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    Repiglican Roast

    A spirited discussion of public policy and current issues

    Location: The mouth of being

    I'm furious about my squandered nation.

    Tuesday, September 30, 2008

    Gerald Lechliter writes:

    I'm a retired (1999) Army colonel and was astounded by McCain's confusion about military "strategy" during the debate. I listened to it and then read the applicable area in the transcript. Either he was using language extremely carelessly or he didn't learn some basics in his military career. He was a Navy captain who attended, I believe, the National War College and national security is supposedly his strong suit. It should be second nature.

    A good analogy to explain military strategy is a stool with three legs: goals (mission); means (concept of operation); and resources (people and equipment). If the legs are not balanced, you have an unbalanced stool, increasing the likelihood of failure.

    The surge added troops (resources) to carry out the counterinsurgency mission of defeating the insurgents and establishing enough stability so that the Iraqis themselves could develop the means of controlling the violence.

    The final goal (grand strategy as distinguished from military strategy) is the emergence of a fully functioning Iraqi state friendly to the US. Military strategy must support that goal. The primary means (concept of operation) in the military strategy was to station small units among the Iraqis rather than in large Forward Operating Bases; cordon off the neighborhoods of Baghdad with cement walls; co-opt the Sunnis by paying them to fight al Qaeda in Iraq; and winning the hearts and minds of the population that tolerated and supported insurgents (dry up the sea in which the insurgents found nourishment). His continued stating that the surge was a strategy is inexplicable.

    Finally, many factors unrelated to a preceding the surge led to the reduction in violence. For example, the decision of Sunni tribal leaders to eliminate al Qaeda in Iraq by cooperating with the US for personal reasons and money; the completed ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods in Baghdad; and Sadr's truce with the US, among others


    End of Season



    Shoppers to see more foods labeled with country of origin

    It's a law years in the making but timely, as China's milk scandal and the recent salmonella-tainted Mexican peppers prompt growing concern over the safety of imported foods.

    Still, hold the import-bashing: Numerous outbreaks in recent years have come from U.S.-produced foods, like spinach grown in California.

    Until now, shoppers have had little clue where many everyday foods — meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, certain nuts — originate. That's what the so-called COOL law, for country-of-origin labeling, changes.

    But if your melamine containing chinese milk product is mixed with industrial organic ala Horizon, no label law applies.
    Q: What does the new law require?

    A: That retailers notify customers of the country of origin — including the U.S. — of raw beef, veal, lamb, pork, chicken, goat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and whole ginseng. (The aim was big agricultural commodities; ginseng was added for fear of imports masquerading as U.S.-grown.)

    Q: Where will I see the country of origin?

    A: Anywhere it fits. The rubber band around asparagus; the plastic wrap on ground beef; the little sticker that says "Gala" on an apple. If a food isn't normally sold in any packaging — such as a bin of fresh green beans or mushrooms — then the store must post a sign.

    Q: Aren't many foods already labeled?

    A: Some fresh produce already uses origin labeling as advertising. "Fresh from Florida" or "Jersey Grown" or "Vidalia Onion" tags don't have to be changed under the new rules; the shopper should realize they're all U.S. products.

    The COOL law mandating such labels first passed in 2002, but lobbying by grocery stores and large meatpackers led Congress to delay the U.S. Department of Agriculture from implementing it. Seafood labeling was phased in first, in 2005 — a key change given recurring safety problems with fish and shellfish from certain countries, including China.

    Q: What's the biggest exception?

    A: The labels aren't for processed foods, meaning no label if the food is cooked, or an ingredient in a bigger dish or otherwise substantially changed. So plain raw chicken must be labeled but not breaded chicken tenders. Raw pork chops are labeled, but not ham or bacon. Fresh or frozen peas get labeled, but not canned peas. Raw shelled pecans, but not a trail mix.

    Q: What if the foods are merely mixed together?

    A: They're exempt, too. So cantaloupe slices from Guatemala get labeled. Mix in some Florida watermelon chunks, and no label. Frozen peas, labeled. Frozen peas and carrots, no label. As for bagged salads, USDA considers iceberg and Romaine to be just lettuce, so that bag gets a label. Add some radicchio? No label.


    More Evidence America is a Nation of Clueless Idiots

    Four State Board of Education members are promoting a Bible curriculum for Texas public schools that has been criticized as favoring certain Christian views and has already landed some districts in court.

    An e-mail to school districts encouraged local control in deciding which Bible courses to adopt, but it went on to recommend a curriculum that some officials are predicting will lead to more lawsuits.

    The e-mail was sent by board members Terri Leo of Spring, Barbara Cargill of The Woodlands, Cynthia Dunbar of Richmond and Gail Lowe of Lampasas.

    "We recognize ... that the curriculum provided by the National Council On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools has been implemented successfully in numerous school districts within the state of Texas for years," they wrote in the e-mail.

    Mark Chancey, chairman of Southern Methodist University's department of religious studies, said in Saturday's editions of the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle that the national council's curriculum "reflects a bias toward conservative Protestant perspectives of the Bible at the expense of other perspectives."

    "It's absolutely jaw dropping," Chancey said of the e-mail.

    Lowe said the e-mail was an effort to "inform and reaffirm that this curriculum has been around for a number of years and has always satisfied" the state's requirements for electives.

    Leo, Cargill and Dunbar did not respond to requests for comment.


    Money market freeze stirs rate cut speculation


    Global central banks more than doubled the amount of dollar funding to $620 billion, but the move showed no signs on Tuesday of thawing the freeze in money markets where banks are hoarding cash and bracing for more trouble ahead in the deepening year-long credit crisis.

    Analysts said central banks may now be forced to cut interest rates in a coordinated move because their massive fund injections have done little to ease strains that are threatening to become a bigger systemic breakdown that could endanger the global economy.



    More than 140 dead in Indian temple stampede

    handful of people fell while climbing a steep slope toward the Chamunda temple, sited inside a hilltop fort near the city of Jodhpur, triggering the crush, a Reuters photographer at the scene said.

    "People were falling over one another. Many ran but were trampled under the feet of thousands," Anubhav, a witness who only gave his first name, said.

    Other witnesses said too many people were trying to pass through a narrow part of the climb at the same time. Many suffocated after they fell.

    "We have a final figure of 147 people died and 55 injured," Rajiv Dasoth, an inspector-general with the Rajasthan police, said. "The situation is under control and all the injured are being taken care of in hospitals."

    Officials said the crowds were especially large Tuesday, as pilgrims gathered for the start of the nine-day Navratri festival.



    Congress has passed legislation quickening citizenship applications for those serving in the U.S. military.

    An estimated 34,000 foreign-born troops have served overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lawmakers say citizenship applications from troops have been delayed months, and in some cases, years.


    NASA Mars Lander Sees Falling Snow, Soil Data Suggest Liquid Past


    A laser instrument designed to gather knowledge of how the atmosphere and surface interact on Mars has detected snow from clouds about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) above the spacecraft's landing site. Data show the snow vaporizing before reaching the ground.

    "Nothing like this view has ever been seen on Mars," said Jim Whiteway, of York University, Toronto, lead scientist for the Canadian-supplied Meteorological Station on Phoenix. "We'll be looking for signs that the snow may even reach the ground."

    Phoenix experiments also yielded clues pointing to calcium carbonate, the main composition of chalk, and particles that could be clay. Most carbonates and clays on Earth form only in the presence of liquid water.

    "We are still collecting data and have lots of analysis ahead, but we are making good progress on the big questions we set out for ourselves," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

    Since landing on May 25, Phoenix already has confirmed that a hard subsurface layer at its far-northern site contains water-ice. Determining whether that ice ever thaws would help answer whether the environment there has been favorable for life, a key aim of the mission.

    The evidence for calcium carbonate in soil samples from trenches dug by the Phoenix robotic arm comes from two laboratory instruments called the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer, or TEGA, and the wet chemistry laboratory of the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer, or MECA.


    Monday, September 29, 2008

    Green-spored Lepiota (Chlorophyllum molybdites) in Maturity, Forming "fairy ring"

    He wha tills the fairies' green
    Nae luck again shall hae :
    And he wha spills the fairies' ring
    Betide him want and wae.
    For weirdless days and weary nights
    Are his till his deein' day.
    But he wha gaes by the fairy ring,
    Nae dule nor pine shall see,
    And he wha cleans the fairy ring
    An easy death shall dee.


    Green-spored Lepiota (Chlorophyllum molybdites) in Their Youth


    “Is This the United States Congress or the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs?”

    The House is set to vote today on a $700 billion emergency bailout plan for the financial industry. The proposed legislation was forged during a marathon negotiating session over the weekend between lawmakers from both parties and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. The 110-page bill would authorize Paulson to initiate what is likely to become the biggest government bailout in US history, allowing him to spend up to $700 billion to relieve faltering banks and other firms of bad assets backed by home mortgages, which are falling into foreclosure at record rates.


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    While the legislation creates multiple levels of Congressional oversight, Paulson would be granted broad latitude to purchase any assets from any firms at any price and to assemble a team of individuals and institutions to manage them. The measure would also require federal officials to rein in excessive compensation for corporate executives who participate in the bailout.

    Money for the program would be released in segments, with the Treasury secretary receiving $250 billion dollars immediately. Paulson has said he expects to spend about $50 billion a month on the program.

    The Senate could take up the bill by Wednesday. The financial package looms as a final piece of business before lawmakers leave to campaign for the November elections.



    Gay high school planned for Chicago.

    The Greater Lawndale Little Village School for Social Justice submitted the proposal to the CPS Office of New Schools for a Social Justice High School-Pride Campus. This project has been in the works since spring of this year. If approved, Pride Campus, a voluntary public high school that would implement a college prep curriculum in all subject areas, would open in 2010. It would serve LGBTQA ( lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning and allied ) students from all over the city.

    CPS will announce its decision by the end of October. Until then, a CPS community hearing will be held Sept. 18 at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted. There, the public can learn more about the proposed school.

    Bill Greaves, director and community liaison of the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations’ Advisory Council on LGBT Issues and a member of the proposed school’s design team, told Windy City Times that the community forum will be the "last hurdle" in the process. The CPS Office of New Schools has already twice interviewed the design team, made up of veteran teachers and administrators, a member of About Face Theater, CPS Office of Student Development staff and others. On Aug. 26, the delegate principal, Chad Weiden ( the current assistant principal at the Greater Lawndale Little Village School for Social Justice ) , was interviewed.

    A location for the Pride Campus has not yet been chosen, and the team has pledged to work with CPS in finding an appropriate location.

    Greaves said the design team is currently looking at several locations, but it is his "personal hope" that the campus will be centrally located, such as the South or West Loop area, so that students can have equal access to it from all parts of the city and come and go safely. Greaves said that his model is Jones College Preparatory High School in the South Loop, which has the largest GSA ( gay-straight alliance ) in the city, in large part because of its location.



    Activists Demand Say In Chicago Olympics

    People have already lost jobs at Michael Reese Hospital, which is to close by the end of the year. The city had intended to borrow $85 million to have the hospital campus at 29th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue razed and replaced with an Olympic Village, but it was revealed earlier Wednesday that the deal to purchase the hospital broke down.

    "Now we got word Michael Reese took the bid off the table, so that's a surprise to me," said former Michael Reese employee Joe Smith, "and I'm still without a job."

    "We know that whether the Olympic Village takes place at Reese, or McCormick Place or anywhere else, our concerns remain," said Amisha Patel of Communities for an Equitable OIympics. "Communities of color need a real investment of jobs, transportation and real affordable housing."

    The city's original plan called for demolition and cleanup costs at the Michael Reese campus to come out of the pocket of Michael Reese parent Medline, at a cost of $20 million that the city characterized as a "charitable contribution." In the proposed deal, Mayor Daley wanted to roll the dice that the depressed real estate market would come roaring back.

    The $20 million was supposed to be enough to cover demolition, environmental cleanup and five years of interest payments on the loan at a rate of 5 percent. But costs to raze the 37-acre campus came back 60 percent higher, at $32 million. Chicago 2016 Chairman Pat Ryan tried to salvage the deal by renegotiating the purchase price, but Medline apparently wouldn't budge.


    Public Provides Funds for Transit Only to Be Harrassed by ever increasing costs and corporate Ads


    Cadbury Chocolate Made in China

    A Cadbury spokesman says preliminary results show its Chinese-made chocolates contain the industrial chemical melamine.

    The spokesman said Monday it was too early to say how much melamine the chocolates contained.

    He declined to give his name because of company policy.


    Radical Right Wing Eradicating 1st Amendment.

    From his pulpit at Bethlehem First Baptist Church outside of Atlanta, he urged his congregation to vote for Sen. John McCain and to not vote for Sen. Barack Obama.


    Corrupt Cracker and Snapping Turtle Look Alike Mitch McConnell in Dead Heat to keep his Kentucky Senate Seat. Vote Lunsford

    The Lunsford campaign welcomed the results, saying that it showed that people are tired of the nation's Republican leaders.

    "We're headed in the wrong direction, and eight years of Bush-McConnell economics are at the very heart of the matter. We need change now, more than ever," Lunsford said in a statement. "This will be a tight race up until the end, so we're going to work hard every day until Election Day."

    Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said he was surprised the polling showed Lunsford had closed the gap on McConnell.

    "If Lunsford is actually doing this well, it's got to be because the public is so upset by the economic meltdown and may be blaming the legislative leaders," Sabato said. "If this is true, Democrats may win a lot more seats in both the House and the Senate than people are predicting."


    Bush Appointee Michael Mukasey Refuses To Prosecute Crimnal Bush Appointee Alberto Gonzales. Big Surprise. Not



    Link to "Bailout" legislation


    Bolivian prez blasts U.S. anti-drug blacklisting Becuase it is A Cheap Political Trick To Influence Perception in US


    Morales pointed out Wednesday that the U.S. is one of the world's largest markets for cocaine and that its close ally Colombia saw a much greater increase in coca production than Bolivia last year.

    The U.S. decertification of Bolivia is part of an annual review but comes just days after Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador, accusing him of backing Bolivia's conservative opposition.

    U.S. anti-drug aid to Bolivia will continue despite the blacklisting. The annual money added up to US$55 million last year.


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    GUATEMALA: Lachuá, a Corner of the Jungle Resists

    The Q’eqchies are entrusted with preserving 1,994 hectares of forest, and for their work they received 82,000 dollars from INAB in 2006-07. In the same period, forest production from 1,290 hectares brought in more than 617,000 dollars, said López.

    Tourism routes were developed in El Peyán Canyon, Rocjá Postila, the Salinas Nueve Cerros estate, and the lake, Laguna Lachuá. Furthermore, the community members have planted 9.6 hectares of pineapple. The goal is to reach about 50 hectares, with harvests providing a livelihood for 110 families.

    In addition, some 200 people manage 2,000 beehives that produce honey, with plans to expand to 5,000 hives that would provide income for 300 families.

    Also planted in the area are avocados, lemons, oranges, chilli peppers and cacao. In 2006, 70,000 cacao seeds were imported and planted on 98 hectares, providing a marketable crop but also increasing the absorption of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

    In the Chixoy River, the residents raise tilapia fish, with the aim of harvesting 60,000 adults every six months.

    In 2005, the indigenous communities created two Community Development Councils (COCODES) responsible for improving access to the eco-region, building eight schools, administering a scholarship fund and providing electricity to three communities.

    The following year the Lachuá Park was declared a Ramsar wetlands site by the United Nations, due to its important role as habitat for animal species, especially migratory birds.

    But this is no Garden of Eden. There is heavy pressure in the area to expand farmland, drill for oil and build highways.

    Destruction in the area began in the 1970s, according to Luis Solan, in his study "Northern Transversal Strip: Neo-Colonisation On the March", when high-ranking military officers and business executives "dedicated themselves… to the accumulation of land in order to open the way for livestock and the exploitation of lumber resources."

    Encroachments on the land have not disappeared, although López said that there have been no problems so far in the protected area itself.

    In the park’s buffer zone, where the project is being carried out, 90 percent of the indigenous people are landowners. If more rural settlers establish themselves there it would amount to illegal seizure of land.

    There are six communities facing possible relocation from the buffer zone and the park itself, according to Raúl López, from the Agrarian Affairs Secretariat.

    Two communities, which only work in the buffer zone, will be relocated. The other four occupied the land after it was declared a protected area, so "there is a possibility that they will be expelled" as well, he told Tierramérica.

    According to Solano, oil palm -- to produce biodiesel -- is grown on 55,000 hectares in Guatemala, but there are plans to expand to 150,000 hectares by 2012. Monoculture is advancing with the purchase of communal lands. The peasant farmers who sell off their property then move elsewhere to settle other land.

    Green Earth Fuels, property of the Carlyle Group, Riverstone Holdings and Goldman Sachs investment funds, acquired more than 25,000 hectares this year in La Soledad, Rubelsanto, Playitas and Ixcan -- the latter three located near Lachuá.

    Furthermore, the Truestar Petroleum Corporation holds the licence for exploiting crude oil in Tortugas and Atzam, 20 kilometres west of the Rubelsanto oil fields, also located near Lachuá.

    In September 2005, PetroLatina Energy also obtained a licence to operate in Tortugas and Atzam, in an area of 31,000 hectares that includes parts of the buffer zone around the park.

    Meanwhile, the plan to build a highway through the Northern Transversal Strip has been postponed. For now it is a gravel road that would be turned into a 330-km highway as part of the plans for connecting Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.

    The project, granted by the government to the Solel Boneh company, does not include considerations for preserving the environment, nor does it question the planned road that would run through the heart of Lachuá park.

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    Nine oil companies invest in Colombia oil exploration


    The companies include oil giants Shell and Exxon Mobil, Australian mining and primary resources company BHP Billiton, and the Korean National Oil Company, as well as companies from Canada and Peru.

    "These companies have three years to estimate the potential of the area and choose more specific places to carry out exploration," said ANH director Armando Zamora.

    The search is being carried out in eight blocs totally 127,000 square kilometers (49,000 square miles) located in the eastern Colombia departments of Meta, Arauca, Casanare, Vichada, Guania and Guaviare.

    Colombia currently produces some 585,000 barrels of crude per day, and hopes to produce a million barrels a day by 2020.



    Huge European bank fails

    The deal will force the bank -- which has headquarters in both Brussels and the Dutch city of Utrecht -- to sell its stake in Dutch bank ABN Amro, which it partially took over last year. Fortis paid 24 billion euros for its share of ABN.

    Fortis Chairman Maurice Lippens will be forced to resign and will be replaced by a candidate from outside the company, Leterme said.

    "We have taken up our responsibility, we did not abandon" account holders, Leterme told reporters.


    Wachovia Option-ARM Mortgage Losses May Force Merger

    hree days after Chief Executive Officer Robert Steel told employees Wachovia was ``strong and performing well,'' the Wall Street Journal reported today that the Charlotte, North Carolina- based bank was in advanced takeover talks with Wells Fargo & Co. Citigroup Inc. also may make a bid, the paper reported. Wachovia fell 52 percent to $4.88 in German trading.

    Wachovia's plight stems from the $24 billion acquisition of Golden West Financial Corp., a California lender that specialized in payment-option adjustable-rate mortgages. Former CEO Ken Thompson told shareholders in May 2007 the loans would help propel earnings to new highs. Instead, Wachovia now expects losses on 12 percent, or $14 billion, of the $122 billion option- ARM portfolio. Analysts at Fitch Ratings predict default rates on such loans packaged as securities may reach 45 percent.



    US Congress passes 25 bln loan guarantees to automakers


    The loan guarantees were included in a continuing resolution that included funding for the US government and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    President George W. Bush has indicated that he intends to sign the bill.

    "We're very pleased Congress has chosen to act at this critical time," said Greg Martin, director of communications for General Motors Corp's Washington office.

    GM had been subject of much speculation that it could be forced into bankruptcy.

    The bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, are the first loan guarantees for US carmakers since Congress approved a similar 675 million dollar measure for Chrysler Corp. in 1980.

    Chrysler Chairman Robert Nardelli, however, said this week the loan guarantees should not be considered a rescue package for struggling carmakers. "This is not a bailout," he said.

    Under provisions of the new legislation, not only US carmakers are eligible for the guarantees but also suppliers and foreign automakers with plants in the United States that are more than 20 years old -- Nissan and Honda's US operations qualify.


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    Treasury Would Emerge With Vast New Power through Use of "Bailout"

    Under the bill, the Treasury is to buy the securities at prices he deems appropriate. Mr. Paulson may set prices through auctions but is not required to do so.

    Rarely if ever has one man had such broad authority to spend government money as he sees fit, with no rules requiring him to seek out the lowest possible price for assets being purchased.

    The secretary is supposed to do what he can to maximize the profit or minimize the eventual loss to the federal government as a result of its purchase of mortgages and other financial instruments. But in the case of mortgages controlled by the government, he is required to approve “reasonable requests for loss mitigation measures, including term extensions, rate reductions, principal write-downs” and other possible changes. Such requests could help homeowners at the expense of the government.


    RBS will get 'billions' in US bail-out of economy

    The Edinburgh-based bank will be able to write off a significant portion of its dodgy assets thanks to the bail-out, also known as into Tarp, the Troubled Asset Relief Programme as a result of the bank's significant presence in the US.

    Tarp was the brainchild of US treasury secretary Hank Paulson, who earlier this week got down on his knees and begged Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, to rescue his plan to save Wall Street.

    The Royal Bank, led by chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin, has had operations in the United States since 1988, when it bought the Rhode Island-based Citizens Bank. It has since bulked up its presence there with a string of acquisitions including those of Connecticut based Greenwich NatWest and Ohio-based Charter One.

    This entitles the Scottish bank to entrust billions of dollars of non-performing loans and sub-prime tainted assets to US taxpayers, according to Colin McLean, chief executive of Edinburgh-based SVM Asset Management.


    FACTBOX-Top ten U.S. bank failures

    [picture: farmers whose topsoil blew away joined the sod caravans of


    Sunday, September 28, 2008

    We'll Miss You



    Palin Contradicts McCain On Pakistan, Seems To Back Obama’s Position

    Palin’s apparent disagreement with McCain’s position on Pakistan came as the Alaska governor was picking up a couple of cheesesteaks at Tony Luke’s in South Philadelphia. She was approached by a man wearing a Temple University t-shirt, who later identified himself as Michael Rovito.

    “How about the Pakistan situation?” Rovito asked. “What’s your thoughts about that.”

    “In Pakistan?” Palin responded.

    “What’s going on over there, like Waziristian?”

    “It’s working with Zardari to make sure that we’re all working together to stop the guys from coming in over the border,” Palin said. “And we’ll go from there.”

    “Waziristan is blowing up,” Rovito replied.

    “Yeah, it is,” Palin said. “And the economy there is blowing up, too.”

    “So we do cross-border, like from Afghanistan to Pakistan, you think?” Rovito asked.

    “If that’s what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should,” Palin said.

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    CBC Presses Republicans: Do You Agree With Bachmann’s Asssertion That ‘Minorities’ Caused Financial Crisis?

    During a Senate hearing on Thursday, Rep. Michele Bachmann pinned blame for financial crisis on President Clinton, “blacks,” and “other minorities.” To make her point, she read from an article written by Terry Jones in the right-wing publication Investor’s Business Daily. Jones criticized the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and said Clinton was misguided for pushing “homeownership as a way to open the door for blacks and other minorities to enter the middle class.” Watch Bachmann’s speech, followed by sharp criticism from Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) here.

    In a new letter to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) obtained by ThinkProgress, 31 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) call Bachmann’s claims “ridiculous” and ask Boehner whether her comments represent the views of the Republican Caucus:

    It is clear from Rep. Bachmann’s comments that she believes that the bipartisan laws enacted over the past decade ensuring that minority communities have equal access to banking and other financial services are the cause of this financial situation. […]


    Netherlands has taken the bold step of imposing stiff taxes on perceived fat cat benefits


    As other European governments mull public dissatisfaction with large executive bonuses and severance packages, also known as golden parachutes, the egalitarian Dutch have been the ones to draw a line in the sand.

    "This fiscal discouragement policy ... is founded in the desire to counter excesses," Finance Minister and labour party leader Wouter Bos said in May, presenting a controversial bill to members of parliament to hit high earners with stiffer taxes.

    The measures were passed by the lower house of parliament this month, and are expected to get the final nod from the senate within weeks before coming into effect on January 1.

    "Thousands of people will pay more taxes," a finance ministry spokesman told AFP this week.

    The centre-left government will slap a new 30 percent tax on companies for "disproportionate exit bonus payments" to those earning more than 500,000 euros a year.

    It will also introduce a new 15 percent tax on companies who contribute to executives in the same salary bracket enjoying "excessive" pension payouts.

    Finally, it will raise the tax on the earnings of private equity and hedge fund managers from 1.2 percent to 25 percent, closing a loophole that minimised their contribution to the tax authorities.

    The measures are expected to add an annual 60 million euros to the public purse.

    The debate came to a head in recent months with the news of top bonuses paid to the executives who sold Dutch bank ABN Amro to a European banking group, and the 80 million euros in options, shares and bonuses paid to Numico boss Jan Bennink after selling the baby food concern to French dairy company Danone.

    Several top executives, including Michel Tilmant, of the ING banking group, have reportedly threatened to leave the Netherlands if the government pursued its plans.

    But Bos has stood firm, questioning the impact of such excesses on the economy, and the moral wisdom of having large income disparities.

    "One has appreciation that individuals with a unique talent should be paid more," he said recently. "But that understanding dissipates when the remuneration takes on an air of self-enrichment because the counter-balance is inadequate, or when it is not transparent or in line with achievement."

    His bill passed with the support of a majority of parties in parliament.


    Friday, September 26, 2008

    Stopping a Financial Crisis, the Swedish Way


    Sweden did not just bail out its financial institutions by having the government take over the bad debts. It extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders before writing checks. Banks had to write down losses and issue warrants to the government.

    That strategy held banks responsible and turned the government into an owner. When distressed assets were sold, the profits flowed to taxpayers, and the government was able to recoup more money later by selling its shares in the companies as well.

    “If I go into a bank,” said Bo Lundgren, who was Sweden’s finance minister at the time, “I’d rather get equity so that there is some upside for the taxpayer.”

    Sweden spent 4 percent of its gross domestic product, or 65 billion kronor, the equivalent of $11.7 billion at the time, or $18.3 billion in today’s dollars, to rescue ailing banks. That is slightly less, proportionate to the national economy, than the $700 billion, or roughly 5 percent of gross domestic product, that the Bush administration estimates its own move will cost in the United States.

    But the final cost to Sweden ended up being less than 2 percent of its G.D.P. Some officials say they believe it was closer to zero, depending on how certain rates of return are calculated.

    The tumultuous events of the last few weeks have produced a lot of tight-lipped nods in Stockholm. Mr. Lundgren even made the rounds in New York in early September, explaining what the country did in the early 1990s.

    A few American commentators have proposed that the United States government extract equity from banks as a price for their rescue. But it does not seem to be under serious consideration yet in the Bush administration or Congress.

    The reason is not quite clear. The government has already swapped its sovereign guarantee for equity in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance institutions, and the American International Group, the global insurance giant.



    Hundreds of Economists Urge Congress Not to Rush on Rescue Plan

    Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- More than 150 prominent U.S. economists, including three Nobel Prize winners, urged Congress to hold off on passing a $700 billion financial market rescue plan until it can be studied more closely.

    In a letter yesterday to congressional leaders, 166 academic economists said they oppose Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's plan because it's a ``subsidy'' for business, it's ambiguous and it may have adverse market consequences in the long term. They also expressed alarm at the haste of lawmakers and the Bush administration to pass legislation.

    ``It doesn't seem to me that a lot decisions that we're going to have to live with for a long time have to be made by Friday,'' said Robert Lucas, a University of Chicago economist and 1995 Nobel Prize winner who signed the letter. ``The situation may get urgent, but it's not urgent right now. Right now it's a financial sector problem.''

    The economists who signed the letter represent various disciplines, including macroeconomics, microeconomics, behavioral and information economics, and game theory. They also span the political spectrum, from liberal to conservative to libertarian.

    Some lawmakers are already citing the letter as reason not to endorse the Paulson plan. Today Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, said he has ``five pages of the leading economists in America that wrote to me and the leadership saying the Paulson plan is a bad plan. It will not solve problems. It will create more problems.''

    `How Capitalism Works'

    The letter, initially conceived by economists at the University of Chicago, was signed by professors from dozens of American universities and several outside the U.S.

    David I. Levine, a professor of economics at University of California-Berkeley, says the current plan being discussed has the wrong structure.


    Clueless Gov of California wants More Bad Debt

    n denying AB"‰1830, Schwarzenegger "turned his back on consumers," said Ginna Green, a spokeswoman for the California office of the Center for Responsible Lending, which supported the bill. "Many of the bills signed today do not get at the root cause of the problem, which was reckless lending," she said. "AB"‰1830 would have been a step in that direction."


    Carbon Is Building Up in Atmosphere Faster Than Predicted


    In 2007, carbon released from burning fossil fuels and producing cement increased 2.9 percent over that released in 2006, to a total of 8.47 gigatons, or billions of metric tons, according to the Australia-based Global Carbon Project, an international consortium of scientists that tracks emissions. This output is at the very high end of scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and could translate into a global temperature rise of more than 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, according to the panel's estimates.

    "In a sense, it's a reality check," said Corinne Le Quéré, a professor at the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia and a researcher with the British Antarctic Survey. "This is an extremely large number. The emissions are increasing at a rate that's faster than what the IPCC has used."

    The new statistics also underscore the growing contribution to the world's "carbon budget" from rapidly industrializing countries such as China, India and Brazil. Developing nations have roughly doubled their carbon output in less than two decades and now account for slightly more than half of total emissions, according to the new figures, up from about a third in 1990. By contrast, total carbon emissions from industrialized nations are only slightly higher than in 1990.



    Zimbabwe children eating toxic roots, rats

    "The rising malnutrition and the rise in diseases are going to mean that children will die and we have to act very fast," said Sarah Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the relief group.Children in Zimbabwe are eating rats and inedible roots riddled with toxic parasites to stave off hunger because of chronic food shortages, an aid agency said on Thursday. Save the Children said the most vulnerable faced starvation unless they get food aid in the next couple of weeks.

    The agency, which has launched a 5 million pound ($9.2 million) appeal for emergency operations in Zimbabwe, said the situation had got much worse in the past few months and that rampant inflation meant even people with jobs would need food aid.

    The United Nations had said previously that more than 5 million people in Zimbabwe would need food aid by early next year after a poor harvest compounded by economic turmoil. Jacobs said many people in the Zambezi Valley, the poorest and driest area, were now surviving on a vile-tasting, fibrous root called makuri. "It's got no nutritional value whatsoever. It tastes disgusting and it also has a parasite which attaches to it which is toxic," said Jacobs, who has just returned from the region. "This is all they have to eat. You see babies eating it and toddlers eating it, and it's not digestible. It creates terrible stomach pains." People were eating anything to survive, she said. She had come across one child who had died after eating a poisonous root and young children eating tiny rats they caught in their huts.

    Save the Children and other agencies are resuming work after Zimbabwe's government lifted a ban on their operations at the end of August. President Robert Mugabe imposed the ban before a run-off presidential election in June, accusing the agencies of supporting the opposition. But Save the Children said in reality many agencies had not been able to work in the field since the first election round in March. "People's ways of coping have been completely exhausted. People are saying they're scared they're going to die within weeks if food doesn't come," Jacobs said. "We really are playing catch up. It's a huge humanitarian job now and there has to be much more money than there has ever been before."


    Zimbabwe children eating toxic roots, rats

    Children in Zimbabwe are eating rats and inedible roots riddled with toxic parasites to stave off hunger because of chronic food shortages, an aid agency said on Thursday. Save the Children said the most vulnerable faced starvation unless they get food aid in the next couple of weeks.

    "The rising malnutrition and the rise in diseases are going to mean that children will die and we have to act very fast," said Sarah Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the relief group. The United Nations had said previously that more than 5 million people in Zimbabwe would need food aid by early next year after a poor harvest compounded by economic turmoil. Jacobs said many people in the Zambezi Valley, the poorest and driest area, were now surviving on a vile-tasting, fibrous root called makuri. "It's got no nutritional value whatsoever. It tastes disgusting and it also has a parasite which attaches to it which is toxic," said Jacobs, who has just returned from the region.

    President Robert Mugabe imposed the ban before a run-off presidential election in June, accusing the agencies of supporting the opposition. But Save the Children said in reality many agencies had not been able to work in the field since the first election round in March."This is all they have to eat. You see babies eating it and toddlers eating it, and it's not digestible. It creates terrible stomach pains." People were eating anything to survive, she said. She had come across one child who had died after eating a poisonous root and young children eating tiny rats they caught in their huts. Save the Children and other agencies are resuming work after Zimbabwe's government lifted a ban on their operations at the end of August. The agency, which has launched a 5 million pound ($9.2 million) appeal for emergency operations in Zimbabwe, said the situation had got much worse in the past few months and that rampant inflation meant even people with jobs would need food aid. "People's ways of coping have been completely exhausted. People are saying they're scared they're going to die within weeks if food doesn't come," Jacobs said.


    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    What Country Ought to Be - Lucinda Williams


    Women's rights


    Better ways to spend 700 Billion Dollars

    Let's start with the nation's infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates our nation's bridges need $180 billion in repairs, with our rail infrastructure in need of $185 billion in maintenance. California wants to spend $40 billion for the nation's first high-speed rail network to connect southern and northern California.
    Saskia Sassen, a professor at Columbia University's Committee on Global Thought points out that infrastructure investments would feed directly into GDP based on job and enterprise growth. And we certainly have the builders to do it. Unemployment in construction is 40 percent higher than in manufacturing.

    Arizona Public Service, the state's public power utility, is currently building the nation's largest solar power array in the desert near Gila Bend, Ariz. It will be able to power 70,000 homes using only the sun's rays — and create thousands of high-tech green energy jobs to boot. Construction costs will be about $1 billion, but the utility says it will pay for itself in about seven years. The project covers just three square miles. With the $699 billion left over, you could put even more southwestern desert to work in creating clean energy.

    Health care and climate change are other major concerns. Kenneth Thorpe, a professor of health policy at Emory University points out that for $150 billion you could provide every American with private health insurance and create a universal automated health-information system. When you consider that the National Cancer Institute receives $5 billion a year in funding, you could multiply its budget by 10 and provide private health care to every American.

    McKinsey & Co., a consulting firm, estimates it will cost the U.S. economy $150 billion per year to stabilize greenhouse gases by 2030. For three years, $700 billion could pay for the cost of both health care plans (in case one doesn't work) and cover the cost to reduce carbon emissions.

    Since global trade isn't going away any time soon and America's ports are getting increasingly crowded, using the money for port expansion might be a smart idea. According to the American Association of Port Authorities, container volumes at American ports have increased by 7 percent per year over the last 20 years, far outpacing capacity growth.

    National security is also a concern. After five years in Iraq, most estimates for the war's cost tally into the $500 billion range. Unlike investments in distressed assets, paying for the Iraq War won't produce a return, but $700 billion would stem the government's future debt obligations to its creditors.

    Then there's education. The U.S. currently spends some $500 billion annually on public education, yet still finds itself slipping behind many other industrialized nations when it comes to giving the next generation the skills it needs to compete globally.

    The difference, of course, is that government spending for any of this would require a massive tax increase, with no chance of getting any of the money back. The upside: At least it would be a sure bet.


    What Brought Us Here: Reagan Trashing the Federal Trade Commission


    director of the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that the proposed Wall Street bailout could actually worsen the current financial crisis.


    In an interview later yesterday, Orszag explained using the following example: Suppose a company has Asset X, whose value is recorded on the books as $100. Because of the current economic decline, Asset X's real value has dropped to $50. If the company takes part in the government bailout and sells Asset X for $50, the company has to report a $50 loss on its books. On a scale of millions of dollars, such write-downs could ruin a company.

    Such companies "look solvent today only because it's kind of hidden," Orszag said. "They actually are insolvent" already, he said.

    In hearings on Capitol Hill so far this week, criticism of the bailout plan put forward by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has largely been restricted to the shape of the $700 billion proposal, how the money will be spent and what sort of oversight Treasury should have.

    But Orszag yesterday questioned the wisdom of the plan itself, testifying that "it therefore remains uncertain whether the program will be sufficient to restore trust."

    In yesterday's interview, Orszag said, "The key question is: What are we buying and what are we paying for it?"


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    China banks told to halt lending to US banks-SCMP


    The Hong Kong newspaper cited unidentified industry sources as saying the instruction from the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) applied to interbank lending of all currencies to U.S. banks but not to banks from other countries.

    "The decree appears to be Beijing's first attempt to erect defences against the deepening U.S. financial meltdown after the mainland's major lenders reported billions of U.S. dollars in exposure to the credit crisis," the SCMP said.



    U.S. will lose financial superpower status: Germany

    Germany blamed the United States on Thursday for spawning the global financial crisis with a blind drive for higher profits and said it would now have to accept greater market regulation and a loss of its financial superpower status.
    n some of the toughest language since the crisis worsened earlier this month, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck told parliament the financial turmoil would leave "deep marks" but was primarily an American problem.

    "The world will never be as it was before the crisis," Steinbrueck, a deputy leader of the center-left Social Democrats, told the Bundestag lower house.

    "The United States will lose its superpower status in the world financial system. The world financial system will become more multi-polar."

    Steinbrueck, whose efforts to secure greater transparency on hedge funds during Germany's G8 presidency last year collapsed amid objections from Washington and London, attacked what he called an Anglo-Saxon drive for double-digit profits and massive bonuses for bankers and company executives.

    "Investment bankers and politicians in New York, Washington and London were not willing to give these up," he said.

    He proposed eight measures to address the crisis, including an international ban on "purely speculative" short-selling and an increase in capital requirements for banks in order to offset credit risks.


    AIG who Already got their 85 billion dollar bailout, under investigation for fraud since March. Only since March?

    As with the 25 other ongoing FBI inquiries involving the mortgage debacle, the main focus of interest is whether companies and their executives misled investors and auditors when they put a value on their mortgage-related investments.

    On Feb. 28, AIG posted its largest quarterly loss ever, blaming complex financial instruments known as derivatives for write-downs of more than $11 billion. Martin J. Sullivan, the insurer's chief executive at the time, resigned in June after AIG suffered another multibillion-dollar quarterly loss on its derivatives connected to defaulting home mortgages.

    The company's near-death is largely being blamed on its heavy involvement in a kind of unregulated derivative called credit default swaps, whereby AIG earned hefty premiums in exchange for guaranteeing another company's mortgage investments if the mortgages defaulted. AIG bet that many of the mortgages would never fail, but an unusually high percentage did.


    Bush Lies in Attempt to Scare Public into giving Money to Wall Street Criminal Gangs

    "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud"President Bush delievers TV speech on financial crisis, 24 Sep 2008


    Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, George Bush and Wall street Chieftains line up to gang rape American taxpayer

    Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke struggle to sell their proposal, dubbed by one senator as un-American financial socialism.


    How it Happened: The Powell Manifesto or Right Wing Game Plan that Brought us Here


    Though Powell's memo was not the sole influence, the Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration's "hands-off business" philosophy.

    Most notable about these institutions was their focus on education, shifting values, and movement-building - a focus we share, though usually with contrasting goals. One of our great frustrations is that "progressive" foundations and funders have failed to learn from the success of these corporate institutions and decline to fund the Democracy Movement that we and a number of similarly-focused organizations are attempting to build. Instead, they overwhelmingly focus on damage control, band-aids and short-term results which provide little hope of the systemic change we so desperately need to reverse the trend of growing corporate dominance.

    We see depressingly little sign of change. Progressive institutions eagerly embrace tools like the web and e-mail as hopes for turning the nation in a progressive direction. They will not. They are tools that can and must be used to raise funds and mobilize people more effectively (and we rely on them heavily), but tools and tactics are no substitute for long-term vision and strategy.

    So did Powell's political views influence his judicial decisions? The evidence is mixed. Powell did embrace expansion of corporate privilege and wrote the majority opinion in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, a 1978 decision that effectively invented a First Amendment "right" for corporations to influence ballot questions. On social issues, he was a moderate, whose votes often surprised his backers.



    How it Happened. Glass Steagall.

    bill clinton signs repeal of glass-steagall

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    Tuesday, September 23, 2008

    McCain: We should deregulate health insurance like we deregulated Wall Street.


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    $39 billion: The Wall Street bonuses for the big five investment banks last year.

    In 2007, Wall Street’s five biggest firms — Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley — paid a record $39 billion in bonuses to themselves.

    That’s $10 billion more than the $29 billion loan taxpayers are making to J.P. Morgan to save Bear Stearns.resp.gif


    Bush Backs Unlimited Compensation For Disgraced CEOs: Now Is Not The Time For ‘Punitive Measures


    We certainly understand and are sympathetic to the sentiment regarding the pay of CEOs and senior management of these firms, but we have to focus on the problem, and the problem is that we need these firms to participate in the program and sell us this debt. Having punitive measures would provide a disincentive for firms to participate, and that would make the program much less likely to succeed.

    CEO compensation and corporate governance in public companies are very important issues — especially when receiving taxpayer support — but we need to be focused on fixing this problem in our markets right now. We can and should return to those issues once we get this legislation passed.

    President Bush also released another statement earlier today warning Congress against inserting any “unrelated provisions” — such as help for struggling homeowners — in the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

    The Bush administration’s position is unjustifiable. As ABC News reported:

    In 2007, Wall Street’s five biggest firms — Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley — paid a record $39 billion in bonuses to themselves.

    That’s $10 billion more than the $29 billion loan taxpayers are making to J.P. Morgan to save Bear Stearns.

    Those 2007 bonuses were paid even though the shareholders in those firms last year collectively lost about $74 billion in stock declines — their worst year since 2002.

    In short, the Bush administration wants zero punishment for these wreckless CEOs who lost shareholder money and are now costing each person in the United States $2,000. In return for $700 billion, the White House has yet to name any ways that it will hold these corporations accountable or institute safeguards to ensure that this irresponsible lending and borrowing won’t happen again.


    Millions spend half of income on housing


    Ray is one of more than 7.5 million people — almost 15 percent of American homeowners with a mortgage — who are spending half of their income or more on housing costs, according to 2007 data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. That is up from nearly 7.1 million the year before.

    Traditionally, the government and most lenders consider a homeowner spending 30 percent or more of their income on housing costs to be financially burdened. But that definition now covers almost 38 percent of American homeowners with a mortgage — 19 million of them.

    Though home prices have fallen this year, in the most expensive markets where home prices tripled during the boom, many working families still cannot afford to buy a home.


    The data underscore the serious affordability problems in this country and highlight how the slightest financial problem — from a lost job to higher gas prices or insurance premiums — can put a family behind on their mortgages and into the realm of foreclosure.

    When home prices fell in the early 1990s, borrowers had more equity in their homes, and were able to escape foreclosure. But now, an estimated 10 million homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, according to Moody's economy.com.

    More than 4 million homeowners were at least one month behind on their loans at the end of June, and almost 500,000 had started the foreclosure process, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

    Cascading foreclosures over the past two years created a domino effect in the lending industry, undermining investor confidence and forcing the Bush administration last weekend to announce the greatest rescue package and market intervention since the Great Depression.


    Rush to Give Taxpayer Money to Wall Street Echoes Bush Rush to War

    "You can draw some valid parallels between the prosecution of the war under the Bush regime and the way the financial sector has operated in recent years," said Tom Schlesinger, head of the nonprofit research group Financial Markets Center in Howardsville, Va.
    "It fails the most basic test of democratic accountability," Schlesinger said.
    Some policy observers point to a "trust us" mentality in the administration's call to obtain sweeping powers that are scant on checks and balances on the executive branch. In addition, the White House is faulted with a failure to raise alarm before the situation spiraled out of control, forcing the mobilization of more troops and untold financial resources.
    Outlining the administration's remedy, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson came up with a three-page plan to spend $700 billion on toxic mortgage debt that was very spare on key details.
    It boils down to "give me the money and trust me," Schlesinger said.
    James Angel, a professor of finance at Georgetown University, said the White House appears to be "flying by the seat of their pants."


    Paulson Debt Plan May Benefit Mostly Goldman, Morgan While Screwing American Public


    ``Its benefits, in its current form, will be largely limited to investment banks and other banks that have aggressively written down the value of their holdings and have already recognized the attendant capital impairment,'' Jeffrey Rosenberg, Bank of America's head of credit strategy research, wrote in a report dated yesterday, without identifying particular banks.

    Many banks may not participate in the Troubled Asset Relief Program because they haven't had to write down as much assets under accounting rules, meaning decisions to sell into the program would cause them to lose capital, Rosenberg wrote. Investment banks operate ``under a mark-to-market accounting model while commercial banks hold assets at cost until realizing a loss (or until they reasonably expect one),'' he wrote.

    Rosenberg assumed the government will use a reverse auction in which banks submit the lowest prices they are willing to sell certain types of assets for and then the government buys the cheapest ones, with the goal of ``protecting the taxpayers,'' the report said.

    Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's push for the program, now considered by lawmakers, is designed to remove ``illiquid assets'' clogging the financial system, reverse declining asset values and prevent the freezing of lending for U.S. financial firms, companies and consumers.

    The intervention into markets would be the broadest since at least the Great Depression. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said today lawmakers and Paulson narrowed differences on the plan.



    Heart Attack Care Often Delayed for the Poor


    Their conclusions stem from an analysis of more than 6,700 medical records of men and women who experienced a heart attack between 1993 and 2002. By matching patient addresses to 2000 U.S. census data, the research team was able to establish household income levels as either low (less than $33,533), medium (between $33,533 and $50,031) or high (over $50,032).

    Foraker and her colleagues determined that 36 percent of the patients faced a short delay (less than two hours) in reaching their local hospital. Another 42 percent experienced a medium delay of between two and 12 hours, while 22 percent underwent a long delay of between 12 hours and three days.

    After accounting for such factors as age, gender, health insurance status, history of diabetes and/or high blood pressure, distance to hospital, and race, the study authors found that Medicaid patients and those living in low-income areas were relatively more likely to experience a long or medium delay in getting to the hospital for heart attack care.

    For example, patients residing in lower-income neighborhoods were 46 percent more likely to experience a long rather than a short delay in getting to a hospital after heart attack, the study found. And patients on Medicaid were 87 percent more likely to wait a long time before having their symptoms seen to, the team reported.

    Why the disparity based on income? The researchers aren't sure. They noted that one factor -- a lack of health insurance -- didn't seem to affect wait times.

    "From a public health standpoint these disparities should be further investigated," said Foraker. "And in the meantime, to reduce these disparities, one of the targets may be to increase the recognition of symptoms of a heart attack. And to promote EMS use throughout the community, so people know to call an ambulance right away when they experience these symptoms."



    Methane 'escaping' from Arctic sea bed


    Huge methane deposits are rising to the surface as the Arctic region heats up, according to preliminary findings.

    Researchers found massive stores of sub-sea methane in several areas across thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf and observed the gas bubbling up from the sea floor through "chimneys", according to reports.

    One of the expedition leaders, Orjan Gustafsson, of Stockholm University in Sweden, said researchers had found "an extensive area of intense methane release".


    The researchers believe escaping sub-sea methane - which is around 20 times more damaging than carbon dioxide - is connected to the recent rises in temperatures in the Arctic region.

    He added: "The conventional thought has been that the permafrost 'lid' on the sub-sea sediments on the Siberian shelf should cap and hold the massive reservoirs of shallow methane deposits in place.

    "The growing evidence for release of methane in this inaccessible region may suggest that the permafrost lid is starting to get perforated and thus leak methane. The permafrost now has small holes.


    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Army Unit to Deploy in October for Domestic Operations

    so much for possee comitatus Welcome to the police state. Perhaps the GOP is planning on cancelling elections.

    Army Unit to Deploy in October for Domestic Operations

    Beginning in October, the Army plans to station an active unit inside the United States for the first time to serve as an on-call federal response in times of emergency. The 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent thirty-five of the last sixty months in Iraq, but now the unit is training for domestic operations. The unit will soon be under the day-to-day control of US Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The Army Times reports this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command. The paper says the Army unit may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control. The soldiers are learning to use so-called nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals and crowds.


    Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1

    3rd Infantry's 1st BCT trains for a new dwell-time mission. Helping 'people at home' may become a permanent part of the active Army
    By Gina Cavallaro - Staff writer
    Posted : Monday Sep 8, 2008 6:15:06 EDT

    The 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.

    Now they're training for the same mission — with a twist — at home.

    Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.

    It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.

    But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.

    After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one.

    "Right now, the response force requirement will be an enduring mission. How the [Defense Department] chooses to source that and whether or not they continue to assign them to NorthCom, that could change in the future," said Army Col. Louis Vogler, chief of NorthCom future operations. "Now, the plan is to assign a force every year."

    The command is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., but the soldiers with 1st BCT, who returned in April after 15 months in Iraq, will operate out of their home post at Fort Stewart, Ga., where they'll be able to go to school, spend time with their families and train for their new homeland mission as well as the counterinsurgency mission in the war zones.

    Stop-loss will not be in effect, so soldiers will be able to leave the Army or move to new assignments during the mission, and the operational tempo will be variable.

    Don't look for any extra time off, though. The at-home mission does not take the place of scheduled combat-zone deployments and will take place during the so-called dwell time a unit gets to reset and regenerate after a deployment.

    The 1st of the 3rd is still scheduled to deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan in early 2010, which means the soldiers will have been home a minimum of 20 months by the time they ship out.

    In the meantime, they'll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it.

    They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.

    Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the "jaws of life" to extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.

    The 1st BCT's soldiers also will learn how to use "the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded," 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.

    "It's a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they're fielding. They've been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we're undertaking we were the first to get it."

    The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.

    "I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered," said Cloutier, describing the experience as "your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10 throughout your whole body.

    "I'm not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds ... it put me on my knees in seconds."

    The brigade will not change its name, but the force will be known for the next year as a CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF (pronounced "sea-smurf").

    "I can't think of a more noble mission than this," said Cloutier, who took command in July. "We've been all over the world during this time of conflict, but now our mission is to take care of citizens at home ... and depending on where an event occurred, you're going home to take care of your home town, your loved ones."

    While soldiers' combat training is applicable, he said, some nuances don't apply.

    "If we go in, we're going in to help American citizens on American soil, to save lives, provide critical life support, help clear debris, restore normalcy and support whatever local agencies need us to do, so it's kind of a different role," said Cloutier, who, as the division operations officer on the last rotation, learned of the homeland mission a few months ago while they were still in Iraq.

    Some brigade elements will be on call around the clock, during which time they'll do their regular marksmanship, gunnery and other deployment training. That's because the unit will continue to train and reset for the next deployment, even as it serves in its CCMRF mission.

    Should personnel be needed at an earthquake in California, for example, all or part of the brigade could be scrambled there, depending on the extent of the need and the specialties involved.

    Other branches included

    The active Army's new dwell-time mission is part of a NorthCom and DOD response package.

    Active-duty soldiers will be part of a force that includes elements from other military branches and dedicated National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams.

    A final mission rehearsal exercise is scheduled for mid-September at Fort Stewart and will be run by Joint Task Force Civil Support, a unit based out of Fort Monroe, Va., that will coordinate and evaluate the interservice event.

    In addition to 1st BCT, other Army units will take part in the two-week training exercise, including elements of the 1st Medical Brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas, and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Bragg, N.C.

    There also will be Air Force engineer and medical units, the Marine Corps Chemical, Biological Initial Reaction Force, a Navy weather team and members of the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

    One of the things Vogler said they'll be looking at is communications capabilities between the services.

    "It is a concern, and we're trying to check that and one of the ways we do that is by having these sorts of exercises. Leading up to this, we are going to rehearse and set up some of the communications systems to make sure we have interoperability," he said.

    "I don't know what America's overall plan is — I just know that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that are standing by to come and help if they're called," Cloutier said. "It makes me feel good as an American to know that my country has dedicated a force to come in and help the people at home."


    Friday, September 05, 2008

    GOP Propaganda Falsely Tying Iran to 9/11


    Thursday, September 04, 2008

    Call to Action on Behalf of DN! Journalists Facing Charges for Reporting on the Republican National Convention

    Today it is critical that you make your voice heard in the Ramsey County Attorney and St. Paul City Attorney offices. Demand that they drop all pending and current charges against journalists arrested while reporting on protests outside the Republican National Conventions.

    Democracy Now! Host Amy Goodman was arrested while questioning police about the unlawful detention of Producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, who were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention.

    The Ramsey County Attorney’s office is in the process of deciding whether or not to press felony P.C. (probable cause) riot charges against Democracy Now! Producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Please contact Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner by all means possible to demand that her office not press charges against Kouddous and Salazar.

    Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner
    RCA at co.ramsey.mn.us (cc: dropthecharges at democracynow.org)

    Susan Gaertner for Governor
    info at susangaertner.com (cc: dropthecharges at democracynow.org)
    (612) 978-8625

    The St. Paul City Attorney’s office has already charged Amy Goodman with misdemeanor obstruction of a legal process and interference with a peace officer. Contact St. Paul City Attorney John Choi by all means possible to demand that the charges against Goodman be dropped immediately.

    St. Paul City Attorney John Choi
    john.choi at ci.stpaul.mn.us (cc: dropthecharges at democracynow.org) (651) 266-8710

    During the demonstration in which the Democracy Now! team was arrested, law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force against protesters and journalists. Several dozen demonstrators were also arrested during this action, as was a photographer for the Associated Press.


    Be sure to cc: dropthecharges@democracynow.org on all emails so that our team can deliver print outs of your messages to the St. Paul City Attorney and Ramsey County Attorney offices.


    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

    Right Wing Extremist Pin Up Girl Sarah Palin

    Sarah Palin is red meat for carnivorous misogynist evangelicals....5 kids and a teen pregnancy in her very own christian right household. An after 40 pregnancy which she no doubt knew would result in a kid with downs, because they test for it when women get around 40, but this gun slingin' life lover saw it through. And will oversee the teen pregnancy too. The authoritarian forces in control of the republican party will use that to illuminate her committed anti abortion position. The stamina! The Character! The Love for LIFE!

    If they can get the Evangelical vote they can win the election. Or fix it more easily. There are people in America who care about nothing but abortion and they run to the polls over it. The call abortion murder. They call it a holocaust. They are extremely well organized and well funded. Their funding often comes from corporations. They believe BIRTH CONTROL is murder. They don't give a fuck what happens to anyone after they're born, but they don't want pregnancy terminated or even prevented..

    They believe poverty and despair in other countries are god's way of controlling heathen populations which is how they justify events like the Iraq invasion. They believe the constitution should be replaced with biblical law.

    And now, with a "woman" on the ticket, the cretinous right can feel like they too are making history with their vote. It's just history, not change. Republican women aren't threatening to the status quo when they are such subservient boot licking bitches. (Like Sandra Day O'Connor who is now being painted as some kind of feminist when she was most certainly not. )http://crucialtaunt.com/politics/images/SarahPalin380tall.jpg