Qaddafi to stay on.
  • A Royal Dutch Shell oil pipeline was sabotaged in Nigeria shortly after the country's Mend rebels declared they were ending their ceasefire.
  • Heavy mortar fire between African Union peacekeepers and Shabaab rebels in Mogadishu killed at least 12 civilians.

Americas

Europe

  • Russian police broke up anti-Kremlin demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg, arresting more than 100.
  • U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is in Cyprus for unity talks.
  • German authorities say a Swiss source offered to sell them confidential bank data showing tax evasion by over 1,500 German citizens.

-By Joshua Keating

http://link.email.foreignpolicy.com/r/722VCUZ/ONQN/HRM7/S2EB/YLFD/4O/h

SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images

Good and boring

PAUL KRUGMAN
New York Times

In times of crisis, good news is no news. Iceland’s meltdown made headlines; the remarkable stability of Canada’s banks, not so much.

Yet as the world’s attention shifts from financial rescue to financial reform, the quiet success stories deserve at least as much attention as the spectacular failures. We need to learn from those countries that evidently did it right. And leading that list is our neighbor to the north. Right now, Canada is a very important role model.

Yes, I know, Canada is supposed to be dull. The New Republic famously pronounced “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative” (from a Times Op-Ed column in the ’80s) the world’s most boring headline. But I’ve always considered Canada fascinating, precisely because it’s similar to the United States in many but not all ways. The point is that when Canadian and U.S. experience diverge, it’s a very good bet that policy differences, rather than differences in culture or economic structure, are responsible for that divergence.

And anyway, when it comes to banking, boring is good.

First, some background. Over the past decade the United States and Canada faced the same global environment. Both were confronted with the same flood of cheap goods and cheap money from Asia. Economists in both countries cheerfully declared that the era of severe recessions was over.

But when things fell apart, the consequences were very different here and there. In the United States, mortgage defaults soared, some major financial institutions collapsed, and others survived only thanks to huge government bailouts. In Canada, none of that happened. What did the Canadians do differently?

It wasn’t interest rate policy. Many commentators have blamed the Federal Reserve for the financial crisis, claiming that the Fed created a disastrous bubble by keeping interest rates too low for too long. But Canadian interest rates have tracked U.S. rates quite closely, so it seems that low rates aren’t enough by themselves to produce a financial crisis.

Canada’s experience also seems to refute the view, forcefully pushed by Paul Volcker, the formidable former Fed chairman, that the roots of our crisis lay in the scale and scope of our financial institutions — in the existence of banks that were “too big to fail.” For in Canada essentially all the banks are too big to fail: just five banking groups dominate the financial scene.

On the other hand, Canada’s experience does seem to support the views of people like Elizabeth Warren, the head of the Congressional panel overseeing the bank bailout, who place much of the blame for the crisis on failure to protect consumers from deceptive lending. Canada has an independent Financial Consumer Agency, and it has sharply restricted subprime-type lending.

Above all, Canada’s experience seems to support those who say that the way to keep banking safe is to keep it boring — that is, to limit the extent to which banks can take on risk. The United States used to have a boring banking system, but Reagan-era deregulation made things dangerously interesting. Canada, by contrast, has maintained a happy tedium.

More specifically, Canada has been much stricter about limiting banks’ leverage, the extent to which they can rely on borrowed funds. It has also limited the process of securitization, in which banks package and resell claims on their loans outstanding — a process that was supposed to help banks reduce their risk by spreading it, but has turned out in practice to be a way for banks to make ever-bigger wagers with other people’s money.

There’s no question that in recent years these restrictions meant fewer opportunities for bankers to come up with clever ideas than would have been available if Canada had emulated America’s deregulatory zeal. But that, it turns out, was all to the good.

So what are the chances that the United States will learn from Canada’s success?

Actually, the financial reform bill that the House of Representatives passed in December would significantly Canadianize the U.S. system. It would create an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency, it would establish limits on leverage, and it would limit securitization by requiring that lenders hold on to some of their loans.

But prospects for a comparable bill getting the 60 votes now needed to push anything through the Senate are doubtful. Republicans are clearly dead set against any significant financial reform — not a single Republican voted for the House bill — and some Democrats are ambivalent, too.

So there’s a good chance that we’ll do nothing, or nothing much, to prevent future banking crises. But it won’t be because we don’t know what to do: we’ve got a clear example of how to keep banking safe sitting right next door.

McClatchy Washington report 2/1

  • President Obama's proposed 2011 budget, which will be officially unveiled today, calls for spending $1.3 trillion more than the government takes in — then continue with deficits of more than $700 billion a year for at least a decade. The proposal would keep in place Bush-era tax breaks for those earning under $250,000, but let them expire for those making more.

  • It happened in 1994. The state's congressional delegation went from 8-1 Democratic to 7-2 Republican. Among the Democrats who lost was Rep. Tom Foley, the first sitting House speaker to lose a re-election bid since the Civil War. Now Democrats and Repubicans in Washington state are wondering if it could happen again.

  • Hakimullah Mehsud was Pakistan's most wanted man and a top target for the U.S — especially after he appeared in a video with the Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees Dec. 30 at an Afghan outpost known as FOB Chapman. He was the target of two drone strikes, one on Jan. 14 and the other, Jan. 17

  • There should be no major surprises in the 2011 defense budget, which the Obama administration and the Pentagon will unveil today, unlike a year ago when some big programs got hit by the budget ax. The first defense budget developed by President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whose details were not released until April last year, whacked some big-dollar programs, including Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor fighter jet.

  • On Feb. 1, 1960, a Monday like today, Franklin McCain and three other freshmen at N.C. A&T University in Greensboro, walked a mile from campus to the F.W. Woolworth five-and-dime on North Elm Street, to make a statement against segregation. They purchased a few items — McCain bought toothpaste and a composition book — and asked for receipts. Then they found the "whites-only" lunch counter and simply sat down.

  • Scott Roeder watched television in his motel room at the Garden Inn, trying to relax. Roeder was frustrated, having made his latest trip to Wichita, and to Reformation Lutheran Church. This time, the Saturday evening service was in Swahili. The young women wearing short skirts had offended him. On top of all that, the reason he'd been going to the church wasn't there. Again.

  • For Capitol insiders, it's easy to chalk it up as a bluff when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposes terminating welfare-to-work and in-home care for the disabled if California doesn't get billions in federal money he's requested. But it's no chess game for a welfare-to-work mother seriously trying to find a job, or a person in a wheelchair whose living stipend has already been slashed twice in one year.

  • The Obama administration's announcement Sunday about the resumption of the flights came just hours after former Federal Emergency Management Director R. David Paulison -- who won praise for leading FEMA in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- said he was worried that the response in Haiti was too haphazard.

  • It's been roughly five years since Rhodes came home from his third tour in Iraq, and despite a highly-decorated 29-year career in the Army, and praise from the likes of Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, for his efforts in suicide prevention, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Rhodes still wrestles with his own demons.

  • In a downturned economy, going to the movies is an enduring entertainment option. Still one of the cheapest out-of-home entertainment venues, movie theaters are ringing up profits with the proliferation of premium technology, such as IMAX and 3-D, and because movie-going — even during the the Great Depression — has always been driven by product: movies that people want to see.

  • In the past week, there's been much discussion of possible talks with the Taliban. Afghan parliament members held meetings in the Maldives, a U.N. official met apparently with an intermediary in Dubai, and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai asked for Saudi help in setting something up. But those who know the Taliban best say there's no authorization for talks.

  • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush headlined a fundraiser for Bill McCollum's gubernatorial campaign, starred in a YouTube video touting Jeff Atwater's campaign for state chief financial officer and helped install state Sen. John Thrasher as the state party's heir apparent. The capper came Thursday when he appeared on NBC's Today Show.

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, RobertReich.org: "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

PAUL KRUGMAN
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.

Read All Comments (415) »

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.

Asia

  • 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.

Americas

Europe

  • 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.

Africa

-By Joshua Keating

http://link.email.foreignpolicy.com/r/IYYDKCE/DKZT/9DO6/ZWQ9/O9WY/GX/h

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

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."
Read the Article

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."
Read the Article

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."
Read the Article

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."
Read the Article

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."
Read the Article

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.'"
Read the Article

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."
Read the Article

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."
Read the Article

Obama's Secret Prisons: Night Raids, Hidden Detention Centers, the "Black Jail" and the Dogs of War in Afghanistan
Anand Gopal, TomDispatch.com: "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."
Read the Article

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."
Read the Article

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."
Read the Article

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."
Read the Article

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.


Asia

Middle East

Europe

  • 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.

Americas

  • 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.

Africa

  • 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

http://link.email.foreignpolicy.com/r/BMM7ZH4/95C7/LPXW/HLG5/DM6Q/HK/h

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
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/27-7

House Progressives Push Reid to Put Public Option Back on Table
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/27-4

Scientists Warn Doing Nothing Will Likely Lock in Worst Consequences of Climate Change
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/27

Military Aid Puts Afghans' Lives at Risk - Report
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/27-2

Oregon Voters Pass Tax Increasing Measures by Big Margin
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/27-8

US Military Teams, Intelligence Deeply Involved in Aiding Yemen on Strikes
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/27-0

Kerry: Climate Change Supporters Must Match Tea Party Intensity
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/27-5

Honduras Swears in Porfirio Lobo as President
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/27-6

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, TomDispatch.com: "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.

CLICK HERE TO MAKE YOUR CALL

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:

FRESHMAN DEMOCRATS FACE TROUBLE IN 2010 IF CONGRESS DOESN'T PASS A PUBLIC OPTION

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.

CALL NOW AND ASK HOUSE DEMOCRATS TO SIGN THE POLIS/PINGREE LETTER TODAY

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

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

Asia

Americas

  • 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.

Europe

Africa

  • 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

http://link.email.foreignpolicy.com/r/S33NFXU/CX2U/54BH/Y4X8/5O3S/W1/h

INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

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 www.sacbee.com.

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, RobertReich.org: "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

Err-America
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.


Asia
* 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.
Americas
* 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.
Europe
* 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.

Africa
* 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

http://link.email.foreignpolicy.com/r/RNNFRWP/ONIS/54BH/M8GL/5OFG/QR/h

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images


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.

http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=979

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.

http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=979

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

--Donna, Ashley, Anita, Julia, Kristin, Joan, and the MomsRising.org 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!

http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=EFKsQGFT/h1YPKspKzXQr8114EKykwWr
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, rorotoko.com: "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, TomDispatch.com: "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

Asia

Europe

Americas

Africa

  • 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

http://link.email.foreignpolicy.com/r/YHHTLQG/0OUK/IF5M/1K5Q/46J5/PJ/h

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."
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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.

FIND AN EMERGENCY RALLY NEAR YOU

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.

ATTEND AN EMERGENCY RALLY ON TUESDAY


Thank you for everything you do,

-Charles

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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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
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/22-1

Last Decade Warmest Ever: NASA
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/22-5

RFK, Jr., Coal Baron Spar Over Mountaintop Removal, Climate Change
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/22-2

Judges Urge Congress to Act on Indefinite Terrorism Detentions
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/22-7

One Quarter of US Grain Crops Fed to Cars - Not People, New Figures Show
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/22-3

US Policy in Gaza Remains Unchanged
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/01/22-6

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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