Tuesday, June 8, 2010

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Congress Is Back, Checkbook in Hand, Blood Scent in Nostrils



 

Will Your (Mis-)Representative Oppose $33.5 Billion for War Escalation?

DefundWar.org logo

Congress is back today, with war escalation funding on the table.

Whether or not we block it, we send the strongest message possible and build in the direction needed by maximizing the No votes.

And if the Republicans all vote No because something good is included, then we can easily defeat the bill with only a portion of those Democrats who "oppose" the war actually voting against it.

The most prominent excuse you'll hear is that good things may be packaged into the same bill.  But those good things will not outweigh the damage done by the war escalation and could be passed separately.   We cannot afford the human or financial cost.  And the blowback from these wars endangers us all no matter what our domestic policies are.

Such empty excuses actually mean "I don't know yet if the leadership will let me vote No."  In other words, your representative may be willing to vote No as long as it doesn't risk actually defeating the bill.  Demand that they commit to voting No now.

Keep track of where your representative stands at
http://defundwar.org

What to say:
If you do not try to block the war escalation funding, I will try to block your reelection in November.  If you support peace, I will support you.  Please commit publicly to voting No, no matter what nice things that could be passed separately are packaged into the same vote.  Please join the 76 congressional candidates from every political party who have signed a st atement against war spending at http://caws.us

Capitol Hill Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

http://afterdowningstreet.org

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June 8 Primaries Measure Voter Anger Across The Country

by MICHAEL R. BLOOD

How angry are Americans? People primed for change vote in 12 states Tuesday in contests that will decide the fate of two endangered Washington incumbents – a two-term senator in Arkansas and a six-term congressman in South Carolina – while setting the stage for some of the races that could determine the balance of power on Capitol Hill in the fall.

In an Arkansas runoff, Sen. Blanche Lincoln could fall to a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who says "the only way to change Washington is to change who we send there." South Carolina Republican Rep. Bob Inglis is trying to fend off primary challengers who have made the race a referendum on his 2008 vote to bail out up the nation's banking industry.

The political strength of the tea party movement faces tests in several states, particularly in Nevada, where three Republicans are in a bruising fight for the chance to take on Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, in November.

Republicans in California could send two political neophytes, wealthy former business executives Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, into races to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and challenge Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

In an election season overshadowed by the ailing economy and unhappiness with Washington, three longtime incumbents already have lost: Sens. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, and Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va. A party switcher new on the scene, Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, stumbled this past week as voters demanded ideological purity.

A Pew Research Center poll in April found that public confidence in government was at one of the lowest points in a half century. Bennett calls the political atmosphere toxic. Races on Tuesday will provide fresh evidence of how far people want to go to shake up statehouses and Washington.

"I've become frightened over what our government is doing," says Roxanne Blum, 57, a Republican from Pahrump, Nev. She's alarmed by the soaring debt and has seen firsthand, through her work in the mortgage industry, the damage caused by Nevada's highest-in-the country foreclosure rate.

Once excited by Reid's ascendancy in Washington leadership, she now sees him as out of touch with his economically troubled home state. "When he comes here, he does lip service," she says.

Earlier congressional contests have shown that incumbency can be a yoke and that voter discontent is running through both parties, even though the Democrats who control Congress have the most at risk in November. With President Barack Obama's popularity slipping, issues from the health care overhaul law to taxes are defining races.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/06/june-8-primaries-measure_n_602134.html

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Not just a high

 
Scientists test medicinal marijuana against MS, inflammation and cancer
 
downloadIn science's struggle to keep up with life on the streets, smoking cannabis for medical purposes stands as Exhibit A.

Medical use of cannabis has taken on momentum of its own, surging ahead of scientists' ability to measure the drug's benefits. The pace has been a little too quick for some, who see medicinal joints as a punch line, a ruse to free up access to a recreational drug.

But while the medical marijuana movement has been generating political news, some researchers have been quietly moving in new directions — testing cannabis and its derivatives against a host of diseases. The scientific literature now brims with potential uses for cannabis that extend beyond its well-known abilities to fend off nausea and block pain in people with cancer and AIDS. Cannabis derivatives may combat multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease and other inflammatory conditions, the new research finds. Cannabis may even kill cancerous tumors.

Many in the scientific community are now keen to see if this potential will be fulfilled, but they haven't always been. Pharmacologist Roger Pertwee of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland recalls attending scientific conferences 30 years ago, eager to present his latest findings on the therapeutic effects of cannabis. It was a hard sell.

"Our talks would be scheduled at the end of the day, and our posters would be stuck in the corner somewhere," he says. "That's all changed."

Underlying biology

The long march to credibility for cannabis research has been built on molecular biology. Smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana — Latin name Cannabis sativa — has a medical history that dates back thousands of years. But the euphoria-inducing component of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, wasn't isolated until 1964, by biochemist Raphael Mechoulam, then of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and his colleagues. Within two decades, other researchers had developed synthetic THC to use in pill form.

The secrets of how THC worked in the body lay hidden until the late 1980s, when researchers working with rats found that the compound binds to a protein that pops up on the surface of nerve cells. Further tests showed that THC also hooks up with another protein found elsewhere in the body. These receptor proteins were dubbed CB1 and CB2.

A bigger revelation came in 1992: Mammals make their own compound that binds to, and switches on, the CB1 receptor. Scientists named the compound anandamide. Researchers soon found its counterpart that binds mainly to the CB2 receptor, calling that one 2AG, for 2-arachidonyl glycerol. The body routinely makes these compounds, called endocannabinoids, and sends them into action as needed.

"At that point, this became a very, very respectable field," says Mechoulam, now at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who along with Pertwee and others reported the anandamide discovery in Science. "THC just mimics the effects of these compounds in our bodies," Mechoulam says. Although the receptors are abundant, anandamide and 2AG are short-acting compounds, so their effects are fleeting.

In contrast, when a person consumes cannabis, a flood of THC molecules bind to thousands of CB1 and CB2 receptors, with longer-lasting effects. The binding triggers so many internal changes that, decades after the receptors' discovery, scientists are still sorting out the effects. From a biological standpoint, smoking pot to get high is like starting up a semitruck just to listen to the radio. There's a lot more going on.

Though the psychoactive effect of THC has slowed approval for cannabis-based drugs, the high might also have brought on a serendipitous discovery, says neurologist Ethan Russo, senior medical adviser for GW Pharmaceuticals, which is based in Porton Down, England. "How much longer would it have taken us to figure out the endocannabinoid system if cannabis didn't happen to have these unusual effects on human physiology?"

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Though smoked cannabis has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, its use for medical purposes has been sanctioned by law in 14 states (shown in green, year given). Different states apply their own restrictions, some of which are highlighted.

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/59872/title/Not_just_a_high

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Should This Be the Last Generation?

The StoneHave you ever thought about whether to have a child? If so, what factors entered into your decision? Was it whether having children would be good for you, your partner and others close to the possible child, such as children you may already have, or perhaps your parents? For most people contemplating reproduction, those are the dominant questions. Some may also think about the desirability of adding to the strain that the nearly seven billion people already here are putting on our planet's environment. But very few ask whether coming into existence is a good thing for the child itself. Most of those who consider that question probably do so because they have some reason to fear that the child's life would be especially difficult — for example, if they have a family history of a devastating illness, physical or mental, that cannot yet be detected prenatally.

All this suggests that we think it is wrong to bring into the world a child whose prospects for a happy, healthy life are poor, but we don't usually think the fact that a child is likely to have a happy, healthy life is a reason for bringing the child into existence. This has come to be known among philosophers as "the asymmetry" and it is not easy to justify. But rather than go into the explanations usually proffered — and why they fail — I want to raise a related problem. How good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world? Is the standard of life experienced by most people in developed nations today good enough to make this decision unproblematic, in the absence of specific knowledge that the child will have a severe genetic disease or other problem?

If there were to be no future generations, there would be nothing for us to feel to guilty about. Is there anything wrong with this scenario?

The 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer held that even the best life possible for humans is one in which we strive for ends that, once achieved, bring only fleeting satisfaction. New desires then lead us on to further futile struggle and the cycle repeats itself.

Schopenhauer's pessimism has had few defenders over the past two centuries, but one has recently emerged, in the South African philosopher David Benatar, author of a fine book with an arresting title: "Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence." One of Benatar's arguments trades on something like the asymmetry noted earlier. To bring into existence someone who will suffer is, Benatar argues, to harm that person, but to bring into existence someone who will have a good life is not to benefit him or her. Few of us would think it right to inflict severe suffering on an innocent child, even if that were the only way in which we could bring many other children into the world. Yet everyone will suffer to some extent, and if our species continues to reproduce, we can be sure that some future children will suffer severely. Hence continued reproduction will harm some children severely, and benefit none.

illustration
Erin Schell

Benatar also argues that human lives are, in general, much less good than we think they are. We spend most of our lives with unfulfilled desires, and the occasional satisfactions that are all most of us can achieve are insufficient to outweigh these prolonged negative states. If we think that this is a tolerable state of affairs it is because we are, in Benatar's view, victims of the illusion of pollyannaism. This illusion may have evolved because it helped our ancestors survive, but it is an illusion nonetheless. If we could see our lives objectively, we would see that they are not something we should inflict on anyone.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/should-this-be-the-last-generation/?th&emc=th

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Kidnapped by Israel, forsaken by Britain

 
Al Jazeera producer Jamal Elshayyal recalls the Israeli assault on the Gaza aid convoy.

Firstly I must apologise for taking so long to update my blog. The events of the past few days have been hectic to say the least, and I am still trying to come to grips with many of the things that have happened.

It was this time last week that I was on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara, and first spotted Israeli warships at a distance, as they approached the humanitarian flotilla.  Little did I know how deadly and bloody the events that soon unfolded would be.

What I will write in this entry is fact, every letter of it, none of it is opinion, none of it is analysis, I will leave that to you, the reader.

After spotting the warships at a distance, (at roughly 11pm) the organisers called for passengers to wear their life vests and remain indoors as they monitored the situation. The naval warships together with helicopters remained at a distance for several hours.

At 2am local time the organisers informed me that they had re-routed the ship, as far away from Israel as possible, as deep into international waters as they could. They did not want a confrontation with the Israeli military, at least not by night.

Just after 4am local time, the Israeli military attacked the ship, in international waters. It was an unprovoked attack. Tear gas was used, sound grenades were launched, and rubber coated steel bullets were fired from almost every direction.

Dozens of speed boats carrying about 15-20 masked Israeli soldiers, armed to the teeth surrounded the Mavi Marmara which was carrying 600 or so unarmed civilians. Two helicopters at a time hovered above the vessel. Commandos on board the choppers joined the firing, using live ammunition, before any of the soldiers had descended onto the ship.

Two unarmed civilians were killed just metres away from me. Dozens of unarmed civilians were injured right before my eyes.

One Israeli soldier, armed with a large automatic gun and a side pistol, was overpowered by several passengers. They disarmed him. They did not use his weapons or fire them; instead they threw his weapons over board and into the sea.

After what seemed at the time as roughly 30 minutes, passengers on board the ship raised a white flag. The Israeli army continued to fire live ammunition. The ships organisers made a loud speaker announcement saying they have surrendered the ship. The Israeli army continued to fire live ammunition.

I was the last person to leave the top deck.

Below, inside the sleeping quarters, all the passengers had gathered. There was shock, anger, fear, hurt, chaos.

Doctors ran in all directions trying to treat the wounded, blood was on the floor, tears ran down people's faces, cries of pain and mourning could be heard everywhere. Death was in the air.

Three critically injured civilians were being treated on the ground in the reception area of the ship. Their clothes soaked in blood. Passengers stood by watching in shock, some read out verses of the Qur'an to calm them, doctors worked desperately to save them.

Several announcements were made on the load speakers in Hebrew, Arabic and English - "This is a message to the Israeli army, we have surrendered. We are unarmed. We have critically injured people. Please come and take them. We will not attack."

There was no response.

http://blogs.aljazeera.net/middle-east/2010/06/06/kidnapped-israel-forsaken-britain

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IDF admits doctoring audio of raid on Gaza flotilla

By Daniel Tencer

israelflag20080507 IDF admits doctoring audio of raid on Gaza flotillaThe Israeli Defense Force has issued a "clarification" admitting it manipulated audio of its raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

On Friday, the IDF released audio of what it said was an exchange between Israel Navy officers and the crew of the Mavi Marmara, the main vessel in the flotilla. In it, voices could be heard telling the Israeli soldiers to "go back to Auschwitz" and "we're helping Arabs go against the US -- don't forget 9/11, guys."

But flotilla passengers quickly began disputing the veracity of the audio clip.

Investigative journalist Max Blumenthal reports that the head of the Free Gaza movement, Huwaida Arraf, could be heard on the videotape asserting the flotilla's right to enter Gaza territory. But Arraf says she wasn't on board the Mavi Marmara, and was actually on board another ship, the Challenger One. Another flotilla member whose voice can be heard on the audio, Ali Abunimah, also said he wasn't aboard the Mavi Marmara.

According to a news report from the Palestinian news agency Ma'an, Arraf suggests the audio of her that appeared in the clip came from an earlier exchange between her and Israeli forces, but she admits she "could not be sure" she didn't repeat her assertion during exchanges with the IDF during the raid.

http://rawstory.com/rs/2010/0606/idf-admits-doctoring-audio-gaza-flotilla/

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Reproductive Health Concerns in the Aftermath of the Gulf Oil Disaster

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by Lucinda Marshall

photo
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Trevor Bair, Bart van Damme)

Imagine that you are a woman living on or near the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps, you are pregnant or hope to be soon. And, perhaps, your partner is one of the fishermen who has been helping to clean up from the BP oil disaster. He comes home at night coughing and barely able to breath and his skin is irritated from contact with the oil.

Will exposure to the toxic chemicals in the oil and/or in the dispersants damage his sperm or your eggs, perhaps making it difficult to conceive? Could the chemicals damage the embryo you already carry, cause a miscarriage or birth defects? Is your newborn baby or young child at particular risk? Should pregnant women and children living near the Gulf take special precautions? And what if you don't even live near the gulf, could your reproductive health be impacted as well?

While all of these issues are valid concerns, there has been no substantive effort to address them in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. According to Dr. Riki Ott, a marine biologist who has worked extensively to study and raise awareness about the impact of oil spills on both the environment and on people, the ability to fight against toxics is not fully developed in the womb or in children and, as a result, these populations are particularly vulnerable. "Pregnant woman and children should not be anywhere near this," she said in a phone interview.

Of particular concern are ingredients in the oil and in the dispersants that may be endocrine disruptors which, according to the National Institutes of Health, "are chemicals that may interfere with the body's endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife ... Research shows that endocrine disruptors may pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming ... Young children should not be allowed near the beach where they could come into direct contact with the oil."

Further, "Some of the volatile chemicals in oil have been linked to miscarriage, preterm birth and low birth weight, so it is a good idea for pregnant women to avoid the areas where there are elevated levels of VOCs in the air.

http://www.truthout.org/reproductive-health-concerns-aftermath-gulf-oil-disaster60211

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Halliburton campaign donations spike

By JAKE SHERMAN

Chuck Grassley, Pat Toomey and Joe Barton are shown in this composite.

As Congress investigated its role in the doomed Deep Horizon oil rig, Halliburton donated $17,000 to candidates running for federal office, giving money to several lawmakers on committees that have launched inquiries into the massive spill.

The Texas-based oil giant's political action committee made 14 contributions during the month of May, according to a federal campaign report filed Wednesday — 13 to Republicans and one to a Democrat. It was the busiest donation month for Halliburton's PAC since September 2008.

Of the 10 current members of Congress who got money from Halliburton in May, seven are on committees with oversight of the oil spill and its aftermath.

Halliburton's political contributions in May are the highest they've been since September 2009, when the PAC also gave $17,000 in donations. In fact, the last time the company gave more than $17,000 in one month was when it donated $25,000 during the heat of the presidential campaign in September 2008.

About one week before executive Timothy Probert appeared before the House Energy and Commerce's investigative subcommittee, Halliburton donated $1,500 to Ranking Republican Joe Barton's reelection effort. It was Halliburton's second-largest donation of the month — topped only by $2,500 to former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is running for the Senate.

In the Senate, Idaho Republican Mike Crapo, who serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee, Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson, who serves on the Commerce Committee and North Carolina Republican Richard Burr (N.C.), who serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, all got $1,000. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also got $1,000.

In the House Reps. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), who serves on the Natural Resources Committee, Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) and Dave Camp (R-Mich.) all received $1,000 from the oil giant.

Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren, the only Democrat who got Halliburton's money.

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The people who made a mess

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