Friday, April 23, 2010

Empty House

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Disposable Soldiers

The Nation.
 

 CHUCK LUTHER The mortar shell that wrecked Chuck Luther's life exploded at the base of the guard tower. Luther heard the brief whistling, followed by a flash of fire, a plume of smoke and a deafening bang that shook the tower and threw him to the floor. The Army sergeant's head slammed against the concrete, and he lay there in the Iraqi heat, his nose leaking clear fluid.

"I remember laying there in a daze, looking around, trying to figure out where I was at," he says. "I was nauseous. My teeth hurt. My shoulder hurt. And my right ear was killing me." Luther picked himself up and finished his shift, then took some ibuprofen to dull the pain. The sergeant was seven months into his deployment at Camp Taji, in the volatile Sunni Triangle, twenty miles north of Baghdad. He was determined, he says, to complete his mission. But the short, muscular frame that had guided him to twenty-two honors--including three Army Achievement Medals and a Combat Action Badge--was basically broken. The shoulder pain persisted, and the hearing in his right ear, which evaporated on impact, never returned, replaced by the maddening hum of tinnitus.

Then came the headaches. "They'd start with a speckling in the corner of my vision, then grow worse and worse until finally the right eye would just shut down and go blank," he says. "The left one felt like someone was stabbing me over and over in the eye."

Doctors at Camp Taji's aid station told Luther he was faking his symptoms. When he insisted he wasn't, they presented a new diagnosis for his blindness: personality disorder.

"To be told that I was lying, that was a real smack in the face," says Luther. "Then when they said 'personality disorder,' I was really confused. I didn't understand how a problem with my personality could cause deafness or blindness or shoulder pain."

For three years The Nation has been reporting on military doctors' fraudulent use of personality disorder to discharge wounded soldiers [see Kors, "How Specialist Town Lost His Benefits," April 9, 2007]. PD is a severe mental illness that emerges during childhood and is listed in military regulations as a pre-existing condition, not a result of combat. Thus those who are discharged with PD are denied a lifetime of disability benefits, which the military is required to provide to soldiers wounded during service. Soldiers discharged with PD are also denied long-term medical care. And they have to give back a slice of their re-enlistment bonus. That amount is often larger than the soldier's final paycheck. As a result, on the day of their discharge, many injured vets learn that they owe the Army several thousand dollars.

According to figures from the Pentagon and a Harvard University study, the military is saving billions by discharging soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan with personality disorder.

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100426/kors/print

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Hitler `Downfall' parodies removed from YouTube

FILE - In this 2004 film publicity image released by Constantin Films, Swiss actor Bruno Ganz is seen as Adolf Hitler in the movie

"Downfall," a German film released in 2004 about Hitler's last days, has been adopted for wildly popular YouTube parodies that have spanned mock rants about topics as varied as playing Xbox video games to Kanye West to Apple's new iPad.

Every spoof is from the same scene in the film: A furious, defeated Hitler, played by Bruno Ganz, unleashes an impassioned, angry speech to his remaining staff, huddled with him in his underground bunker.

The scene takes on widely different meaning when paired with English subtitles about, say, a late-season collapse by the New York Mets. Most any subject could be — and was — substituted, made even funnier by the scene's intense melodrama, artful staging and timely cutaways.

It was the meme that refused to die — until it did.

On Tuesday, the clips on YouTube, many of which had been watched by hundreds of thousands, even millions, began disappearing from the site. Constantin Films, the company that owns the rights to the film, asked for them to be removed, and YouTube complied.

Martin Moszkowicz, head of film and TV at Constantin films in Munich, said the company had been fighting copyright infringement for years. Jewish organizations have also complained about the tastefulness of the clips, he said.

"When does parody stop? It is a very complicated issue," Moszkowicz said. "So we are taking a simple approach: Take them all down. We've been doing it for years now. The important thing is to protect our copyright. We are very proud of the film."

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the league was "delighted."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100421/ap_en_mo/us_hitler_youtube_meme

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Oklahoma Senate Passes Five Controversial Abortion Bills

by: Grace Huang, t r u t h o u t | Report

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(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Chandra Marsono, spaceodissey)

The Oklahoma Senate passed five abortion bills Monday night, which opponents have said will severely limit a woman's ability to get an abortion and would entail some of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country.

One of the bills would force a woman to get an ultrasound at least one hour prior to an abortion and be shown the image and given a detailed explanation of it, even if she wishes otherwise. A vaginal probe would be used if it would provide a clearer image of the fetus, which no other state requires; three others do require ultrasounds, but none force the woman to listen to an explanation of it.

State Sen. Anthony Sykes (R-Moore), the bill's sponsor, said the measure was designed to provide women with additional information before having an abortion.

Other pieces of legislation also require clinics that perform abortions to post signs stating it's "against the law for anyone ... to force you to have an abortion," forbid state exchange program insurance from covering abortions and prevent wrongful life and wrongful birth lawsuits.

One last bill would require the woman to first answer a lengthy questionnaire and provide information such as her age, marital status, race, education and reason for seeking an abortion. The doctor would then report this information - without the patient's name attached, however - which would be compiled and put on a state web site and accessible only by certain government personnel.

The bill's sponsor has said this would provide valuable information on who seeks abortions and why, in addition to helping create programs aimed at preventing abortions. Opponents of the bill, however, argue that this represents an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.

http://www.truthout.org/oklahoma-senate-passes-five-controversial-abortion-bills58754

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Mexican Authorities Block Abortion For 10-Year-Old Rape Victim

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v642/shakespeares_sister/shakesville/vintagekeysbanner.jpg


The girl's home state on the Yucatan peninsula allows abortion in cases of rape during the first 90 days of the pregnancy. But the 10-year-old girl is at 17½ weeks, nearly a month past that limit.

Advocacy groups are calling for federal officials and the United Nations to investigate the matter, claiming officials did not inform her of her abortion rights.
I don't have much to add, as it's all been said countless times before, but again, the fetus is alleged to be more important than the life and well-being of the mother, who in this case happens to be a child.

Discuss.
 
http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2010/04/mexican-authorities-blocks-abortion-for.html
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The life and times of sentient beings

http://www.truthout.org/files/tt_glox_news.jpg
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McCain: Illegal immigrants intentionally cause car accidents

 
By John Byrnemccain20081002face McCain: Illegal immigrants intentionally cause car accidents

Sen. John McCain has taken a hard turn to the right.

In an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, McCain threw his support behind what appears to be the nation's stiffest immigration law in Arizona -- and even took it one step farther.

McCain said that undocumented immigrants are a threat to American citizens because they are intentionally causing car accidents.

"It's the drive-by that -- the drivers of cars with illegals in it that are intentionally causing accidents on the freeway," the onetime Republican presidential nominee told O'Reilly.

"The state of Arizona is acting and doing what they feel they need to do in light of the fact that the federal government is not fulfilling its fundamental responsibility to secure our borders," McCain added. "Look, our border is not secured. Our citizens are not safe."

http://rawstory.com/rs/2010/0421/mccain-illegal-immigrants-intentionally-causing-car-accidents/

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RNC blew $340,000 on posh three-day Hawaii bash — $56,000 a day

By John Byrne

waikiki4 RNC blew $340,000 on posh three day Hawaii bash    $56,000 a dayThe Republican National Committee spent more than $340,000 at a lavish party meeting in Hawaii, according to recently filed campaign finance reports.

The news comes on the heels of a report last month which revealed that the Party had reimbursed a staffer $2,000 for an event at a risqué bondage-themed Beverly Hills nightclub.

Federal Election Commission reports, noted in the DC-insider website Hotline, show that the party spent a whopping $167,000 for "facilities" during their three day stay. That comes to $56,000 per day, more than the average American makes in a year.

RNC officials spent another $90,000 for rooms and office space for party employees.

Hotline reports that at least 33 RNC staffers made their way to the Waikiki Beach party. Another 168 members of the party's national committee also attended -- meaning the cost per attendee comes to more than $2,000 each.

And the $340,000 total doesn't include airfare.

"The $340K documented in FEC filings does not include airfare for each staffer, which could amount to tens of thousands more," Hotline's Reid Wilson reports. "FEC rules require the party committees to disclose how they spent their money, including listing merchants who received payments, but it does not require the RNC to list destinations of air travel. Given that the RNC spends thousands of dollars for air travel every month, that means there is no way to account for the staffers who flew to Honolulu."

http://rawstory.com/rs/2010/0421/rnc-blew-340000-posh-threeday-hawaii-bash/

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Defense Spending Is Much Greater than You Think

The Independent Institute
 

When President Obama presented his budget recently for fiscal year 2011, he proposed that the Pentagon's outlays be increased by about 4.5 percent beyond its estimated outlays in fiscal 2010, to a total of almost $719 billion. Although many Americans regard this enormous sum as excessive, few appreciate that the total amount of all defense-related spending greatly exceeds the amount budgeted for the Department of Defense.

In fiscal year 2009, which ended last September, the Pentagon spent $636.5 billion. Lodged elsewhere in the budget, however, other lines identify funding that serves defense purposes just as surely as—sometimes even more surely than—the money allocated to the Department of Defense. On occasion, commentators take note of some of these additional defense-related budget items, such as the Department of Energy's nuclear-weapons program, but many such items, including some extremely large ones, remain generally unrecognized.

Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, many observers probably would agree that its budget ought to be included in any complete accounting of defense costs. After all, the homeland is what most of us want the government to defend in the first place.

Other agencies also spend money in pursuit of homeland security. The Justice Department, for example, includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which devotes substantial resources to an anti-terrorist program. The Department of the Treasury claims to have "worked closely with the Departments of State and Justice and the intelligence community to disrupt targets related to al Qaeda, Hizballah, Jemaah Islamiyah, as well as to disrupt state sponsorship of terror."

Much, if not all, of the budget for the Department of State and for international assistance programs ought to be classified as defense-related, too. In this case, the money serves to buy off potential enemies and to reward friendly governments who assist U.S. efforts to abate perceived threats. About $5 billion of annual U.S. foreign aid currently takes the form of "foreign military financing," and even funds placed under the rubric of economic development may serve defense-related purposes indirectly. Money is fungible, and the receipt of foreign assistance for economic-development projects allows allied governments to divert other funds to police, intelligence, and military purposes.

Two big budget items represent the current cost of defense goods and services obtained in the past. The Department of Veterans Affairs, which is authorized to spend about $124 billion in the current fiscal year, falls in this category. Likewise, a great deal of the government's interest expense on publicly held debt represents the current cost of defense outlays financed in the past by borrowing from the public.

To estimate the size of the entire de facto defense budget, I gathered data for fiscal 2009, the most recently completed fiscal year, for which data on actual outlays are now available. In that year, the Department of Defense itself spent $636.5 billion. Defense-related parts of the Department of Energy budget added $16.7 billion. The Department of Homeland Security spent $51.7 billion. The Department of State and international assistance programs laid out $36.3 billion for activities arguably related to defense purposes either directly or indirectly. The Department of Veterans Affairs had outlays of $95.5 billion. The Department of the Treasury, which funds the lion's share of military retirement costs through its support of the little-known Military Retirement Fund, added $54.9 billion. A large part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's outlays ought to be regarded as defense-related, if only indirectly so. When all of these other parts of the budget are added to the budget for the Pentagon itself, they increase the fiscal 2009 total by nearly half again, to $901.5 billion.

http://www.independent.org/blog/?p=5827

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The new money

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