Saturday, September 30, 2006

I’ve got family in NYC, just down from Chinatown.

Here’s a photo of my cousin and my daughter.  I took this about two years ago in my cousin’s $6mil. penthouse apartment in the lower east side of Manhattan.  It was a great time to learn some family history.  I hope to go back to NYC to visit my cousin soon.


Posted by SPN on 09/30 at 10:22 AM
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Friday, September 29, 2006

Death of Democracy

How does it feel that we went to bed Wednesday night and that by yesterday afternoon democracy was killed?  Why doesn’t anyone care that our country is being destroyed by the wingnuts?

For eight centuries, habeas corpus has shielded people from detention without trial. The Senate “compromise” denies this right—and threatens the rule of law.

Keep the Great Writ alive (Salon Magazine)

By Michael Ratner, with Sara Miles

Sep. 26, 2006 | For nearly five years, I’ve been fighting attempts by the Bush administration to sweep away the cornerstone of our justice system: habeas corpus, which protects people from being summarily detained without trial. Considered the hallmark of Western liberty, habeas corpus has its origins in the Magna Carta of 1215. The “Great Writ” ended kings’ power to kidnap people at will, lock them in dungeons and never bring them to court. Habeas corpus forever marked the line between authority under law and authority that thinks it is the law.

As president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, I’ve challenged the Bush administration for acting as a law unto itself and blatantly disregarding the Great Writ in its prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Twice, the Supreme Court has insisted that the administration respect habeas corpus; repeatedly, the White House has ignored the court’s rulings, going to Congress to get approval for previously unthinkable kinds of detention.

Now, within the next few days, it is conceivable that Congress will abolish the writ of habeas corpus for any non-citizen who is detained outside the country. Stripping away the political nitpicking, linguistic compromises, calculated deal-making and cynical maneuvering of last week’s “compromise” in Congress, two questions remain at the center of legislation about the rights of prisoners in Guantánamo. 

The first, about torture and the Geneva Conventions, is straightforward: Are we human beings?

The second, about habeas corpus, is, do we believe in the rule of law?

I’ve spent my life defending victims of torture, and I firmly believe that to be human means recognizing that torture, whether committed by Nazis, Stalinists, Islamic fundamentalists or Americans, is never justified. Inexcusably, the compromise forged by the Bush administration and Republican senators now blurs the line on Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.” It’s morally corrupt to attempt to parse exactly what kinds of cruelty, which degree of mutilation, and what depth of degradation are OK: This cannot be an area where “compromise” is acceptable.

But it’s also crucial to understand that this legislation places our very belief in the rule of law at risk. The contempt for the law shown by recent developments disturbs me enormously, and shows how far our national values have been hijacked by the extreme right and its partisan agenda.

My office represents and coordinates writs of habeas corpus on behalf of all 460 detainees held at Guantánamo. Almost none of these detainees have been charged with a crime. Many, according to the administration’s own claims, have never actively taken hostile action against the United States, but were turned over to the Americans by war lords or bounty hunters. Others are confused, elderly, or simply arrested in error. As Col. Bill Cline, deputy camp commander at Guantánamo, acknowledged, “Some of the prisoners are victims of circumstance, caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

But without habeas corpus hearings, there is no way for detainees to know the charges against them, or to refute any evidence that might be wrong. Like our client Maher Arar—a Canadian sent by the United States to Syria, where he was tortured in a secret prison until the Canadians finally demanded his release—they are unable to prove their innocence because they have no way to test their detention. And without accountability to a court, as we have seen over and over, abuse of prisoners quickly becomes rampant.

We have been trying to get the Guantánamo prisoners a habeas corpus hearing in federal court for nearly five years. We had a major victory in June 2004 (Rasul v. Bush) when the Supreme Court ruled that courts are open to aliens held outside the United States, and that they have the right to file writs of habeas corpus to test their detentions. Evoking the central importance of habeas corpus to our system of law, the court wrote: “Executive imprisonment has been considered oppressive and lawless since John, at Runnymede, pledged that no free man should be imprisoned, dispossessed, outlawed, or exiled save by the judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”

Within days of our victory something remarkable occurred. Hundreds of lawyers from big firms and small firms, Democrats and Republicans, Christians, Jews and Muslims, all stepped forward to represent Guantánamo detainees. They did this at great expense and personal sacrifice, traveling to meet their clients at Guantánamo—and, in the process, discovering what we now know about the torture and abuse there, and putting an end to much of it. These lawyers undertook these cases on principle, believing, as did the Supreme Court, that no person should be imprisoned solely at the behest of the executive, and that all human beings are entitled to the protections of law.

And yet, as of today, not one of our clients has been given the required habeas corpus hearing that would determine whether he was properly detained. The administration stonewalled, stalled and flatly refused to obey the court, fighting hard to retain the privilege of kings.

In 2005, the Bush administration went to Congress and got legislation passed that it hoped would abolish habeas corpus for our clients. It did not work. Once again the Supreme Court stepped in and in June 2006 (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld) ruled that the legislation, called the Detainee Treatment Act, did not apply to our clients.

Refusing to accept the court’s verdict, the administration went back to Congress yet again: This week, Republicans in Congress appear ready to pass new bills abolishing habeas corpus. The current legislation does not just apply to those held at Guantánamo but to aliens detained anywhere outside the United States; it is retroactive, so any pending habeas petitions will be knocked out of court.

We believe that this legislation is as unconstitutional as the previous attempts by the administration to abolish habeas corpus, and that, as with previous attempts, it will eventually be overturned by the Supreme Court. But it should not be passed at all: It is unconscionable that illegally detained individuals need to languish in prison for years more without charges or hearings while awaiting judicial remedy.

The remedy is at hand. It is one that has been with us since 1215: the Great Writ. As citizens, we must keep it alive. 

Posted by Nuttshell on 09/29 at 03:46 PM
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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Oprah to launch her own radio channel

Date: Monday, September 25, 2006
By: The Associated Press, APonline

NEW YORK (AP) - Get ready for Radio Oprah. Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey was launching her own channel, Oprah and Friends, on Monday morning on XM Satellite Radio, with shows hosted by her and a collection of popular personalities from her television show, including her best friend, Gayle King, fitness expert Bob Greene and renowned poet Maya Angelou.

The station will broadcast 24 hours day, with highlights of the shows replayed every weekend.

Guests set for the first few weeks of programming include actresses Annette Bening and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, rocker Jon Bon Jovi, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman and real estate mogul Donald Trump. Winfrey will co-host a show with King, dubbed “The Oprah and Gayle Show,” on which they discuss the latest news and gossip. The two have known each other for 30 years.

Other shows will focus on finance, style, relationships and spiritual wisdom.

Winfrey and boyfriend Steadman Graham were to be the station’s first guests, appearing on the initial “Gayle King Show,” a solo program.

Graham mentions a special pastrami and cheese sandwich that Winfrey makes him: “That’s the other side of Oprah that people don’t know about. She can cook.”

In February, Winfrey signed a three-year, $55 million deal with XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. to launch her new radio channel, which joins her nationally syndicated television show and her O, The Oprah Magazine.

XM Satellite Radio boasts more than 7 million subscribers.

Posted by loni on 09/28 at 12:40 PM
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Aaron McGruder’s ‘The Boondocks’ Strip Not Returning to Newspapers

Date: Tuesday, September 26, 2006
By: Jackie Jones,

From the very beginning, Aaron McGruder charted his own path with his irreverent comic strip, “The Boondocks.”

He lampooned everything from the NAACP Image Awards for honoring celebrities who had exhibited questionable judgment in their public behavior to BET founder Bob Johnson and the predominance of booty-shaking videos on his network, and many newspapers became skittish about running the strips when he went on a riff after the U.S. invasion of Iraq about Condoleezza Rice needing a man.

The plot of the strip, which debuted in April 1999, centered on the lives of the Freeman brothers, 10-year-old aspiring political activist Huey and 8-year-old gangsta wannabe Riley, and the boys’ adjustment from living in inner city Chicago to life in an affluent, overwhelmingly white suburb with their grandfather, Robert Freeman.

Edgy and wildly popular, “The Boondocks” spawned popular books and a television cartoon, and McGruder found himself with a ton of work on his plate. After six years—a short run for most cartoonists—he announced he was taking a six-month leave of absence. Then on Monday, Universal Press Syndicate told its 300-plus subscribers of the cartoon they should start looking for something to replace the strip. Papers that still carry “Boondocks” reruns can continue them until Nov. 26, Universal said.

“Although Aaron McGruder has made no statement about retiring or resuming ‘The Boondocks’ for print newspapers ... newspapers should not count on it coming back in the foreseeable future,” Universal’s president Lee Salem said in a release. “Numerous attempts ... to pin McGruder down on a date that the strip would be coming back were unsuccessful.”

In the statement, Salem said McGruder needed to submit his Sunday strips by mid-September to meet newspapers’ deadlines of publishing the strip by the end of October.

Now it appears that just as McGruder was unafraid to push the envelope with his comic strip, he may be willing to risk burning some bridges behind him.

The Washington Post cited industry sources who said that McGruder’s editor at Universal flew to Los Angeles and spent a couple of days trying, apparently unsuccessfully, to get McGruder to return at the end of the six-month leave.

“I do think actions speak for themselves,” Amy Lago, comics editor for the Washington Post Writers Group, told

“It’s sort of giving newspapers the back of his hand,” Lago said. “He can’t even return the syndicate’s phone calls? It’s one thing if you step forward and say, ‘I’m going to pursue this dream.’ But to ignore the ones who helped you develop that dream ... he has a client base to answer to.”

Asked if McGruder might genuinely be torn about whether to return to daily cartooning, Lago quickly replied, “I don’t think that at all. I think he knows exactly where his heart lies.”

Salem sounded a more positive note, however, in his statement: “Aaron is a brilliant cartoonist who brought a revolutionary voice to the comic pages. This situation is a far cry from the end of our relationship. Our hope is that we can work with him in the future, either in newspapers or in different media.”

McGruder certainly is not the first cartoonist to take a leave of absence. Garry Trudeau took a break from “Doonesbury” after 12 years; Bill Watterson ended “Calvin and Hobbes” after six years, and Gary Larson dropped “The Far Side” for several years. Often, a cartoonist’s work lives on in books, T-shirts, mugs, calendars and other memorabilia. When Larson and Trudeau returned to cartooning, their fan bases followed.

“The Boondocks” was developed by McGruder while he was still a student at the University of Maryland in 1997, created for the student newspaper, The Diamondback. Universal signed McGruder in 1999, and the strip quickly developed a client base of about 300 daily and Sunday and online clients.

The televised version of “The Boondocks” premiered last October on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, a late-night block of animation targeted to adults. Actress Regina King and comedian John Witherspoon are voices for the show, which has been renewed for another season, according to Universal. The DVD of the first season was released in July.

Newspapers who have carried “The Boondocks” may find a substitute or make other adjustments.

“There might be some papers going with a change in web width (page size) who may not replace the strip,” Lago said. “By and large, though, most will replace it with something.”

She said The Post, for example, is constantly building a client list for cartoons that are waiting for a slot to open up in the newspaper. Asked if editors weigh issues like age, gender, race and other demographics among readers when selecting a comic strip, Lago said, “It would really be nice if things worked out that way, but it’s much more like something really good just lands on your desk, and you use the demographics to sell it.”

For example, she said, The Post recently moved up the launch of “Watch Your Head” by Howard University graduate Cory Thomas, which looks at the lives of six college students at Oliver Otis University, an elite black school. Staff at the fictional university interact with the students and “townies,” local residents who don’t always interact easily with the students in their communities. She said The Post believed the strip would appeal to a wide audience, including fans of “The Boondocks.”

“This might be a good time to hit the syndicates,” said Manny Otiko, whose comic strip, “Ghetto Fabulous,” has been compared in some circles to “The Boondocks” because of its edginess.

“I think every artist hits their wall, so to speak,” Otiko told “In McGruder’s case, he was doing everything himself—he was drawing the cartoon and doing the television show, although in recent years he hired some help. Maybe he just had a hard time juggling all those things.”

Otiko—whose strip runs on his Web site; in the Florida Courier, a statewide black newspaper; Izania, a black professionals networking site, and on The Juice, an urban e-zine—said he has 180 strips in stock so he can guard against writer’s block.

“I’m still producing stuff as it goes along,” he said, maintaining that he tries to look at more universal areas that affect black life so that he doesn’t risk having a cartoon go stale.

“I did a joke about Attorney General John Ashcroft that’s still works even though he’s no longer attorney general. But I did one about Dick Cheney, and I wonder if this still is going to be applicable since it’s about the shooting incident” in which the vice president accidentally shot a hunting companion, he told “Sometimes you can tweak the jokes.”

But as a fan and contemporary of McGruder’s, the news that “The Boondocks” might go away permanently wasn’t good news to Otiko.

“I’m kind of disappointed to see that,” he said, “because it was a groundbreaking cartoon in many ways.”

Posted by loni on 09/28 at 12:37 PM
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Simmons and his family “believe in the celebration of life in death.”
(September 28, 2006)

*Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons released a statement Tuesday regarding the death of his newborn daughter, Victoria Anne. 

“On Sept. 26, 2006, Victoria Anne Simmons for some unknown reason chose to come early and unfortunately did not survive,” his statement said. “We must accept whatever is there and once you accept unconditionally, then everything is beautiful. Every pain has a purifying effect. So whatever comes your way, just be thankful. We see life in death and believe in the celebration of life in death.”

Run’s wife Justine was pregnant with Victoria throughout much of their MTV reality show “Run’s House” last season. The sex of the baby was left as a cliffhanger on the season finale. 

Run was with Justine when doctors at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood New Jersey delivered the baby via c-section. According to TMZ, Victoria was born with her organs outside of her body. She died a short time later.

Justine & Rev. Run

TMZ has learned that MTV cameras were inside the hospital at the time of the birth, but it is unclear if they were in the delivery room. 

Run, the brother of Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons, was a member of rap group Run DMC. He has five children.

Posted by loni on 09/28 at 12:35 PM
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Many Women Unaware They’re Pre-Diabetic

Date: Tuesday, September 26, 2006
By: Linda A. Johnson, Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Getting fatter around the middle? Have a family history of heart disease or diabetes? You could be headed for the same trouble, especially if you’re over 40 and female.

There are no obvious symptoms from high blood sugar or the condition called insulin resistance, so few people realize it is creeping up and putting them on the path to diabetes, heart disease or both.

But insulin resistance, a type of pre-diabetes, is a growing national problem: Some experts believe half of all overweight or obese American adults are insulin-resistant.

Yet, even many women with a family history of heart disease or diabetes don’t know they need to eat a healthier diet and get more exercise to avoid those problems—two of the nation’s top killers.

“We think this is a very important new issue for women,” said Audrey Sheppard, chief executive of the National Women’s Health Resource Center. “There’s very little awareness.”

As women enter the years leading to menopause, the hormonal changes that trigger hot flashes and end menstruation make women more likely to add fat around the waistline than in other places. A key tipoff of looming trouble is a waistline over 34 inches, according to one expert. (For men, it’s 40 inches.)

Fat also builds up in the liver and other vital organs, predisposing them to insulin resistance, a condition in which insulin no longer can inject enough glucose into the body’s cells for fuel, said Dr. David Katz, co-founder of the Yale Prevention Research Center and author of several books on weight control.

The body’s compensatory mechanisms eventually fail, blood pressure rises along with levels of blood sugar and blood fat—making cells even more resistant to insulin. Diabetes, heart disease or both often follow.

“That’s the sequence that’s occurring in tens of millions of American adults” and an increasing number of children amid the country’s obesity epidemic, said Katz. “It’s an enormous problem. We’re just starting to get doctors’ attention.”

Besides a family history of heart disease or diabetes, women who had diabetes during pregnancy or who had a baby 9 pounds or heavier are at higher risk of insulin resistance.

Frequent fatigue and cravings for sweets, bread and pasta also may be linked to the problem. But Dr. Henry Kahn, a chronic disease epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said those are vague symptoms that could have other causes.

The women’s resource center, based in Red Bank, N.J., has just begun a new public health campaign targeting women aged 40 to 65 because they are at greater risk than others and often hold of the role of Dr. Mom, serving as monitor for the whole family’s health.

Besides explaining on its Web site how uncontrolled blood sugar harms the body, the center offers tips for a healthy blood sugar level and suggests questions patients can ask a doctor.

Among research showing the benefits of a healthy lifestyle is a recent CDC study that found modestly overweight adults who worked with nutrition and exercise experts reduced their risk of diabetes by nearly 60 percent over several years, compared with a group that made no changes, said Kahn.

Lalita Kaul, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and professor of nutrition at Howard University Medical School, said over the last 25 years, about 70 percent of her patients at risk of diabetes have been able to control their blood sugar with diet and lifestyle changes.

The key diet changes, she said, include eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily; cutting down on sugar and desserts while eating more whole grains; eating less saturated fat and using healthier cooking oils; eating salmon and other fish rich in essential fatty acids a few times a week; and avoiding prepared foods high in sodium, which pushes up blood pressure.

Posted by loni on 09/28 at 12:33 PM
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Retired Officers Criticize Rumsfeld

The Associated Press
Monday, September 25, 2006; 2:23 PM

WASHINGTON—Retired military officers on Monday bluntly accused Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld of bungling the war in Iraq, saying U.S. troops were sent to fight without the best equipment and that critical facts were hidden from the public.

“I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq,” retired Maj. Gen. John R. S. Batiste said in remarks prepared for a forum conducted by Senate Democrats.

A second military leader, retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, assessed Rumsfeld as “incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically ....”

“Mr. Rumsfeld and his immediate team must be replaced or we will see two more years of extraordinarily bad decision-making,” he added in a statement prepared for the policy forum, held six weeks before the Nov. 7 midterm elections in which the war is a central issue.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Armed Services Committee, dismissed the Democratic-sponsored event as “an election-year smoke screen aimed at obscuring the Democrats’ dismal record on national security.”

“Today’s stunt may rile up the liberal base, but it won’t kill a single terrorist or prevent a single attack,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement. He called Rumsfeld an “excellent secretary of defense.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, speaking at the National Press Club Monday, said election-season politics may be what’s standing in the way of finding a solution to the insurgency in Iraq.

“My instinct is once the election is over there will be a lot more hard thinking about what to do about Iraq and a lot more candid observations about it,” said Specter, R-Pa.

The conflict, now in its fourth year, has claimed the lives of more than 2,600 American troops and cost more than $300 billion.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., the committee chairman, told reporters last week that he hoped the hearing would shed light on the planning and conduct of the war. He said majority Republicans had failed to conduct hearings on the issue, adding, “if they won’t ... we will.”

Since he spoke, a government-produced National Intelligence Estimate became public that concluded the war has helped create a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Along with several members of the Senate Democratic leadership, one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, participated. “The American people have a right to know any time that we make a decision to send Americans to die for this country,” said Jones, a conservative whose district includes Camp Lejeune Marine base.

It is unusual for retired military officers to criticize the Pentagon while military operations are under way, particularly at a public event likely to draw widespread media attention.

But Batiste, Eaton and retired Col. Paul X. Hammes were unsparing in remarks that suggested deep anger at the way the military had been treated. All three served in Iraq, and Batiste also was senior military assistant to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

Batiste, who commanded the Army’s 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, also blamed Congress for failing to ask “the tough questions.”

He said Rumsfeld at one point threatened to fire the next person who mentioned the need for a postwar plan in Iraq.

Batiste said if full consideration had been given to the requirements for war, it’s likely the U.S. would have kept its focus on Afghanistan, “not fueled Islamic fundamentalism across the globe, and not created more enemies than there were insurgents.”

Hammes said in his prepared remarks that not providing the best equipment was a “serious moral failure on the part of our leadership.”

The United States “did not ask our soldiers to invade France in 1944 with the same armor they trained on in 1941. Why are we asking our soldiers and Marines to use the same armor we found was insufficient in 2003,” he asked.

Hammes was responsible for establishing bases for the Iraqi armed forces. He served in Iraq in 2004 and is now Marine Senior Military Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, National Defense University.

Eaton was responsible for training the Iraqi military and later for rebuilding the Iraqi police force.

He said planning for the postwar period was “amateurish at best, incompetent a better descriptor.”

Public opinion polls show widespread dissatisfaction with the way the Bush administration has conducted the war in Iraq, but division about how quickly to withdraw U.S. troops. Democrats hope to tap into the anger in November, without being damaged by Republican charges they favor a policy of “cut and run.”

By coincidence, the hearing came a day after public disclosure of the National Intelligence Estimate. The report was completed in April and represented a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government, according to an intelligence official.

© 2006 The Associated Press

Posted by Nuttshell on 09/28 at 12:08 PM
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Monday, September 25, 2006

Revisiting GOP attacks on President Clinton (Salon Again)

Does anyone remember when the GOP attacked BC when he tried to bomb Osama?  I do and I say good for you Bill for spanking Chris Wallace and teaching him a little history (which thugs hope no one will remember).

The Internet makes it much more difficult than ever before to fabricate history because virtually everything is recorded and so easily discovered. Those developments, however, did not deter Jonah Goldberg from writing this demonstrably false historical claim in National Review: “The notion that conservatives opposed Clinton as Commander-in-Chief in the pre-war on terror or in other military ventures is simply unfair ... Sure, there were some wag the dog voices—like noted rightwing trogs [sic] Arlen Specter and Christopher Hitchens—but generally even the most partisan Republicans supported Clinton.”

It is hard to overstate how false Goldberg’s claim is, as even Byron York reported, in Goldberg’s own magazine, National Review (emphasis added): “Instead of striking a strong blow against terrorism, the action [launching cruise missiles at Osama bin Laden] set off a howling debate about Clinton’s motives. The president ordered the action three days after appearing before the grand jury investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair, and Clinton’s critics accused him of using military action to change the subject from the sex-and-perjury scandal—the so-called ‘wag the dog’ strategy.”

Leading GOP political figures and pundits repeatedly voiced such criticisms against Clinton:

Rep. Dick Armey, GOP majority leader: “The suspicion some people have about the president’s motives in this attack [on Iraq] is itself a powerful argument for impeachment,” Armey said in a statement. “After months of lies, the president has given millions of people around the world reason to doubt that he has sent Americans into battle for the right reasons.”

Rep. Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y.: “It is obvious that they’re (the Clinton White House) doing everything they can to postpone the vote on this impeachment in order to try to get whatever kind of leverage they can, and the American people ought to be as outraged as I am about it,” Solomon said in an interview with CNN. Asked if he was accusing Clinton of playing with American lives for political expediency, Solomon said, “Whether he knows it or not, that’s exactly what he’s doing.”

GOP Sen. Dan Coats: Coats, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement, “While there is clearly much more we need to learn about this attack [on bin Laden] and why it was ordered today, given the president’s personal difficulties this week, it is legitimate to question the timing of this action.”

Sen. Larry Craig, U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee: “The foregoing, the premise of the recent film ‘Wag the Dog,’ might once have seemed farfetched. Yet it can hardly escape comment that on the very day, August 17, that President Bill Clinton is scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury to explain his possibly criminal behavior, Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton has ordered U.S. Marines and air crews to commence several days of ground and air exercises in, yes, Albania as a warning of possible NATO intervention in next-door Kosovo ...

“Not too many years ago, it would not have entered the mind of even the worst of cynics to speculate whether any American president, whatever his political difficulties, would even consider sending U.S. military personnel into harm’s way to serve his own, personal needs. But in an era when pundits openly weigh the question of whether President Clinton will (or should) tell the truth under oath not because he has a simple obligation to do so but because of the possible impact on his political ‘viability’—is it self-evident that military decisions are not affected by similar considerations? Under the circumstances, it is fair to ask to what extent the Clinton Administration has forfeited the benefit of the doubt as to the motives behind its actions.”
GOP activist Paul Weyrich: “Paul Weyrich, a leading conservative activist, said Clinton’s decision to bomb on the eve of the impeachment vote ‘is more of an impeachable offense than anything he is being charged with in Congress.’”

Wall Street Journal editorial: “It is dangerous for an American president to launch a military strike, however justified, at a time when many will conclude he acted only out of narrow self-interest to forestall or postpone his own impeachment.”

Sen. Trent Lott, GOP majority leader: “I cannot support this military action in the Persian Gulf at this time,” Lott said in a statement. “Both the timing and the policy are subject to question.”

Rep. Gerald Solomon: “‘Never underestimate a desperate president,’ said a furious House Rules Committee Chairman Gerald B.H. Solomon (R-N.Y.). ‘What option is left for getting impeachment off the front page and maybe even postponed? And how else to explain the sudden appearance of a backbone that has been invisible up to now?’”

Rep. Tillie Folwer: “‘It [the bombing of Iraq] is certainly rather suspicious timing,’ said Rep. Tillie Fowler (R-Florida). ‘I think the president is shameless in what he would do to stay in office.’”

Phyllis Schlafly, Eagle Forum: “First, it [intervention in Kosovo] is a ‘wag the dog’ public relations ploy to involve us in a war in order to divert attention from his personal scandals (only a few of which were addressed in the Senate trial). He is again following the scenario of the ‘life is truer than fiction’ movie ‘Wag the Dog.’ The very day after his acquittal, Clinton moved quickly to ‘move on’ from the subject of impeachment by announcing threats to bomb and to send U.S. ground troops into the civil war in Kosovo between Serbian authorities and ethnic Albanians fighting for independence. He scheduled Americans to be part of a NATO force under non-American command.”

Jim Hoagland, Washington Post: “President Clinton has indelibly associated a justified military response ... with his own wrongdoing ... Clinton has now injected the impeachment process against him into foreign policy, and vice versa.”

Wall Street Journal editorial: “Perceptions that the American president is less interested in the global consequences than in taking any action that will enable him to hold onto power [are] a further demonstration that he has dangerously compromised himself in conducting the nation’s affairs, and should be impeached.”

Leading GOP senators, representatives, editorial boards, organizations and pundits repeatedly called into question Clinton’s motives in taking military action, and thus attacked the commander in chief at exactly the time when troops were still in harm’s way. The notion that such accusations were made only by a handful of isolated figures—which Goldberg has the audacity to suggest were actually liberal—and that the GOP largely supported Clinton’s military deployments and refrained from criticizing his motives is just false. That is a fact that Goldberg would have discovered had he undertaken the most minimal amount of research before making those claims.

It is true that some Republican political figures supported some of Clinton’s military decisions in Yugoslavia and the Middle East, but efforts to undermine those actions (as well as earlier ones) came from virtually every significant Republican precinct of influence throughout Clinton’s presidency. That includes, most prominently, actions Clinton took against Iraq and Osama bin Laden, which were routinely attacked by Republicans as unnecessary.

The claim that Clinton paid insufficient attention to terrorism was one that virtually no Republicans made during the Clinton presidency. To the contrary, terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism were barely on their radar screen, and when they were, it was most prominently to use those issues as a weapon to attack Clinton politically and to suggest that he was deploying the military not for any legitimate reason (such as the terrorist threat) but only to distract the country’s attention from the far more pressing sex scandal engulfing our government.
-- Glenn Greenwald

Posted by Nuttshell on 09/25 at 05:26 PM
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No peacekeepers, no peace (Salon Magazine)

As violence in Darfur mounts, and the African Union mission is set to expire, will the U.N. send in the blue helmets?
By Katharine Mieszkowski

Sep. 15, 2006 | The clock is ticking in Darfur.

The African Union’s monitoring mission in the west Sudan region is cash-poor, ineffective and undermanned at 7,000 soldiers. The United Nations wants to take over peacekeeping duties when the monitoring mission’s mandate expires at the end of September. Yet Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, has threatened to send his army to fight any U.N. troops in Darfur. If the African Union pulls out in two weeks, and no blue helmets take their place, there won’t be any outsiders to witness, much less prevent, what is happening in Darfur, where a massive military offensive against the civilian population is under way.

Despite a high-profile peace agreement signed in May by the government in Khartoum and one of the rebel groups, the situation on the ground in Darfur has grown more dire. Tuesday, Jan Egeland, the U.N. humanitarian chief, told reporters that “in many ways Darfur is in freefall at the moment,” with some areas simply too dangerous for humanitarian aid workers to provide relief. Thirteen aid workers have been killed in Darfur since the peace agreement was signed.

Estimates of the number of people who have died so far in the 3-and-a-half-year-old crisis top half a million. American authorities have used the word “genocide” to describe what the Arab-dominated Sudanese government and its allies are doing to the region’s black Muslim residents. Now, almost half a million refugees living in camps are cut off from all outside aid, according to the U.N. World Food Program. 

This Sunday, Darfur activists will rally in New York’s Central Park, wearing blue hats to symbolize the need for U.N. peacekeeping forces. Salon spoke by phone with Eric Reeves, an English professor at Smith College, who over the past eight years has become an expert on the Darfur region and the conflict. Speaking from his home in Northampton, Mass., Reeves explained what he believes the United Nations should do now to head off the deepening humanitarian crisis.

That peace agreement in the spring got a lot of international attention. Why isn’t there peace?

The Darfur peace agreement had no chance from the beginning, precisely because it was signed by only one of the rebel parties.
Since May 5th, when this was signed, not a single deadline has been met, not a single obligation specified in terms of the security arrangements has been upheld by Khartoum. This was entirely predictable. With only the African Union as both guarantee and guarantor, this was an impossible situation. It was doomed from the beginning.

Did the peace agreement just end up providing cover for the Sudanese government?

It has done exactly that. The current offensive in North Darfur state is massive by all accounts.

The U.N.’s Integrated Regional Information Networks reported Monday an expanding bombing campaign by Khartoum’s Antonovs, which are not bombers per se. They’re cargo planes that are retrofitted. Crude barrel bombs are pushed out the back cargo bay, which means that they’re useless for real military purposes. They can hit villages, but they can’t be much more precise than that. They’re exquisitely suited to civilian terror, but they have almost no true military purpose.

And these attacks are expanding with the effect of displacing more and more thousands of Darfuris. They’re fleeing southward to the [refugee] camps in the El Fasher area. El Fasher is the capital of North Darfur. It’s where the major air base for all of Darfur is for Khartoum’s air force. And it’s from there that the Antonovs and the helicopter gunships are taking off.

In the camps ... we’re [also] seeing an increasing ethnic polarization. The Zaghawa and the Fur, in particular, have an extremely tense relationship. The camps themselves could become targets. There are weapons now in the camps. There is this increasing ethnic animosity. If the camps are attacked frontally, we will see massacres.

These camps are completely vulnerable. There is no way that the African Union can prevent a frontal assault if Khartoum [or its allies] decide to attack. And we’ve seen such attacks previously, but now we have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people, over 2 million people, displaced in the camps, and maybe a third of them in North Darfur, and they are extremely vulnerable.

The villages being targeted right now by Khartoum are primarily the surviving Fur villages. Estimates of the percentage of the non-Arab or African villages that have been destroyed are 80 or 90 percent. Perhaps somewhat less in North Darfur, but that is now changing very rapidly with the current military offensive.

Why did the situation get worse?

It’s worsened because the peace agreement was overwhelming rejected by Darfuris on the ground. The agreement provides only $30 million in compensation for people who have lost everything. The wealth of generations in the form of cattle looted or killed or destroyed or lost, all the food stocks, all the seed stocks, all the agricultural implements, poisoned wells, burned villages, looted homes.

Four million people are being asked to accept $30 million in compensation. That works out to be about $8 dollars a person. There is simply no way that you begin your life again with $8 when you’ve lost everything. This compensation issue is hugely significant to Darfuris. They also saw clearly that the security arrangements were essentially left in Khartoum’s hands, and they don’t trust Khartoum.

It’s clear that cataclysmic human destruction is in the works. These people, after three and a half years of conflict, have no resources other than those from the humanitarian community. When humanitarians withdraw, that means food doesn’t get through. There are some 400,000 people in North Darfur who haven’t had food for three months now. This is the height of the so-called hunger gap between nominal spring planting and fall harvest. There wasn’t any spring planting, and there won’t be any fall harvest, but this is the worst time of year for food. When humanitarians withdraw, so too do the resources by which water is purified, one of the only measures against a massive outbreak of cholera. It will claim tens of thousands of lives in camps that lose access to clean water.

The Sudanese government said it won’t allow the U.N. peacekeeping forces into the country. Why?

Khartoum has been emboldened to the point of believing that they can stiff the international community by any number of actions, by the failure of the U.N. Security Council to make good on its 10 previous Security Council resolutions, by Khartoum’s ability to thumb its nose without consequence at the international criminal court investigating crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and genocide in Darfur.

The Khartoum regime believes there is no will to deploy [troops] non-consensually, and U.N. Security Council resolution 1706 declares that nothing—I’m paraphrasing—nothing in this resolution will affect the government of Sudan’s claim to national sovereignty. Khartoum has declared very bluntly that they regard any U.N. forces as precisely that—an infringement upon their sovereignty.

So the resolution does in fact confer upon Khartoum the right to reject the force that might halt the genocide. This is an obscenity in the wake of the U.N. World Summit of 2005, which produced an outcome document, which says that the international community adopts a responsibility to protect civilians who are not protected by their own government, or who are the targets of their own government. That is exactly the situation we have in Darfur. It was framed so as to supersede claims of national sovereignty such as Khartoum is now making.
How has the U.N. responded?

The international community remains essentially paralyzed. Monday, there were some extremely strong comments from [U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, his strongest statement to date: “Can the international community having not done enough for the people of Rwanda in their time of need, just watch as this tragedy deepens? Can we contemplate failing yet another test? Lessons are either learned or not. Principles are either upheld or scorned. This is no time for the middle ground of half measures or further debate.”

This is ironic coming from a man who has dithered for over two years, but that is language that is unmistakably inviting the international community to move robustly to fashion a declaration that the United Nations will deploy [its forces].

The African Union’s cease-fire monitoring mission is set to end on Sept. 30. What happens if that mission expires without U.N. forces coming in?
Many people do not believe they will leave, for various reasons. The primary reason is that they are incapable of leaving. Deploying out of the country is not simple. It costs money. It requires organization. The African Union has no plan. It has no logistical outline. It has no resources. It has no leadership. It doesn’t even have a spokesman who will declare we have no way of exiting. It’s in total chaos. It’s a shambles, and if for no other reason, they will not be able to deploy.

The real question is whether they will defy Khartoum and say: “We now accept our being ‘blue-hatted.’ We accept that we now, however weak we may be, are the U.N.” Khartoum has said that if they become U.N. they must leave.

We’ll know a lot more about that when the A.U.[African Union] gathers prior to the convening of the General Assembly of the U.N. on the 18th [of September]. The A.U. is certainly eager to have money and resources, and they deserve it. At the same time, the A.U. is incompetent. It always has been. It’s badly led, badly organized. It has no mandate appropriate to the situation on the ground. It clearly must be replaced by a more robust force.
Chicago Tribune correspondent Paul Salopek was set free last weekend by the Sudanese authorities. What was the significance of his imprisonment, and release?

It sends a very clear signal: ‘Do not think about coming in from Chad to Darfur. We will arrest you.’ Khartoum had no intention of keeping him. They made their message, and then released him under the highest-profile circumstances possible. The governor of New Mexico travels and gets him released. There is no advantage to Khartoum in keeping him. To some extent, they get the benefit of being seen as the guys who released him. But they’re sending a message, as they’re sending a message by refusing to grant visas to news reporters.

Look at how few reporters are on the ground in North Darfur. Look at the datelines. We have almost no Darfur datelines anymore. Of course, this is in Khartoum’s interest. They don’t want this next massive phase to be witnessed, either by journalists or by humanitarians. Virtually all humanitarians have now been withdrawn from North Darfur, at least in areas outside El Fasher. When Jan Egeland, head of U.N. aid operations, briefed the U.N. Security Council on August 28th, he said: “We could see hundreds of thousands of people die needlessly.”

What do you think that the U.N. should do at this juncture to prevent that from happening?

It must make clear it will deploy as rapidly as possible with or without Khartoum’s consent, and it must seek out the first-world military resources that would allow for a robust deployment in the near term to begin to protect humanitarians, humanitarian quarters and vulnerable camps, and to begin to produce a military stand-down by Khartoum.

Make no mistake about it: Khartoum would stand down militarily. These guys are not going to fight first-world military resources. They’re not well-trained. They’re not well-motivated. They don’t have a good officer corps, and they would be annihilated, and they know it, if they were confronted with a determined first-world NATO-quality brigade.

Certainly, there would be some symbolic spilling of Islamic blood. You can be sure there would be enough resistance so that the blood of Sudanese martyrs could be trumpeted. But there would be a military stand-down. They would not fight.

The Janjaweed [local militias backed by the Sudanese government] would also disperse, at least in the very large numbers in which they’ve been aggregating. The Janjaweed are not a real military force. They have military power only when they aggregate in the hundreds of thousands. These guys ride on camels and horseback shooting Kalashnikovs. At a distance of 2 kilometers they would be annihilated by a first-world force. And if they don’t know it, they would find it out very quickly.

What should the United States do?

The U.S. should be pushing with every bit of diplomatic and political leverage at its disposal to force China into a position where it must accede to international will and must go along with a resolution authorizing immediate deployment, with or without Khartoum’s consent. The key task is to bring about a change of position on China’s part, which looks at Sudan only though the lens of its oil production interests in southern Sudan.

Are officials in Khartoum refusing to let U.N. troops in because they’re afraid of being tried for war crimes in the Hague?

They know that there is so much evidence against them that there is no way if they’re extradited they could ever survive a trial without multiple life sentences. So, they have nothing to lose on that score. They’re guilty. They know they’re guilty of genocide. They want to complete the genocide for political purposes.

The International Criminal Court in the Hague has more than enough evidence now. There is no senior member of the National Islamic Front who would not receive multiple life sentences if actually tried in the Hague. These guys have absolutely no intention of allowing any Sudanese witness or accused to go to the Hague.

Their primary goal in keeping the U.N. out is to ensure there is no obstruction to the instrumental counterinsurgency genocide. They mean to finish this business once and for all.
-- By Katharine Mieszkowski

Posted by Nuttshell on 09/25 at 05:20 PM
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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Missing Person Alert (humor)


Click the link to see the details.

Posted by SPN on 09/20 at 05:00 PM
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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Do you need to write a letter, but don’t have an expensive word processing program?

Then use Writely!

If you don’t have the money to afford a full-featured word processor program like MS Word, you can still create complete documents with Writely.
It is easy to signup to use the service and it’s free!  I didn’t mention before, but I will now, that it is a part of Google’s product line now.

Here are the details that I copied from the website

The Web Word Processor
- Share documents instantly & collaborate real-time.
Pick exactly who can access your documents.
- Edit your documents from anywhere.
Nothing to download—your browser is all you need.
- Store your documents securely online.
Offsite storage plus data backup every 10 seconds.
- Easy to use.
Clean, uncluttered screens with a familiar, desktop feel.

All Writely documents exist online in HTML format. However, they can be created from many different sources and saved to your computer in multiple formats, so you have lots of flexibility.

Here are some ways you can create a Writely document:

-Typing text into the “Edit” field.
-Uploading Microsoft Word, HTML, text, or image files.
-Pasting from anything you can copy.

You can download documents in your choice of these formats:

- Microsoft Word
- OpenOffice
- zip

Note that Writely doesn’t currently support uploading or downloading Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

Posted by SPN on 09/19 at 01:07 PM
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Baby Biggest Ever Born at Conn. Hospital

Mom Has 14-Pound, 13-Ounce Boy, the Biggest Baby Born at Conn. Hospital in 18 Years
NORWICH, Conn. Sep 14, 2006 (AP)— Oh baby! Marie Michel’s fifth child was one for the record books. Michel gave birth to a 14-pound, 13-ounce boy Tuesday at William W. Backus Hospital.


Backus officials said the newborn Stephon Hendrix Louis-Jean broke the 18-year record for the biggest baby ever born at the hospital by 1 pound, 13 ounces. He was nearly 23 inches long.

“He’s built like a linebacker,” said Dr. David Kalla, who delivered the baby by Caesarean section.
After nine months of carrying Stephon, 36-year-old Michel said she was more tired and happy to have given birth than all the attention her baby was receiving.

“I was miserable,” Michel said. “I couldn’t sleep at night. My 13-year-old son had to help me get in and out bed.”
The baby’s size came as no surprise to his mom. Michel’s oldest son weighed 9 pounds at birth, her 8-year-old twin sons each weighed 8 1/2 pounds and her youngest son, age 3, was nearly 12 pounds.

Michel’s husband, Vijens Louis-Jean, a truck driver, was coming from Florida to see his son.
Less than 24 hours old, the baby was fitting into clothes for a 6-month-old and was too big for newborn diapers.
“I have baby clothes but I don’t think they will be able to fit,” Michel said. “I think I will have to return them.”

Posted by loni on 09/19 at 10:22 AM
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Monday, September 18, 2006

Mid-September 2006 From Carmen’s Notebook

Spending some time in the workshops with the Q’ewar ladies, I had the opportunity to ask them about their daily life and how the week usually shaped up for them.  It was generally agreed that wake-up time is 5 or 6 am, depending on what season it is.  IF it is planting time (August, September) or harvesting time (April and May), the ladies get up between 3 and 4 am depending on how far they have to walk to get to their field.  Some of the ladies told me that they have land (chacra) not far from where they live; some said they had to walk an hour or so! 

In the evenings before the work in the fields, food and drink must be prepared to take with them.  Since most of the Q’ewar ladies have land that is not too far away, they are able to work in the very early morning hours, then come to the Q’ewar Project at 8:00 am.  The fields for maize/corn, which is a Peruvian staple, are usually nearby, but the ladies told me that the potato fields are at a higher elevation – ½ hour to 1 ½ hours walk away. (Elevations of 3100 to 3700 meters)

When the land is being tended in those months, as soon as the children reach about 13 years of age, they get up early too to help in the fields.  The little ones stay home with mother or a relative, or just join the other workers, from the unique vantage point of being snugly wrapped in mother’s manta.

Cheerfully, the doll-making ladies told me that when they don’t have to tend the fields their day starts at 6am to get breakfast started, children up and dressed for school, fed breakfast and tidy up before coming to work.  We all had a laugh as this pattern seems fairly universal!  But of course, in the dwelling of these ladies, there is no cozy bed to climb out of, no warm water in a bathroom to wash up in, no nicely fitted out kitchen with all the modern conveniences so many women of the world enjoy.  A small child perhaps is in charge of starting the wood fire, maybe in the same room that the family was sleeping in-sharing beds and making do with the little guinea pigs scurrying under a table wanting their breakfast too. (Guinea pigs, called “cuy” (coo-ee) and chicken are a very common source of meat in the diet of the poor.)

Breakfast is sometimes soup that was left over from the day before, or quark made from milk, white bread rounds made in the village, and a hot drink made from herbs or maize.  Then, off to the Project for 8am.


From Cuzco Carmen

Posted by Carmen on 09/18 at 01:39 PM
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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Once Again The Islamic World Shows Its Ass

We can dish it out but we can’t take it.
Poor ole Pope was just reading a quote.

I am STILL Muslim despite the pathetic behavior of my co-religionists overseas. I wish they would tittle the religion THEY"RE practicing “Is Lame”.

1] As a muslim, I can respect the Pope but in the end , I could really care less what he has to say. even if this was his own opinion.

2] These demonstrations are as absurd as the post Rodney King riots. Churches attacked, a nun killed......  What happened to that ayat about respecting ALL the houses where God’s name is remembered.

3] What? C’mon Imam, you’ve never said derogatory things about Christianity and Judaism? You’re going to tell ME that Islam was spread ENTIRELY through trade and contact. That NO ONE on “our side” was an oppressive invader and occupier? You may have to talk to a Sikh brother about how HIS religion got started.

4] I’m tired of all these apologists getting on the news talking about how tolerant Islam is. It’s true, most religions are, but people choose not to be. We’ll all be better off when we recognize THAT fact. There are doers of evil under the guises of them all.

I believe that the “bad” that is in scripture is there so that we can recognize the propensity for evil in the person that can see only THAT bad and none of the good. ex.] Slaughtering of Caananites. Qur’anic intolerance. Synagogue of Satan. The “Curse of Ham”. etc.
People who continually harp on themes like these without seeing the greatier good in scripture, will show their evil by trying to show a superiority / inferiority.

Get off your Golden Age of Islam high horse, recognise and submit to truth, and then make the improvements. No matter WHO points out your shortcomings.

Posted by cricket on 09/17 at 07:40 PM
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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Loose Change

Has anyone seen this video documentary?  I was listening to Jason Bermas on XM radio this afternoon and some of what he said was very intriguing.  I have read some things which would indicate that these guys are crazy but frankly it sounds interesting.  I’m not one to usually buy into conspiracy but Commander Chimp and the Evil Dr. No certainly raise hackles for me.  I might check out the doc.

Here’s a summary of what it’s about.

Loose Change is a documentary written and directed by Dylan Avery and produced by Korey Rowe and Jason Bermas. The film presents an alternative explanation of events during the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks. The film attempts to compensate for the perceived inadequacy of government investigations and the 9/11 Commission Report. It alleges that the attacks were not the result of terrorism but a series of cleverly executed events carried out by the US government. It was released through the creators’ company, Louder than Words, and received wide attention after being featured on local FOX affiliate, WICZ-TV (FOX 40).[

Posted by Nuttshell on 09/14 at 04:28 PM
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