spooky_nine: (Default)
Execution by injection far from painless
Execution by lethal injection may not be the painless procedure most Americans assume, say researchers from Florida and Virginia.

They examined post-mortem blood levels of anaesthetic and believe that prisoners may have been capable of feeling pain in almost 90% of cases and may have actually been conscious when they were put to death in over 40% of cases.

Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated in the US, 788 people have been killed by lethal injection. The procedure typically involves the injection of three substances: first, sodium thiopental to induce anaesthesia, followed by pancuronium bromide to relax muscles, and finally potassium chloride to stop the heart.

But doctors and nurses are prohibited by healthcare professionals' ethical guidelines from participating in or assisting with executions, and the technicians involved have no specific training in administering anaesthetics.

"My impression is that lethal injection as practiced in the US now is no more humane than the gas chamber or electrocution, which have both been deemed inhumane," says Leonidas Koniaris, a surgeon in Miami and one of the authors on the paper. He is not, he told New Scientist, against the death penalty per se.

But Kyle Janek, a Texas senator and anaesthesiologist, and a vocal advocate of the death penalty, insists that levels of anaesthetic are more than adequate. He says that an inmate will typically receive up to 3 grams - about 10 times the amount given before surgery. "I can attest with all medical certainty that anyone receiving that massive dose will be under anaesthesia," he said in a recent editorial.

Continued )

I think this brings up a lot of interesting questions. Do you even care if criminals are experiencing pain like the article says? They're guilty, shouldn't they be made to suffer? The Eighth amendment says they should be executed humanely. Who's right?

I'm anti-death penalty for purely fiscal reasons; it's more expensive to keep criminals on death row while they exhaust their appeals rather than to sentence them to life imprisonment.
spooky_nine: (KD - The Prince - Rainbow 1)
Fed Judge Rules Prop. 8 Unconstitutional

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) ― A federal judge has ruled that California's voter-approved same-sex marriage ban, known as Propostion 8, doesn't pass scrutiny under the U.S. Constitution because it violates the 14th Amendment.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the measure banning same-sex marriage is "unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses."

Gay rights advocates were quick to hail the decision.

"This ruling is an historic milestone for millions of loving families, for all who have fought to realize the dream of equality under the law, and for our nation as a whole," said Rick Jacobs, spokesman for the Courage Campaign, a gay and lesbian rights organization.

But Walker 's decision issued Wednesday afternoon is only the first word in the landmark case.

Attorneys on both sides had said an appeal was certain if Walker did not rule in their favor. The case would go first to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals then the U.S. Supreme Court if the high court justices agree to review it

Walker's ruling comes in response to a lawsuit brought by two same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco that seeks to invalidate the law as an unlawful infringement on the civil rights of gay men and lesbians.

Proposition 8 outlawed gay marriages in California five months after the state Supreme Court legalized them. It passed with 52 percent of the vote in November 2008, following the most expensive campaign on a social issue in U.S. history.

Anticipating Walker's decision, lawyers for the coalition of religious and conservative groups that sponsored Proposition 8 in 2008 filed a legal brief asking Walker to stay his ruling overturning the ban so same-sex couples can not marry while an appeal is pending.

"Same-sex marriages would be licensed under a cloud of uncertainty, and should proponents succeed on appeal, any such marriages would be invalid," they wrote.

Walker presided over a 13-day trial earlier this year that was the first in federal court to examine if states can prohibit gays from getting married without violating the federal constitutional guarantee of equality.

Supporters argued the ban was necessary to safeguard the traditional understanding of marriage and to encourage responsible childbearing.

Opponents said that tradition or fears of harm to heterosexual unions were legally insufficient grounds to discriminate against gay couples.

This is an amazing milestone, but I won't quit feeling apprehensive until all appeals are exhausted and everything is said and done.
spooky_nine: (Me - K - Edward Gorey)
Blizzard decides not to tie real life names to forum posts after public outcry.

Hello everyone,

I'd like to take some time to speak with all of you regarding our desire to make the Blizzard forums a better place for players to discuss our games. We've been constantly monitoring the feedback you've given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we've decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.

It's important to note that we still remain committed to improving our forums. Our efforts are driven 100% by the desire to find ways to make our community areas more welcoming for players and encourage more constructive conversations about our games. We will still move forward with new forum features such as the ability to rate posts up or down, post highlighting based on rating, improved search functionality, and more. However, when we launch the new StarCraft II forums that include these new features, you will be posting by your StarCraft II Battle.net character name + character code, not your real name. The upgraded World of Warcraft forums with these new features will launch close to the release of Cataclysm, and also will not require your real name.

I want to make sure it's clear that our plans for the forums are completely separate from our plans for the optional in-game Real ID system now live with World of Warcraft and launching soon with StarCraft II. We believe that the powerful communications functionality enabled by Real ID, such as cross-game and cross-realm chat, make Battle.net a great place for players to stay connected to real-life friends and family while playing Blizzard games. And of course, you'll still be able to keep your relationships at the anonymous, character level if you so choose when you communicate with other players in game. Over time, we will continue to evolve Real ID on Battle.net to add new and exciting functionality within our games for players who decide to use the feature.

In closing, I want to point out that our connection with our community has always been and will always be extremely important to us. We strongly believe that Every Voice Matters, ( http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/company/about/mission.html ) and we feel fortunate to have a community that cares so passionately about our games. We will always appreciate the feedback and support of our players, which has been a key to Blizzard's success from the beginning.

Mike Morhaime
CEO & Cofounder
Blizzard Entertainment

I'm still a little uncomfortable with Blizzard. I like that they seemingly listened to their customer base and made changes based on our concerns, but I'm upset that they even came up with the idea in the first place and didn't see any of the many flaws it had. I'm also very realistic, and I'm sure all of the negative press attention had more to do with this new announcement than the thousands of forum posts and emails.

The last of my paid time runs out at the end of this month. I think I'll re-evaluate my decision to cancel my subscription then.

spooky_nine: (/b/ - FFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU-)
So you've heard about the new change Blizzard is implementing, right? That Blizzard is going to make everyone post under their real first and last name on the forums?

I'm outraged. This has so much potential for abuse that I'm shocked. I've written emails to Blizzard and the ESRB Privacy Online program. And I've cancelled my account, explaining that this new change was a direct result of that. Maybe if enough people complain or cancel their accounts this change will be cancelled, or reworked so that people's names will never be associated with their online postings.

Here's (I feel) the most succinct posting on why I disagree with the changes: (thanks to [livejournal.com profile] renegade_mime)

Blizzard has indicated that it does not care to hear women's feedback on the game. I suppose that makes sense, as its target demographic is young adult males.

I didn't cancel my account because without posting on the forums, I wouldn't enjoy WoW. Of course I'd still enjoy the game. I cancelled my account because Blizzard's new "if you're afraid for your security, just don't speak up" policy. The forums are our only voice, our only place to make suggestions and have conversations and get clarifications and be heard by Blizzard. Telling people that if they're worried about their safety, they shouldn't participate, shouldn't make their voices heard, should sit down, shut up, and leave the public space to those who don't have to worry about it, well, that makes me rage.

It's like telling black men living in fear of the Ku Klux Klan that they should just not go to the voting booth today.

It's like telling a battered wife that she should just shut up so that her husband is less likely to hit her.

It's like telling Islamic women that if it's dangerous for them to go outside alone, they should sit inside, rather than trying to change anything.

And ultimately, it will lead to victim blaming.

When this system is implemented, and some poor woman is !!@%d or killed, and her !%@%##/killer was able to track her down based upon her name posted on a Blizzard forum - Blizzard is going to release a press release. It's going to say, that what happened to this woman is unfortunate, but it is up to the user to safeguard their internet privay. The internet community at large is going to agree. She should have known better than to be a woman on Blizzard forums. %@#!* had it coming.

And then something in me will snap. RAGE. I play a warrior for a reason.

And that is why I have cancelled my account.

Just six more weeks of paid time left.
spooky_nine: (Her Lips Must be Diseased)
My abortion, their political ploy
While Obama signed away women's rights, I recovered from the hardest decision I've had to make

Last month, while President Obama quietly signed an executive order reaffirming that no federal funds can be used for abortion, I was alone in bed, waking from a fitful, 18-hour sleep, if you can even call it that. There were dried and fresh tears on my face. I was wearing a Maxi-pad that felt like a diaper and was spotted with blood. My breasts were swollen, painful to the touch. The sharp cramps in my uterus were crippling and unrelenting. I was nauseated, dry-heaving despite an empty stomach, nearly incapable of taking the medication and antibiotics necessary to quell the pain and stave off infection.

The day before, on Tuesday, March 23, I had an abortion.

The procedure was not cheap, $450. A financially devastating sum for a freelance writer whose earning potential has been decimated by bloggers and budget cuts. I have health insurance. It's egregiously expensive, all that I can afford, with a high deductible that renders the plan useless unless I get hit by a bus. Filing for reimbursement was not an option.

If this was just about money then perhaps I could set aside my frustration, anger, sadness and resentment over the ban in the name of compromise and a long-overdue, desperately needed overhaul of our nation's healthcare system. I imagine this is how President Obama, who campaigned as a pro-choice president, rationalized his signature. But this is not just about money. It's about becoming a concession in a public and political debate that was, and continues to be, devoid of the inherently private physical and emotional realities of having an abortion.

Not long ago, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced that April was "Abortion Recovery" month. Abortion recovery: What the hell does he know about that?

Continued )

Via [livejournal.com profile] ontd_feminism
spooky_nine: (Dia de los Muertos)
Ad campaign for pro-assisted suicide group

An ad campaign for pro-assisted suicide group DignityInDeath.com features a series of park bench plaques telling stories of now-deceased people whose lives, it suggests, may not have been worth prolonging. One plaque is dedicated "to the glory of Kathleen (Kay) Mandell, who at age 32 was stricken by Lou Gehrig's disease that caused her muscles to waste away, one by one, until her throat paralysed and she choked to death while fully conscious."
spooky_nine: (your government is lying)
Perry: Fed up Texans might soon want to secede
Texans are fed up with federal tax policies, and might get so fed up that they decide they want to secede from the union, Gov. Rick Perry told reporters today after he attended an anti-tax tea party rally in Austin.

He said the federal government has gone somewhat astray from what our founders wanted and he believes the federal government is choking Americans with excessive spending and taxation. He repeated those sentiments later at a rally at LaGrave Field in Fort Worth.

And although Perry made it clear he doesn't see the need to secede and isn't advocating for that, he said there's no question that's on the mind of some Texans. That was obvious at tea parties around the state, where "Secede" was a popular slogan on signs.

"Texas is a unique place," he said. "When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.

"My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention," he said. "We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot.”

But the Civil War pretty much settled whether a state – even Texas – could secede from the union, said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University.

That underscores how Perry's statements are basically just political posturing, Riddlesperger said.

"Governor Perry, like others in the country, is frustrated with tax rates and the growth of the national government," Riddlesperger said. "Certainly that's understandable."

"But for him, Kay Bailey Hutchison is probably going to run against him and he wants to position himself so that he can say she's part of the big government in Washington and he is not."

At a tea party rally in Austin City Hall, chants of "Secede" could be heard during speeches.

During a second rally in front of the Capitol, Melanie Matthews of San Antonio held a sign advocating secession.

"If the federal government thinks that they have the right to tell us how to live and want to take away the states' right, I think Texas should exercise its right to secede," she said.

Matthews said she was raised to love her country and only recently thought secession was a worthy idea.

"The whole move toward socialism and the language that indicates we're headed in that direction," Matthews said. "For the first time of my life, I am afraid of where this country is headed."

Matthews' son, Jonathon, a student at UT, was wearing a sticker for a group called "Texans for Secession." He said he has supported the idea for a couple of years.

"Bush is a problem. Obama is a problem," he said. "The federal government has been abusing us and taking our money and stealing from us for far too long."

For the record, I have never voted for him.
spooky_nine: (hire prostitutes)
Texas School Board Set to Vote on Challenge to Evolution
The Texas Board of Education will vote this week on a new science curriculum designed to challenge the guiding principle of evolution, a step that could influence what is taught in biology classes across the nation.

The proposed curriculum change would prompt teachers to raise doubts that all life on Earth is descended from common ancestry. Texas is such a huge textbook market that many publishers write to the state's standards, then market those books nationwide.

"This is the most specific assault I've seen against evolution and modern science," said Steven Newton, a project director at the National Center for Science Education, which promotes teaching of evolution.

Texas school board chairman Don McLeroy also sees the curriculum as a landmark -- but a positive one.
Dr. McLeroy believes that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago. If the new curriculum passes, he says he will insist that high-school biology textbooks point out specific aspects of the fossil record that, in his view, undermine the theory that all life on Earth is descended from primitive scraps of genetic material that first emerged in the primordial muck about 3.9 billion years ago.

He also wants the texts to make the case that individual cells are far too complex to have evolved by chance mutation and natural selection, an argument popular with those who believe an intelligent designer created the universe.

The textbooks will "have to say that there's a problem with evolution -- because there is," said Dr. McLeroy, a dentist. "We need to be honest with the kids."

The vast majority of scientists accept evolution as the best explanation for the diversity of life on earth.

Yes, they say, there are unanswered questions -- transitional fossils yet to be unearthed, biological processes still to be discovered. There is lively scientific debate about some aspects of evolution's winding, four-billion-year path. But when critics talk about exposing students to the "weaknesses" or "insufficiencies" in evolutionary theory, many mainstream scientists cringe.

The fossil record clearly supports evolution, they say, and students shouldn't be exposed to creationist critiques in the name of "critical thinking."

"We will be teaching nonsense in the science classroom," said David Hillis, a biology professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Polls show many Americans are skeptical of or confused by evolution; in a recent survey by Gallup, 39% said they believe the theory, 25% said they didn't, and 36% had no opinion.

The Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that challenges evolution, cites a recent Zogby poll that found a strong majority of Americans supports letting teachers explore both "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution. Otherwise, students see only "cherry-picked evidence that really amounts to propaganda," said John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.

The Texas school board will vote after taking public testimony in a three-day meeting that starts Wednesday. Dr. McLeroy leads a group of seven social conservatives on the 15-member board. They are opposed by a bipartisan group of seven, often joined by an eighth board member considered a swing vote, that support teaching evolution without caveats.

Neither side is confident of victory. All members of the board have come under enormous pressure in recent months, especially three Republicans who support teaching evolution without references to "weaknesses." The state Republican Party passed a resolution urging the three to back Dr. McLeroy's preferred curriculum. A conservative activist group put out a news release suggesting all three were in the pocket of "militant Darwinists."

One of the three, former social-studies teacher Pat Hardy, said she has received thousands of impassioned calls and emails.

Ms. Hardy says she intends to stand firm for evolution, but she has learned not to predict what her colleagues might do. Curriculum standards critical of evolution won preliminary approval in January, but several board members said later that they hadn't understood the issues.

"Anything can happen," Ms. Hardy said.
spooky_nine: (your government is lying)
Dalai Lama denied visa for South Africa peace conference
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- South Africa has refused the Dalai Lama a visa to attend an international peace conference in Johannesburg this week, a presidential spokesman said.

The Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Laureate did not receive a visa because it was not in South Africa's interest for him to attend, said Thabo Masebe.

South Africa thinks that, if the Dalai Lama attended the conference, the focus would shift away from the 2010 World Cup -- the global soccer championship it will host next year.

"We cannot allow focus to shift to China and Tibet," Masebe said, adding that South Africa has gained much from its trading relationship with China.

The Dalai Lama's fellow laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said he would boycott the event.

Former president F.W. De Klerk, another laureate, backed Tutu, saying in a statement that he would also not participate in the conference if the Dalai Lama remained excluded.

De Klerk said that the decision to refuse the visa made a "mockery" of the peace conference.

"The decision to exclude the Dalai Lama is irreconcilable with key principles on which our society is based including the principles of accountability, openness and responsiveness and the rights to freedom of expression and free political activity," he said.

"South Africa is a sovereign constitutional democracy and should not allow other countries to dictate to it regarding who it should, and should not admit to its territory - regardless of the power and influence of the country."

A representative of the Dalai Lama said he was not surprised by the decision. The Tibetan government in exile thinks that China has pressured many countries to refuse a visit by the Dalai Lama, according to Chhime Chhoekyapa, an aide in Dharamsala, India.

The Dalai Lama fled China in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

The peace conference was billed as an opportunity to showcase South Africa's role as a human-rights champion ahead of its hosting of soccer's World Cup next year.

It was to bring together Noble Laureates and top soccer officials. In addition to Tutu and De Klerk, laureates Nelson Mandela and Martti Ahtisaar, Sepp Blatter, president of soccer's international governing body, and actress Charlize Theron were invited to attend. The event had the blessing of the Nobel Committee.

News orgasm

Mar. 9th, 2009 09:56 am
spooky_nine: (bad nun)
Shot British troops wanted final pizza
(CNN) -- The British soldiers who were killed in Northern Ireland over the weekend had already packed their bags for Afghanistan and changed into desert uniforms when they were shot, a top British military officer said Monday.

"Some of them decided to order a final takeaway pizza before they departed," Brigadier George Norton said from the base where they were killed.

"It was then that the brutal attack took place. They were off duty, they were unarmed and they were dressed in desert combats to deploy overseas."

Two men with automatic rifles shot the soldiers as the pizzas arrived, authorities said. Two other soldiers and the two pizza deliverymen were seriously wounded.

The Ministry of Defence identified them Monday as Cengiz Azimkar, 21, and Mark Quinsey, 23.

The two soldiers are the first British troops to be killed in the province in more than 12 years, the Ministry of Defense confirmed, and the shooting has sparked fears of a return to the sectarian violence that Northern Ireland suffered for two decades before that.

Embryonic stem cell reversal is distraction, congressman says
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A top congressional Republican on Sunday criticized President Barack Obama's expected decision to reverse the Bush administration's limits on embryonic stem-cell research, calling it a distraction from the country's economic slump.

"Why are we going and distracting ourselves from the economy? This is job No. 1. Let's focus on what needs to be done," Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican whip in the House of Representatives, told CNN's "State of the Union."

Obama's move, scheduled for Monday morning, is part of a broader effort to separate science and politics and "restore scientific integrity in governmental decision-making," White House domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes said Sunday. The Bush administration's 2001 policy bars federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells beyond the cell lines that existed at the time.

Cantor, R-Virginia, has been among the leaders of GOP opposition to Obama's economic policies.

In a conference call with reporters, Barnes said funding research is also part of the administration's plan to boost the plunging U.S. economy.

"Advances with regard to science and technology help advance our overall national goals around economic growth and job creation," she said, adding, "I think anytime you make an effort to try and separate these pieces of the puzzle, you're missing the entire picture."

Mars Science Lab launch delayed two years
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- NASA's launch of the Mars Science Laboratory -- hampered by technical difficulties and cost overruns -- has been delayed until the fall of 2011, NASA officials said at a news conference Thursday in Washington.

The mission had been scheduled for launch in the fall of 2009.

The Mars Science Lab is a large, nuclear-powered rover designed to traverse long distances with a suite of onboard scientific instruments aboard.

It is, according to NASA's Web site, part of a "long-term effort of robotic exploration" established to "study the early environmental history of Mars" and assess whether Mars has ever been -- or still is -- able to sustain life.

The delay of the launch, according to NASA, is due to a number of "testing and hardware challenges that must (still) be addressed to ensure mission success."

"The progress in recent weeks has not come fast enough on solving technical challenges and pulling hardware together," said Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Changing to a 2011 launch "will allow for careful resolution of any remaining technical problems, proper and thorough testing, and avoid a mad dash to launch," argued NASA Associate Administrator Ed Weiler.
Don't Miss

The overall cost of the Mars Science Lab is now projected to be roughly $2.1 billion, according to NASA spokesman Dwayne Browne. The project originally carried a price tag of $1.6 billion.

I concur!

Mar. 6th, 2009 11:58 am
spooky_nine: (slowpoke)
Economy enters same-sex marriage debate
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- The nation's economic crisis is now playing a role in the debate over same-sex marriage.

Supporters of same-sex marriage point to its economic benefits, both for those getting married and for states that sanction it. Opponents, however, say same-sex nuptials will actually "devalue" the institution and cost society more in the long run.

In Minnesota, the issue has even split two openly gay lawmakers, and for the purposes of this story, the two men agreed to sit down together for a joint interview.

Minnesota state Sen. Scott Dibble is one of those lawmakers. Dibble, a Democrat, is proposing one of two marriage-equality bills in the state Senate and says now is as good a time as any to propose gay marriage legislation because there is also an economic aspect to the debate. Legally married couples, he says, are generally in better financial shape overall.

"We're in a time of economic crisis, and it's difficult for everyone," Dibble says, "more difficult for those families that don't have access to those basic provisions for economic security."

He says examples include the joint ownership of property; joint credit; the ability to share health-care benefits with a partner; and inheritance rights.

"People are beginning to understand that the rights and benefits and responsibilities and economic relationships that couples have with each other as a result of marriage or marriage-type laws are really basic to our ability to be able to provide for each other," he adds.

"It's really coming to light in context of this economic difficulty that we're in the midst of."

State Sen. John Marty has also introduced a bill that would create gender neutral marriage laws. He agrees on the timing aspect.

"The bad economy makes it more important than ever that we address this," Marty says.
Don't Miss

* California court hears same-sex marriage arguments
* U.S. sued for same-sex marriage benefits

"We want to be doing this now because of the fact that it's not only the right thing to do but because a same-sex couple needs the health-care benefits. They need the equal protection now because their families are hurting just the same as every other family is."

Amy Johnson, executive director of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality group OutFront Minnesota, says that in the long run, routine rights that married couples may take for granted amount to all sorts of hidden costs for coupled but not legally married homosexuals.

"There are real costs to not being married that take away our disposable income," Johnson says, but she stresses that first and foremost is the argument of basic fairness.

"It really is a civil rights issue and an equality issue," she adds. "I would love for the conversation to stay focused on that. [But] to the extent that dollars resonate with some people, fine, I'll take your vote, even if you're not really understanding [the larger argument]."

But that's not the only way the economy has been leveraged in the debate over gay marriage.

Gary Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law who researches sexual orientation law and public policy, says the state itself would see a "noticeable economic benefit" from legalized same-sex marriage.

Since a specific analysis of Minnesota has yet to be completed, Gates uses findings from other states and compares them to Minnesota's roughly 15,000 same-sex couples. He guesses the state could see as much as $10 million in additional revenue over the first three years.

"Right now, so few states provide for marriage for same-sex couples that there is a kind of marriage tourism that goes on," Gates explains.

In other words, states that legalize same-sex marriage -- and that are among the first to do so -- would see the biggest uptick in tourism due to couples from neighboring states making the trip to say "I do."
spooky_nine: (this is not news)
Iceland official could become first openly gay PM
REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — Iceland is set to appoint the world's first openly gay woman as interim prime minister — a former flight attendant who rose through the political ranks to become a cabinet minister.

Johanna Sigurdardottir, the island nation's 66-year-old social affairs minister, is the pick of the Social Democratic Alliance Party to lead an interm government.

Iceland's conservative-led government failed Monday, after the country's banks collapsed in the fall under the weight of huge debts amassed during years of rapid economic growth. The country's currency has plummeted, while inflation and unemployment are soaring.

Sigurdardottir's appointment is expected to be confirmed within days by the new ruling coalition of the Alliance party and the Left-Green movement. She would lead Iceland until general elections, expected in May.

"She is a senior parliamentarian, she is respected and loved by all of Iceland," said Environment Minister Thorunn Sveinbjarnardottir, a fellow Alliance party member.

But conservative critics say her leftist political leanings are not going to help fix the economy. "Johanna is a very good woman — but she likes public spending, she is a tax raiser," said Geir Haarde, who quit as prime minister Monday, partly for health reasons.

Sigurdardottir faces the difficult task of repairing the nation's shattered economy and rebuilding public trust in government. Icelanders are deeply angry at their government for not reining in the country's banks and leading the once-prosperous nation into an economic nightmare.

Iceland has negotiated about $10 billion in bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund and individual countries to keep itself afloat but long-term solutions for re-building the economy have been unclear.

The IMF predicts Iceland's economy is facing its biggest slump since the country won full independence from Denmark in 1944. Millions are also owed to depositors around the world.

Sigurdardottir entered politics through the labor movement, serving as a labor organizer when she worked as a flight attendant with Loftleidir Airlines — now Icelandair — in the 1960s and 1970s.

She was first elected to Iceland's parliament in 1978. She became a minister in 1987 and has held her current post since 1999. Despite her veteran status, many Icelanders regard her as a maverick and respect her work promoting the welfare of minority groups.

She is perhaps best known for her reaction to a failed bid to become chairman of the Social Democratic Party — a forerunner of the current Social Democratic Alliance Party — in 1994. Despite a heavy loss, Sigurdardottir predicted: "My time will come."

In 1995, she quit the Social Democrats and formed her own party, Tjodvaki — translated as "Waking The Nation" — which won four parliamentary seats. Sigurdardottir later rejoined her old party when it merged with three other center-left groups in 1999 and 2000.

While a woman has served in the largely symbolic role of president, Sigurdardottir would become the country's first woman prime minister.

She lives with journalist Jonina Leosdottir, who became her civil partner in a ceremony in 2002. Sigurdardottir was previously married to a man and has two sons.
spooky_nine: (your government is lying)
Government Regulators Aided IndyMac Cover-Up, Maybe Others
A brewing fraud scandal at the Treasury Department may be worse than officials originally thought.

Investigators probing how Treasury regulators allowed a bank to falsify financial records hiding its ill health have found at least three other instances of similar apparent fraud, sources tell ABC News.

In at least one instance, investigators say, banking regulators actually approached the bank with the suggestion of falsifying deposit dates to satisfy banking rules -- even if it disguised the bank's health to the public.

Treasury Department Inspector General Eric Thorson announced in November his office would probe how a Savings and Loan overseer allowed the IndyMac bank to essentially cook its books, making it appear in government filings that the bank had more deposits than it really did. But Thorson's aides now say IndyMac wasn't the only institution to get such cozy assistance from the official who should have been the cop on the beat.
spooky_nine: (slowpoke)
'A horror movie and a snuff movie'

"I'm angry at having presided over the first genocide of the 21st century," said Mukesh Kapila, a British doctor and former U.N. official.

He was referring to what he considers the world's ineffective response to mass atrocities in Darfur, Sudan's western region.

"What happened in Darfur would be classified as obscene," he told CNN's Christiane Amanpour. "It's a combination of a horror movie and a snuff movie."

Kapila was the United Nations' top official in Sudan. He took up his post as resident and humanitarian coordinator in 2003, just a few months after rebels from Darfur's African tribes attacked outposts of Sudan's government, which is led by Arabs.

The government's retaliation was so harsh that a U.N. human rights monitor issued a prophetic warning. His March 2003 report said that in the "escalating conflict," Sudan's government may be "engaged in ... ethnic cleansing aimed at eliminating African tribes from Darfur."

Unfortunately, Kapila says, the report "disappeared into a big hole" because the world's attention was on Iraq, where a U.S.-led coalition had gone to war to topple Saddam Hussein's regime.

Since 2003, according to U.N. estimates, 300,000 Darfuris have been killed in the violence or died in the ensuing disease and starvation. Another 2.5 million have been uprooted from their homes.

Kapila says it didn't have to be, and the man who was his boss at the time agrees.

"The most bitter lesson of Darfur," said Jan Egeland, former U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, "is that the world let a small conflict slowly but surely degenerate into a full-blown catastrophe."

As reports of atrocities mounted in late 2003 and into 2004, Kapila and Egeland saw a pattern: Sudanese forces and government-armed Arab militia members known as janjaweed ("devils on horseback") were using scorched-earth tactics against civilians from Darfur's African tribes. They burned villages, poisoned wells and raped women and girls, according to reports from U.N. workers and aid groups.

Sudan claims that its forces were only putting down an armed insurrection.

"I think the problems which have been happening in Darfur are problems which can be happening in any place of the world where there is a war," Sudanese Interior Minister Ibrahim Hamid said. "There are crimes, but it's not like what has been reflected in the international media."

But that's not what Kapila was hearing. He kept getting reports of more Darfuris killed or driven from their land and Arabs talking about making Darfur "zurka-free" -- "zurka" being a derogatory term for blacks.

Unlike cyclones and earthquakes, the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Darfur was man-made, so Kapila and Egeland began a crusade to get Darfur onto the U.N. Security Council's agenda. They knew from experience that getting an issue in front of the Security Council brings, as Egeland says, three things: "attention, attention, attention."

Both Egeland and Kapila approached Western governments but came away disappointed because most diplomats were focused on resolving another conflict, in southern Sudan, which had claimed 2 million lives over 20 years.

The international community did respond with an emergency relief operation for the growing number of refugees who were running for their lives. But Kapila and Egeland wanted more. They believed that Darfur was not only a humanitarian crisis but also a human rights crisis that required action from the U.N. Security Council.

Out of frustration, Kapila went outside proper channels and screamed to the media. In a March 2004 interview with BBC Radio, Kapila compared the situation in Darfur to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

His comments, which Sudan called a "heap of lies," were picked up by newspapers around the world. Kapila so angered the host government in Khartoum that he had to resign his post.

Even after the Security Council put Darfur on the agenda, it would take three more years of resolutions and debate to authorize a large U.N. peacekeeping force. China, which has veto power on the Security Council and extensive commercial and military ties to the government of Sudan, was one of the major obstacles to taking decisive action.

But as conditions in Darfur became more widely known, a grass-roots movement began to grow, putting pressure on the White House and a spotlight on the U.N. Security Council. According to Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, "no other tragedy since 1945 has caught the imagination of so many people as Darfur has."

Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and President Bush characterized the killing in Darfur as "genocide." Human rights groups documented China's strong ties to Sudan. And activists, including actress Mia Farrow and other celebrities, campaigned to tag the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics as the "genocide Olympics."

Over time and under pressure, Chinese diplomats helped persuade Sudan to accept a U.N.-led peacekeeping force with the understanding that many of the troops would come from African countries.

Would earlier action by the Security Council have made a difference? "Yes," Egeland said. "We would have kept it to a medium-sized African disaster. Not this mega-disaster. It could have been stopped when it was a small emergency."

In July, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court applied for a warrant to arrest Sudan's president, Gen. Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Sudan denies the charges and has promised to punish anyone who has attacked innocent civilians.


Nov. 26th, 2008 08:10 am
spooky_nine: (slowpoke)
Judge overturns Florida ban on adoption by gays

(CNN) -- A Florida circuit judge Tuesday struck down a 31-year-old state law that prevents gays and lesbians from adopting children, allowing a North Miami man to adopt two half-brothers he and his partner have raised as foster children since 2004.

"There is no question, the blanket exclusion of gay applicants defeats Florida's goal of providing dependent children a permanent family through adoption," Judge Cindy S. Lederman wrote in her 53-page ruling.

"The best interests of children are not preserved by prohibiting homosexual adoption."

The state attorney general's office has appealed the decision.

Lederman said there is no moral or scientific reason for banning gays and lesbians from adopting, despite the state's arguments otherwise. The state argued that gays and lesbians have higher odds of suffering from depression, affective and anxiety disorders and substance abuse, and that their households are more unstable.

Lederman said the ban violated children's right to permanency provided under the Florida statute and under the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. Whether the ban violated the state's equal protection clause by singling out gays and lesbians should be considered, she said.

Lederman's ruling paves the way for Martin Gill to legally adopt the two half-brothers, ages 4 and 8, whom he has cared for since December 2004, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
spooky_nine: (Default)
Palin The Wealth Spreader: Gov. Imposed Oil Windfall Profits Tax To Allow Alaskans To ‘Share In The Wealth’

In recent days, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), has begun referring to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) as “Barack the Wealth Spreader,” referring to his proposed tax plan that would provide greater tax relief for lower income individuals than those with higher incomes. Obama recently explained his support for progressive taxation, saying, “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

Palin contends that Obama’s characterization of his tax plan revealed him to be a “socialist” who wants to “redistribute” American wealth. Palin argues that the Obama tax plan “discourages productivity,” will “punish hardwork,” and will “stifle the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Watch a compilation of Palin’s recent comments about the Obama tax plan:

Conservatives in the media have echoed Palin’s sentiments, insinuating that Obama is a “Marxist” and referring to his tax plan as “welfare.”

But Palin’s criticisms of Obama’s “spread the wealth” remarks are ironic, as she recently characterized Alaska’s tax code in a very similar way. Just last month, in an interview with Philip Gourevitch of the New Yorker, Palin explained the windfall profits tax that she imposed on the oil industry in Alaska as a mechanism for ensuring that Alaskans “share in the wealth” generated by oil companies:

"And Alaska—we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs. … It’s to maximize benefits for Alaskans, not an individual company, not some multinational somewhere, but for Alaskans."

In fact, Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share (ACES) program, which manages the redistribution of oil wealth in Alaska, brings in so much money that the state needs no income or sales tax. In addition, this year ACES will provide every Alaskan with a check for an estimated $3,200.

As Hendrick Hertzberg notes, “Perhaps there is some meaningful distinction between spreading the wealth and sharing it…but finding it would require the analytic skills of Karl the Marxist.”
spooky_nine: (Default)
Political candidate punches TV host

BANGKOK (Reuters) - An underdog in Sunday's election for governor of Bangkok punched and kicked a television journalist Thursday, saying he was provoked by tough questions during a live interview.

Chuvit Kamolvisit, dubbed Bangkok's massage parlor king by the Thai press, later apologized for losing his temper and assaulting host Visarn Dilokwanich after the interview.

"I admit I did it. I couldn't stand it when he humiliated me on air," said Chuvit, a stocky former bodybuilder who owned a strip of girly bars before entering politics a few years ago.

"What I did was a petty crime and I am happy to pay the fine for elbowing him and kicking him," Chuvit said at his campaign headquarters next to a park he built and gave to the public.

Visarn filed a complaint with police, saying Chuvit had "behaved like a thug."

"He was very upset when I told him during the show that what he said off-air and on-air was totally different," Visarn said, showing reporters bruises on his neck and head.

the vice presidential debate would have been so much cooler if something like this had happened.


Sep. 29th, 2008 09:00 pm
spooky_nine: (Default)
Palin treads carefully between fundamentalist beliefs and public policy

ANCHORAGE -- Soon after Sarah Palin was elected mayor of the foothill town of Wasilla, Alaska, she startled a local music teacher by insisting in casual conversation that men and dinosaurs coexisted on an Earth created 6,000 years ago -- about 65 million years after scientists say most dinosaurs became extinct -- the teacher said.

After conducting a college band and watching Palin deliver a commencement address to a small group of home-schooled students in June 1997, Wasilla resident Philip Munger said, he asked the young mayor about her religious beliefs.

Palin told him that "dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth at the same time," Munger said. When he asked her about prehistoric fossils and tracks dating back millions of years, Palin said "she had seen pictures of human footprints inside the tracks," recalled Munger, who teaches music at the University of Alaska in Anchorage and has regularly criticized Palin in recent years on his liberal political blog, called Progressive Alaska.

The idea of a "young Earth" -- that God created the Earth about 6,000 years ago, and dinosaurs and humans coexisted early on -- is a popular strain of creationism.

spooky_nine: (Default)
Pentagon Confirms It Sought To Build A 'Gay Bomb'
(CBS) BERKELEY, Calif. A Berkeley watchdog organization that tracks military spending said it uncovered a strange U.S. military proposal to create a hormone bomb that could purportedly turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting.

Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS station KPIX-TV in San Francisco that military leaders had considered, and then subsequently rejected, building the so-called gay bomb.

Edward Hammond, of Berkeley's Sunshine Project, had used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of the proposal from the Air Force's Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio.

As part of a military effort to develop non-lethal weapons, the proposal suggested, "One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior."

The documents show the Air Force lab asked for $7.5 million to develop such a chemical weapon.

"The Ohio Air Force lab proposed that a bomb be developed that contained a chemical that would cause enemy soldiers to become gay, and to have their units break down because all their soldiers became irresistibly attractive to one another,"
Hammond said after reviewing the documents.

"The notion was that a chemical that would probably be pleasant in the human body in low quantities could be identified, and by virtue of either breathing or having their skin exposed to this chemical, the notion was that soldiers would become gay," explained Hammond.

The Pentagon told KPIX-TV that the proposal was made by the Air Force in 1994.

"The Department of Defense is committed to identifying, researching and developing non-lethal weapons that will support our men and women in uniform," said a DOD spokesperson, who indicated that the "gay bomb" idea was quickly dismissed.

However, Hammond said the government records he obtained suggest the military gave the plan much stronger consideration than it has acknowledged.

"The truth of the matter is it would have never come to my attention if it was dismissed at the time it was proposed," he said. "In fact, the Pentagon has used it repeatedly and subsequently in an effort to promote non-lethal weapons, and in fact they submitted it to the highest scientific review body in the country for them to consider."

Military officials insisted Friday to KPIX-TV that they are not currently working on any such idea and that the past plan was abandoned.

Gay community leaders in California said Friday that they found the notion of a "gay bomb" both offensive and almost laughable at the same time.

"Throughout history we have had so many brave men and women who are gay and lesbian serving the military with distinction," said Geoff Kors of Equality California. "So, it's just offensive that they think by turning people gay that the other military would be incapable of doing their job. And its absurd because there's so much medical data that shows that sexual orientation is immutable and cannot be changed."
spooky_nine: (Default)
Net taxes could arrive by this fall
The era of tax-free e-mail, Internet shopping and broadband connections could end this fall, if recent proposals in the U.S. Congress prove successful.

State and local governments this week resumed a push to lobby Congress for far-reaching changes on two different fronts: gaining the ability to impose sales taxes on Net shopping, and being able to levy new monthly taxes on DSL and other connections. One senator is even predicting taxes on e-mail.

At the moment, states and municipalities are frequently barred by federal law from collecting both access and sales taxes. But they're hoping that their new lobbying effort, coordinated by groups including the National Governors Association, will pay off by permitting them to collect billions of dollars in new revenue by next year.

If that doesn't happen, other taxes may zoom upward instead, warned Sen. Michael Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, at a Senate hearing on Wednesday. "Are we implicitly blessing a situation where states are forced to raise other taxes, such as income or property taxes, to offset the growing loss of sales tax revenue?" Enzi said. "I want to avoid that."

A flurry of proposals that pro-tax advocates advanced this week push in that direction. On Tuesday, Enzi introduced a bill that would usher in mandatory sales tax collection for Internet purchases. Second, during a House of Representatives hearing the same day, politicians weighed whether to let a temporary ban on Net access taxes lapse when it expires on November 1. A House backer of another pro-sales tax bill said this week to expect a final version by July.

"The independent and sovereign authority of states to develop their own revenue systems is a basic tenet of self government and our federal system," said David Quam, director of federal relations at the National Governors Association, during a Senate Commerce committee hearing on Wednesday.

Internet sales taxes
At the moment, for instance, Seattle-based Amazon.com is not required to collect sales taxes on shipments to millions of its customers in states like California, where Amazon has no offices. (Californians are supposed to voluntarily pay the tax owed when filing annual state tax returns, but few do.)

Ideas to alter this situation hardly represent a new debate: officials from the governors' association have been pressing Congress to enact such a law for at least six years. They invoke arguments--unsuccessful so far--like saying that reduced sales tax revenue threatens budgets for schools and police.

But with Democrats now in control of both chambers of Congress, the political dynamic appears to have shifted in favor of the pro-tax advocates and their allies on Capitol Hill. The NetChoice coalition, which counts as members eBay, Yahoo and the Electronic Retailing Association and opposes the sales tax plan, fears that the partisan shift will spell trouble.
One long-standing objection to mandatory sales tax collection, which the Supreme Court in a 1992 case left up to Congress to decide, is the complexity of more than 7,500 different tax agencies that each have their own (and frequently bizarre) rules. Some legal definitions (PDF) tax Milky Way Midnight candy bars as candy and treat the original Milky Way bar as food. Peanut butter Girl Scout cookies are candy, but Thin Mints or Caramel deLites are classified as food.

The pro-tax forces say that a concept called the Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement will straighten out some of the notorious convolutions of state tax laws. Enzi's bill, introduced this week, relies on the agreement when providing "federal authorization" to require out-of-state retailers "to collect and remit the sales and use taxes" due on the purchase. (Small businesses with less than $5 million in out-of-state sales are exempted.)

It's "important to level the playing field for all retailers," Enzi said during Wednesday's hearing.

more at the source.


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