Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Blowback

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Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder

By Jeremy Scahill

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."

In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting "illegal" or "unlawful" weapons into the country on Prince's private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.
 
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Liberating two young women

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House Orders Three Jets

"Last year, lawmakers excoriated the CEOs of the Big Three automakers for traveling to Washington, D.C., by private jet to attend a hearing about a possible bailout of their companies," Roll Call reports.

"But apparently Congress is not philosophically averse to private air travel: At the end of July, the House approved nearly $200 million for the Air Force to buy three elite Gulfstream jets for ferrying top government officials and Members of Congress."

The Air Force had asked for one jet as part of an upgrade program, but the House Appropriations Committee added two more at its own discretion.
 
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Does the Marijuana Pill Work?

By Allen St. Pierre

This informative article from CBS News about the government's claim that there is no need for medical patients to access cannabis, when there is a 'fake' cannabis pill on the market, features remarks from NORML advisory board member, professor and author Mitch Earleywine, and former deputy drug czar under Bush 1.0 Herb Kleber, which strongly underlines the differences between credible and not credible on the topic of cannabis.

Credible:

[One] problem with Marinol is that it's orally administered," Dr. Mitch Earleywine, an associate professor of Clinical Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, said in an email. "Therefore, it takes longer to work than cannabis inhaled from a vaporizer. (Usually 90 minutes at best rather than 15 seconds - a meaningful amount of time to the nauseated.)"

"It's harder to control dosage, too, so folks end up discombobulated or without symptom relief," he added. "In addition, folks who are vomiting can't hold down the pills." Earleywine also said that a dose Marinol costs three to five times as much as a comparable dose of medical marijuana.

Not Credible:

"Are there actions in the whole plant that you don't get from just the Marinol? I would be surprised if there wasn't," he continued. "The problem is that most of the data about the potential medical actions of the smoked form are anecdotal."

Dr. Kleber, who said he has prescribed Marinol to a patient and found it to be effective, points to what he characterizes as a significant advantage of the pill over traditional marijuana: "People don't abuse it."

"Marijuana addiction is becoming common and as a result I'm seeing an increasing number of people who have trouble stopping marijuana," he said. "Contrary to popular beliefs that there is no marijuana withdrawal, there is marijuana withdrawal. It's very clear cut."

Talk about anecdotal! Dr. Kleber would have readers believe, that cannabis today, as compared to the prior 2,000 years of documented cannabis use by humans is that "Marijuana addiction is becoming common".

Really?

"I'm seeing an increasing number of people who have trouble stopping marijuana"

Of course you are Herb because as it has been well documented by NORML that the criminal justice system throughout most of the United States presents minor cannabis offenders with the Hobson's Choice of either going to jail or to visit the offices of the 'Dr. Klebers' in America for 'treatment'.

Dr. Kleber well knows this, so his statement is for me the working definition of disingenuous!

http://blog.norml.org/2009/08/04/does-the-marijuana-pill-work/

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Cash for Clunkers

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The Newspaper-Web WarEver get the feeling this battle was fought before?

A girl listening to the radio during the Great Depression. Click image to expand.The newspaper industry and its allies have many grievances against the Web. They say the Web is parasitic, that it copies newspaper content and steals its advertising. They claim that Web creators will never provide the deep reporting that democracy needs and that newspapers provided before the Web arrived and ruined the media neighborhood. They want to tame the Web by rejigging copyright law. And they protest that the Web has undermined quality journalism by teaching readers to expect news for free.

Whatever the merits of these complaints, it's not the first time established media have accused new media of bringing on Armageddon. In her deeply researched 1995 book, Media at War: Radio's Challenge to the Newspapers, 1924-1939, scholar Gwenyth L. Jackaway charts a similar set of complaints leveled by newspapers against the upstart medium of radio in the 1920s and 1930s.

The then-and-now media parallels don't line up perfectly, but a review of the war between newspapers and radio provides something just this side of enlightenment and helps frame the underlying issues in the current fight for advertising dollars. Along the way, Jackaway establishes that the newspaper industry was as shameless in the 1930s as it is today and hints at how this modern conflict may resolve itself.

Like today's Web, radio harmed newspapers commercially by disrupting the institutional identity they had carved out, Jackaway writes. The upstart media forced journalists and readers to ask, "[W]ho is a journalist? What is news? How should the news be delivered? What are the rules regarding the form and content of an acceptable news message?" Radio also fractured the existing institutional structure that partnered newspapers and wire services to deliver national and regional news. Radio could easily bypass newspapers and funnel news directly from the wire services to audiences. And, last, radio battered the institutional function of newspapers with live broadcasts of everything from sporting events to political conventions, allowing listeners to hear the news as it happened instead of reading about it 24 hours later.

Although not completely analogous to today's tussle between the newspapers and the Web, the media battle in the 1920s and 1930s echoes its points of contention. Back then, anti-radio newspapers (newspapers that didn't own radio stations) were furious over the unauthorized use of newspaper and wire service copy, just as today's Associated Press and newspaper publishers are raging over what they regard as the theft of their copy and headlines by Web sites and search engines like Google.

http://www.slate.com/id/2223216/

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Police beat women opposing Sudan dress code trial

Dozens of Sudanese women protest Tuesday Aug. 4, 2009 outside a Khartoum court where a female journalist …
 
 

Dozens of Sudanese women protest Tuesday Aug. 4, 2009 outside a Khartoum courtKHARTOUM, Sudan – Sudanese police fired tear gas and beat women protesting at the trial Tuesday of a female journalist who faces a flogging for wearing trousers in public.

Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein could receive 40 lashes if found guilty of violating the country's indecency law which follows a strict interpretation of Islam. The 43-year-old says the law is un-Islamic and "oppressive," and she's trying to use her trial to rally support to change it.

"I am not afraid of flogging. ... It's about changing the law," Hussein said, speaking to The Associated Press after a hearing Tuesday.

Hussein said she would take the issue all the way to Sudan's constitutional court if necessary, but that if the court rules against her and orders the flogging, she's ready "to receive (even) 40,000 lashes" if that what it takes to abolish the law.

Hussein was among 13 women arrested July 3 in a raid by the public order police on a popular cafe in Khartoum. Ten of the women were fined and flogged two days later. But Hussein and two others decided to go to trial.

In an attempt to rally support, Hussein printed invitations to diplomats, international media, and activists to attend her trial which opened last week. She also resigned from her job in the U.N.'s public information office in Khartoum, declining the immunity that went along with the job to challenge the law.

Around 100 supporters, including many women in trousers as well as others in traditional dress, protested outside the court Tuesday.

Witnesses said police wielding batons beat up one of Hussein's lawyers, Manal Awad Khogali, while keeping media and cameras at bay. No injuries were immediately reported.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090804/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_sudan_women_flogged;_ylt=Aql5AyyrguDgQ5d5wZbYLzUDW7oF

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Garfield Minus Garfield

Garfield Minus Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.

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Ryan O'Neal: I Hit On My Daughter Tatum At Farrah's Funeral

O'Neal spoke to Bennetts and characterized himself as "a hopeless father." He offered the below example from Farrah's funeral as a reason why:

"I had just put the casket in the hearse and I was watching it drive away when a beautiful blonde woman comes up and embraces me," Ryan told me. "I said to her, 'You have a drink on you? You have a car?' She said, 'Daddy, it's me--Tatum!' I was just trying to be funny with a strange Swedish woman, and it's my daughter. It's so sick."


"That's our relationship in a nutshell," Tatum said when I asked her about it. "You make of it what you will." She sighed. "It had been a few years since we'd seen each other, and he was always a ladies' man, a bon vivant."

Ryan also talks about the demise of his relationship with Farrah in 1998, when the pair initially split. He cites Farrah's menopause and talks about subsequently bedding a much-younger woman.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/03/ryan-oneal-i-hit-on-my-da_n_249668.html

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The Best Place To Hide Money: Conversation With A Burglar


BurglarI had quite the interesting conversation this weekend with a person who happened to be a former burglar. It was great timing because I was wondering if something like the skid mark underwear for hiding money would really work. I also figured that if you wanted to know the best place to hide your money from a burglar, a former burglar was the person to ask.

I started off simply and was not surprised by the answer to the question "where is the best place to hide your money?"

"At the bank," he said with a sly grin

When I rephrased and asked where the best place to hide money and valuables in the house would be if you had such items there, I was taken a bit by surprise by his answer:

"It doesn't matter how clever you think you are or where you hide it in your house, if I have enough time, I would be able to find where you stash your valuables," he said bluntly. He then explained that what was much more important than the actual place where you hide your valuables is that you understand a burglar's motivations. Basically, he has two:

1. To steal your money and valuables
2. To get out of the house as quickly as possible with these goods

When you begin to think of it from this perspective, how you should hide your money changes a bit. Obviously, you don't want to leave all your money in the places where the burglar will first look: dresser drawers, drawers by phones, desks, closets, a safe (if not bolted down), boxes, jewelry boxes, purse, etc.). That being said, you also don't want to hide all of your money too well for the following reason:

"If I can't find money and valuables in the normal places I usually find them, I would continue to tear the house apart until I found something. Remember, the first rule is to to steal money and valuables. We'll keep looking until we find something."

Your best strategy, then, is to actually leave some money in obvious places for the burglar to quickly find (the same applies if you keep all your money in the bank). This can not only save your other stash of money, but may actually keep the burglar from destroying your place as he looks for where you have hidden your money. If they believe they may have found the cash that you have in the house, they are much less likely to keep looking (remember, they want to get out asap). In the end, if you hide all your money well, you may win a moral victory in not letting the burglar find the money, but you'll likely have much more damage done to your place that will end up costing you more in the long run.

The next obvious question was "How much money should you leave for the burglar to find?"

"It depends on the area where you live. If you are in a upscale community and only leave $100, I would assume there is more and keep looking. In a different part of town $100 would convince me I found all the money that was there and leave."

When it comes to hiding valuables, his suggestion is to mark an envelope in an easily accessible drawer or with files by your computer with "Bank Safe Deposit Box" on the outside and a list of items on the inside. This will tip off the burglar that your most valuable items are stored at the bank and will discourage him from tearing up your house looking for them.

So the question of where is the best places to hide money still hadn't been answered?

His number one recommendation for money was in toys in a young child's room. As he explained, young children don't have money, they have an abundance of toys and most parents don't trust a child around money. Therefore, parents will rarely hide money there. In addition, when money is hidden, it is usually hidden away neatly and securely — a child's room is rarely a neat place making it an unlikely place for money to be hidden. Plus with all the stuff in a child's room, it is not someplace that a burglar can search quickly and get out (rule #2).

http://www.savingadvice.com/blog/2007/02/05/101141_the-best-place-to-hide-money-conversation-with-a-burglar.html

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Olbermann: Legislators for sale

Members of Congress are failing to represent their constituents in the health care fight
 
Video
  Olbermann: Legislators for sale
Aug.3: In a Special Comment, Countdown's Keith Olbermann slams members of Congress for acting more in the interests of their health industry campaign donors than their constituents who so clearly favor health care reform.
SPECIAL COMMENT
By Keith Olbermann
 

Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on Health Care Reform in this country, and in particular, the "public insurance option." In March of 1911, after a wave of minor factory fires in New York City, the City's Fire Commissioner issued emergency rules about fire prevention, protection, escape, sprinklers. The City's Manufacturers Association in turn called an emergency meeting to attack the Fire Commissioner and his 'interference with commerce.'

The new rules were delayed. Just days later, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The door to the fire escape was bolted shut to keep the employees from leaving prematurely. One hundred and fifty of those employees died, many by jumping from the seventh floor windows to avoid the flames. Firefighters setting up their ladders literally had to dodge the falling, often burning, women. This was the spirit of the American corporation then. It is the spirit of the American corporation now. It is what the corporation will do, when it is left alone, for a week. You know the drill. We all know the drill.

You get something done, at a doctor's, at a dentist's, at an emergency room and the bills are in your hands before the pain medication wears off. And if you're one of the lucky ones, and you have insurance, you submit the endless paperwork and no matter whether it's insurance through your company, or your union, or your non-profit, or on your own dime, you then get your turn… at the roulette wheel.

How much of it is the insurance company going to pay this time? How much of it is the insurance company — about which you have next to no choice, and against which you have virtually no appeal — how much is this giant corporation going to give you back? What small percentage of what they told you they were going to pay you, will they actually pay you?

You know the answer. And, you know the answer if you don't have insurance. But do you know why that's the answer?

Because the insurance industry owns the Republican Party. Not exclusively. Pharma owns part of it, too. Hospitals and HMO's, another part. Nursing homes — they have a share. You name a Republican, any Republican, and he is literally brought to you by... campaign donations from the Health Sector. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota? You gave the Republican rebuttal to the President's weekly address day before yesterday. You said the Democrats' plan was for… "…government run health care that would disrupt our current system, and force millions of Americans who currently enjoy their employer-based coverage into a new health care plan run by government bureaucrats."

That's a bald-faced lie, Senator. And you're a bald-faced liar, whose bald face is covered by…your own health care plan run by government bureaucrats. Nobody would be forced into anything; and the Public Insurance Option is no more a disruption than letting the government sell you water, and not just Poland Spring and Sparkletts. But, as corrupt hypocrites go, Senator, at least you're well paid. What was that one statement worth to you in contributions from the Health Sector, Sen. Thune?

Five thousand dollars? Ten? We know what you are, Sir, we're arguing about the price. What about your other quote? "We can accomplish health care reform while keeping patients and their doctors in charge, not bureaucrats and politicians." Wow, Senator — this illustrates how desperate you and the other Republicans are, right? Because Sen. Thune, if you really think "bureaucrats and politicians" need to get out of the way of "patients and their doctors," then you support a woman patient's right to get an abortion, and you supported Michael Schiavo's right to take his wife off life support, and you oppose "bureaucrats and politicians" getting in the way, and we'll just mark you down on the pro-choice list. That's a rare misstep for you Sen. Thune.  No twelve-thousand dollar payoff for that statement! I am not being hyperbolic, am I, Senator? On the money?

Sen. Thune has thus far received from the Health Sector, campaign contributions — and all these numbers tonight are from "The Center For Responsive Politics" — campaign contributions amounting to one million, $206,176.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32276889/ns/msnbc_tv-countdown_with_keith_olbermann/

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Deconstructing the Right Wing Lies on the Health Insurance Bill

The right's lies  about the current health insurance proposals before Congress have rarely been compiled in such concise form before. 

 

What follows is an article from the Right Wing blog ChronWatch:

 

Page After Page of Reasons to Hate ObamaCare

By Alan Caruba

 

The problem is, there's something missing, such as context. See, the writer is expecting the reader to take everything as gospel, and agree that it's bad, without any sort of explanation.  It's a list of all of the things that are wrong with the current state of the health care reform bill before Congress. If you'd like to follow along, feel free to click here to go to the bill itself. In fact, I would encourage you to look at it for yourself; it's an easy way to learn what's actually in it, without having to read through all pf the legalese.

 

We're not called Please Cut the Crap for no reason. Below each item the right wing assures readers we're supposed to hate, I've inserted context, and explained why you really shouldn't hate it. Unless you should. All of my responses are italicized and printed in red, so that you can tell whose words are whose.

I'll warn you, this is a long one, but it's an important one, so get a glass of tea, print this out, and read it to everyone who spews one of these talking points, because this really does touch on pretty much all of the right's talking points. And now you'll be able to refute them. Isn't that cool?


Now, let's continue with the article. 

 

Here are just a few very good reasons to hate ObamaCare:


• Page 22:  Mandates audits of all employers that self-insure!

 

First of all, it starts on page 21, not 22, and it simply mandates a study of risk on the part of all companies that choose to provide self-insurance, to make sure they are capitalized properly. This is something that private insurance companies are required to do; it's to protect the consumer. Say you work at a company with their own health insurance system; how would you like to find out after you've received a $100,000 bill for a hospital stay, that the insurance pool can't pay the bill?

 

This is also important because when they can't pay the bills, then everyone else with insurance ends up picking up the slack. Got that? That's the reason health insurance premiums have more than doubled in the last ten years, and are scheduled to double again in the next ten, if nothing changes.

 

Anyway, why should companies acting as health insurance companies be allowed to operate under different rules than insurance companies? Isn't that unfair competition?

 

• Page 29:  Admission: your health care will be rationed!

 

The section actually starts on page 26, and it's entitled:

SEC. 122. ESSENTIAL BENEFITS PACKAGE DEFINED.


There is absolutely NO section in there, from page 26 through page 30, that indicates rationing of any kind. Looking at Page 29 specifically, it contains a section called "Annual Limitation." A-HA! See? It's a LIMITATION! That's the same as rationing, right? Didn't they admit rationing?

 

Well, no. Because the limit is on the amount that people will have to pay out in cost-sharing, should the agency implementing the bill decide to use a version of cost-sharing. The limit is on how much a patient will have to pay, not a limit on the health care the patient receives.Watch how many times these tools bring up the "rationing" canard. It's almost as often as they mention ACORN. (I kid you not. Just wait.)

 

See what I mean when I say we have to watch these people, and check their "facts?"

 

• Page 30:  A government committee will decide what treatments and benefits you get (and, unlike an insurer, there will be no appeals process)

 

The section on Page 30 establishes an advisory committee, and yes; they will decide which treatments and benefits you get. I'm unsure as to why this is a bad thing. I don't want my health insurance premiums going to Britney's boob job, even if I have private insurance. Which reminds me; does this bozo actually think private insurance companies don't have a list of acceptable treatments and benefits? 

 

There is one difference here, though. The committee's recommendations will be published and the public will have access to them. Which means they will be able to offer input to the process.

 

Oh, and there is nothing here about "no appeals process." The Committee will simply recommend processes for implementation. Not only that, but varying appeals processes are laid out in detail throughout the bill. So, he lied about that...

 

http://www.pleasecutthecrap.com/

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New U.S. film shows pranksters battling companies

* "The Yes Men" spoofs depicted in documentary

* Hoaxes meant to show lack of corporate responsibility

By Christine Kearney

Jacques Servin fooled the BBC and the world when he posed as a Dow Chemical (DOW.N) spokesman five years ago and said that Dow would pay billions of dollars in compensation for India's Bhopal disaster.

Such hoaxes by Servin and his partner, Igor Vamos, better known as the American protest group "The Yes Men," are featured in a documentary premiering on U.S. cable channel HBO on Monday.

"The Yes Men Fix The World" chronicles their efforts to lampoon what they see as corporate greed and the excesses of a free-market economy. It won the audience award at this year's Berlin film festival and will hit U.S. cinemas in October.

"It's a bit like if you crossed Sacha Baron Cohen with Michael Moore," Vamos told Reuters in a recent interview of their stunts in which they portray corporate or government representatives and infiltrate press and trade conferences to make fake announcements.

Vamos, 41, better known as Mike Bonanno, and Servin, 45, who uses the name Andy Bichlbaum among many other aliases, rely on humor to point out corporate and government irresponsibility.

"We have prioritized profit pretty much over everything else and we have seen the results," said Servin. "We are seeing it on Wall Street, with millions of people losing their homes and we are starting to see the results of that globally with climate change."

CLIMATE CHANGE HOAXES

Several companies said the stunts are a serious offense. But Servin and Vamos have never been sued.

The BBC interview in 2004 -- their biggest hoax -- was picked up by several news organizations and caused Dow Chemical's shares to tumble 3.4 percent.

"That showed that corporations can't announce that they are going to do the right thing, because they will be punished for it," said Vamos. "We have to change the rules."

Dow Chemical says it bears no responsibility for the Bhopal catastrophe that killed at least 8,000 people and poisoned half a million people after lethal gas escaped from a chemical plant into nearby slums 25 years ago in the central Indian city.

The Bhopal factory was owned by Union Carbide, now a Dow subsidiary, which paid $470 million to the Indian government in a 1989 legal settlement.

"While some may find 'The Yes Men' entertaining, it is important to realize that these pranksters continue to communicate inaccuracies," a spokesperson for Dow said in an e-mail.

Servin also is seen delivering a speech posing as an Exxon Mobil representative in 2007 at Canada's largest oil conference in Calgary, showing off an oil product he said was made from people who died in climate change disasters.

http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsnews/idAFN2448454320090726?rpc=33&sp=true

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Are you a corporate dupe?!!

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