Friday, April 30, 2010
The Arizona Department of Education has now told schools that teachers with "heavy" or "ungrammatical" accents are no longer allowed to teach English classes, according to a WSJ report.
This is quite an ironic development, since Arizona hired hundreds of teachers in the 1990's whose first language was Spanish as part of a broad bilingual-education program. Then in 2000, voters passed a ballot measure stipulating that instruction be offered only in English. Bilingual teachers who had been instructing in Spanish switched to English.
Teachers who don't meet the new fluency standards have the option of taking classes to improve their English-- but if they fail to reach the state's targets, then they would be fired or reassigned.
With his popularity dented by a recession and soaring inflation, the Venezuelan leader has often been outmaneuvered by opponents more active on the web than his supporters. Public Works Minister Diosdado Cabello, announced on Monday that Chavez supporters planned to "storm" social networking sites.
After he promised to "let loose" on Tuesday, a Spanish-language tweet duly appeared on his new chavezcandanga account 14 minutes after midnight:
Hey how's it going? I appeared like I said I would: at midnight. I'm off to Brazil. And very happy to work for Venezuela. We will be victorious!!
"The opposition thinks it owns the social networking sites - they think Twitter and Facebook belong to them," Minister Cabello said. "We're fighting and there are seven million of us who will have Twitter," he declared, referring to the membership claimed by Chavez's United Socialist Party.
By the next day, the leftist leader had only 29,000 followers on Twitter.
Twitter has seen an explosive rise in usage in Venezuela to more than 200,000 active accounts. With growth of more than 1,000% in 2009, Venezuela now has one of the highest rates per capita of users of Twitter in Latin America.
And this week, consumers and families received more good news -- the industry will scrap its "rescission" practices, four months before the new federal ban was scheduled to go into effect.
The health insurance industry has decided to end its practice of canceling claims once a patient gets sick next month, well before the new health care law would have required it, the industry's chief spokesman announced this week.
The decision to end rescission, as the practice is known, was made during a conference call of chief executives organized by their trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans. The heartening announcement on rescissions came on the heels of a report on WellPoint routinely dropping coverage for women diagnosed with breast cancer. The company said it would end the practice by this weekend.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
"You shouldn't have to wait another day for protection from some of the practices that got us into this mess," Obama said in Quincy, Illinois. "If we don't learn the lessons from this crisis, we doom ourselves to repeat it."
Only after signs that support for the filibuster was crumbling under public pressure did Republican leaders signal that they would allow the debate to begin.
Gizmodo paid $5,000 to an unnamed individual for the prototype, which was left behind at a local bar by an Apple software engineer. Gizmodo online editor Jason Chen published photographs and videos of the phone last week.
Chen said that he and his wife returned from having dinner on Friday night to find police searching their home. "The officers had a computer and were cataloguing all the items they took from my house. They told me they were here for a few hours already and had to break the front door open because I wasn't at home," he said.
The technology blog published the search warrant documents online. In those documents, prosecutors admit to taking the editor's computer as they may have been used to commit a felony. Apple sent a request to Gizmodo last week asking it to return the prototype handset, which it complied with. By that time, however, the technology blog had already published details of the next-generation iPhone, which is expected to be unveiled later this year.
Advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said it found the latest events worrying for two reasons. "You have a reporter who is disseminating newsworthy information to the public, who are supposed to be protected from search and seizures. These protections apply to people who collect information in order to report it to the public regardless of what name you slap on them; blogger, journalist or whatever," Jennifer Ganick, the EFF's civil liberties director, told reporters.
The second issue the EFF is concerned about is whether police officers are doing the investigative work of a private company. "If there was some offense here it is not apparent what it is", Ganick said.
The raids in question were conducted by the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (React), a Californian computer crime task force. The task force works closely with the computer industry and Apple is reported to be one of 25 tech firms that sit on the steering committee.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The women all paid their premiums on time. Before they fell ill, none had any problems with their insurance. Initially, they believed their policies had been canceled by mistake. They had no idea that WellPoint was using a computer algorithm that automatically targeted them and every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The software triggered an immediate fraud investigation, as the company searched for some pretext to drop their policies, according to government regulators and investigators.
Once the women were singled out, the insurer then canceled their policies based on either erroneous or flimsy information. As is often the case, WellPoint cowardly used the "privacy law" excuse to avoid having to comment publicly.
That tens of thousands of Americans lost their health insurance shortly after being diagnosed with life-threatening, expensive medical conditions has been well documented by law enforcement agencies, state regulators and a congressional committee. Insurance companies have used the practice, known as "rescission," for years. And a congressional committee last year said WellPoint was one of the worst offenders. But WellPoint also has specifically targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with the intent to cancel their policies, federal investigators told reporters.
An inquiry has already begun, according to health officials. The Taliban - which opposes female education - denies carrying out an attack. The girls said they noticed a strange smell in class before the onset of their symptoms, but health officials said the gas remains unidentified. The incidents all involved different schools.
In May 2009, Afghan authorities launched an investigation after about 90 schoolgirls fell ill in Kapisa province. Although officials suspected deliberate poisoning, the results of the inquiry were inconclusive.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Local parent Tom Myers was surprised when his daughter came home and told him that T.I. had been the speaker at the assembly on anti bullying. Myers wasted no time in firing off an email to school principal, Dr. Terry Oatts. Myers told the principal that had he known T.I. was speaking, he would not have allowed his daughter to attend. He went so far as to suggest that next time, the principal should let the rapper "mow the grass or pick up the trash around the school grounds, so that the kids might see and understand that what he did was wrong."
School principal Oatts replied via e-mail: "I thought about asking a guy who snorted cocaine and got arrested for DUI when he was 30 years old to come and speak to our kids-- but President George W. Bush was not available."
Monday, April 26, 2010
At the time of Javon's death, Ramkissoon was living with a small religious cult led by a woman who calls herself Queen Antoinette. She told Ramkissoon that the child had "a spirit of rebellion" inside him and that denying him nourishment would cure him. Ramkissoon then denied food and water to the 16-month-old child whenever he did not say "Amen" before a meal. Javon wasted away over the course of a week before his heart stopped beating.
After Javon died in late 2006 or early 2007, Antoinette told her followers to pray for his resurrection, and Ramkissoon spent weeks with her son's body. Ramkissoon testified in court that she still believes her son will be resurrected, and her plea deal contained an extraordinary provision: If Javon comes back to life, the plea will be withdrawn.
Opponents of the new law say that it will lead to rampant racial profiling and turn Arizona into a police state with provisions that require police to question people about their immigrant status if they suspect they are here illegally. Day laborers can be arrested for soliciting work if they are in the U.S. illegally, and governmental agencies can be sued if they don't carry out the law.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Junior officials wrote the memo following a brainstorming session intended to discuss ideas for the visit, the first to Britain by the head of the Roman Catholic Church since Pope John Paul II in 1982.
The document, which suggested that surprise reality TV star Susan Boyle was more important than the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols (head of the Catholic Church in England), also proposed the pope could bless a gay marriage, establish a hot line for abused children, or honor abuse whistleblowers.
On this solemn day of remembrance, we pause to recall that ninety-five years ago one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century began. In that dark moment of history, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire.Early in his term, Obama also disingenuously avoided use of the word "genocide" when asked about his campaign promise during a press conference in Turkey. In yesterday's statement, Obama referred to the Armenian genocide only as "the inhumanity of 1915" and "the awful events of 1915."
Today is a day to reflect upon and draw lessons from these terrible events. I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. It is in all of our interest to see the achievement a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts.
Obama had promised early in his presidential campaign that he would call the mass killings genocide if elected. "The facts are undeniable," Obama said in a January 19, 2008, statement. "An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy. As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, and as president I will recognize the Armenian Genocide."
Moments like this tell us more about a president than lofty speeches, I suppose.
The series finale of ABC's "Lost" has been filming the last few weeks, and even the normal fan sites have encountered an unusual dry spell of leaks concerning plot details and spoilers about how the writers will be resolving the complicated storyline of the ground-breaking series. That's why it was HUGE news when call sheets from the final days of filming that were left in a Hawaii restaurant began filtering out to the blogosphere. If you're a diehard fan, read them at your own peril:
Germany's Federal Commissioner for Data Protection Peter Schaar says he's "horrified" by the discovery. "I am appalled… I call upon Google to delete previously unlawfully collected personal data on the wireless network immediately and stop the rides for Street View."
Spooks have long desired the ability to cross reference the Mac address of a user's connection with their real identity and virtual identity, such as their Gmail or Facebook account. Other companies have logged broadcasting WLAN networks and published the information. By contrast Google has not published the WLAN map, or Street View in Germany; Google hopes to launch the service by the end of the year.
But Google's uniquely cavalier approach to privacy, and its potential ability to cross reference the information raises additional concerns. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said internet users shouldn't worry about privacy unless they have something to hide. Attention all power-hungry Google motherfuckers: yes, we have something to hide-- our PRIVACY!!!
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Now the Brooksville city council is considering legislation to crack down on employee tobacco use — both at work and during their personal time — by requiring them to quit smoking after one year. The proposal would also disqualify for employment anyone who admits to the habit.
Referring to smoking as the root of all evil — particularly following her mother's troubles with the habit — Mayor Lara Bradburn said that eliminating tobacco use would help decrease city insurance rates — at cost savings to taxpayers — while helping employees be healthier.
But Bradburn said the legislation being proposed by the city council was being blown out of proportion. She added that many private and public companies already have similar tobacco policies in place.
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office, for instance, requires new hires to sign a document that includes a provision certifying that the employee doesn't use tobacco and won't in the future. Those who do could face disciplinary actions, including termination.
This will solve the immediate problem looming for the 1,550 Australian soldiers when the Dutch forces providing security withdraw later this year.
A retired Australian general, the former chief of operations for coalition forces in Iraq, Jim Molan, said: ''For the U.S. to replace the Dutch would be an abrogation of Australia's responsibilities.
''Once again, the U.S. cavalry is galloping to our rescue. It's wrong to say that Australia cannot do it, or that the U.S. doesn't need the Australians. We can do it, and the U.S. desperately needs troops.''
Friday, April 23, 2010
Former University of Tennessee student David Kernell faces up to 50 years in federal prison if convicted of identity theft, mail fraud and two other felony charges. His lawyer has called the case a prank, not a crime. Kernell improperly gained access to Palin’s e-mail account in September 2008 by correctly providing her birth date and ZIP code and correctly answering that Wasilla is where she met her husband.
From the blog post bylined, "Common Street Trash":
This dumb college student will probably go to jail for 50 years for easily guessing [Palin's] e-mail password hint using the rare knowledge he acquired reading the first sentence or two of her Wikipedia page. The judge will want to impress her for a lipstick-smooched autographed photo.
Sarah Palin is now using her vast political knowledge and expertise as one of America’s greatest leaders to help brutally prosecute a dumb college student who figured out her incredibly easy e-mail password hint two years ago and uploaded a few screen shots to some web forum leading to a day or two of pranks which meant nothing in the end and probably just boosted her career through faux-victimization, the only weapon in her arsenal; she is awful.
Asked outside court if she thought the charges against Kernell were excessive, Palin said, “I don’t know, but I do think there should be consequences for bad behavior.”
Community service sounds about right. In fact an out-of-court settlement of “a few bucks for Willow’s gas money” would be harsh enough. Especially since it was not “hacking” or “mail fraud.” There were no Soviets named “Boris” cracking nuclear launch codes.
"It is a tragic irony to think in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones," so many people "cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet," said U.N. University official Zafar Adeel.
Poor sanitation is a major contributor to water-borne diseases, which in the past three years alone killed an estimated 4.5 million children under the age of five worldwide. The cost to build a toilet, including labor, materials and advice, is about $300 The world could expect a return of up to $34 for every dollar spent on sanitation through improved productivity and reduced poverty and health costs, said Adeel.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Yahoo's efforts to fend off federal prosecutors' broad request attracted allies--in the form of Google, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Progress and Freedom Foundation--who argued that Americans who keep their e-mail in the cloud enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy that is protected by the U.S. Constitution. This case was first reported by CNET last week.
Two years ago, Obama pledged that he would "strengthen privacy protections for the digital age." The dispute with Yahoo over private emails raised suspicions about the President's true commitment to privacy rights, and Obama is not in the clear yet either. The administration has taken a position at odds with privacy advocates in a second case in Philadelphia involving warrantless tracking of cell phones. You can read about that case here.
“The bill is creating a new protected class of people based on the fact that they’re not voters, they’re not taxpayers and they live on the streets,” said Kreegal, who knows that homeless people do not vote or have to pay sales taxes because he read all about it on some Republican's blog.
Apparently, Florida legislators were more persuaded by a Ft. Lauderdale homeless man's suffering, since his attack by teenagers was actually caught on video.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Is Joburg ready for the World Cup?
I think we are.
What about the potholes?
We are addressing that problem.
What about the trenches that are left open for months for people to fall into?
Again, that's one of the big problems.
What about the broken traffic lights?
It's being addressed in an ongoing way.
What about the street lights that don't work?
You keep on mentioning these things one by one. And my answer is an honest one, to say yes, there are gaps, and we are working on addressing the problems.
What about the missing street signs?
The matter has been raised with the mayoral committee by the executive diretor of 2010. And again, a commitment has been made that we'll be upgrading these in the next two to three months.
What about the litter?
The city's much cleaner than it used to be.
There's still a lot of rubbish around, though isn't there?
There is a lot of rubbish around. Pikitup is working on a program that seeks to mobilize communities.
What about the blocked storm water drains?
Yes, because it rains quite heavily. Some of the problems . . . have been exposed and we are addressing them.
That's an issue of maintenance, isn't it?
Yes, it's an issue of maintenance, but you know . . .
They're not being properly maintained?
They're not being properly maintained. It's the kind of thing that should be done in winter.
Why isn't it happening?
There have been some problems there.
What about the lack of reliable public transport?
Well, I mean we have introduced BRT (bus rapid transit).
On all routes?
Not all routes.
Do you use public transport?
Once in a while, yes. I use a taxi once in a while.
Wouldn't it send an encouraging message if you used public transport to get to work?
I don't know if you're aware of this, but annually-- every October or so-- we use public transport.
You use public transport every October?
Just to try and encourage people to use public transport.
So you use public transport once a year?
Yes sir. I don't use public transport daily.
Don't you want to encourage people to use public transport?
We're doing our bit.
The mayor of New York uses public transport every day to get to work.
The mayor of New York?
The current mayor of London goes to work on a bicycle.
That's going to the other extreme, but he's doing something that's positive.
Do you think you might use a bicycle one day?
I will do anything possible to incline people in the right direction, but I will not do a public stunt simply for the sake of it.
If the public transport was any good would you use it?
So you admit that it's not?
It's not very good, but there is something that we are doing to get public transport right.
You plug Joburg as a world-class city. isn't this false advertising?
No, it's not false at all. That's a goal we're working towards, that's a vision.
In your view what makes Joburg a world-class city?
One has had an opportunity to travel to many cities in the world and therefore I've had an opportunity to compare and reflect. Very clearly, Joburg is one of the best cities on the African continent.
But you call it a world-class city?
We are definitely moving in that direction. If you're talking global cities in the world, Joburg is definitely one of them.
What are your criteria for a world-class city?
I don't know if you familiar with our Joburg vision statement?
Is it the vision of a world-class city that makes it a world-class city, or the reality?
What reality are you talking about?
Do you know of any other world-class city where an unelected mayor has been in office for 10 years?
Unelected? What do you mean by that?
That you haven't been elected.
I'm sure you know that the political system is different in South Africa. I get elected by the councilors of Johannesburg.
In other words, you're deployed by the ANC, not elected by the people?
If you want to criticize the ANC and bash it, do so. But don't try funny tricks. That won't get us anywhere.
One section of the proposed digital copyright treaty (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA) says that immunity from lawsuits would be granted to Internet providers "disabling access" to pirated material and adopting a policy dealing with unauthorized "transmission of materials protected by copyright." If the ISPs choose not to do so, they could face legal liability.
Both the Obama administration and the Bush administration had previously taken steps to keep secret all draft copies of the ACTA while it was being debated by participating nations. Last year, the White House went so far as to invoke an executive order saying disclosure would do "damage to the national security." Thank god for the European Union, which published the current draft text of ACTA on its web site this week.
The current ACTA proposal would take the most controversial parts of U.S. copyright law and apply them to the rest of the world. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act's "anti-circumvention" section, which makes it illegal to bypass copy protection even to back up a Blu-Ray disc, is in the proposal. So is the No Electronic Theft Act's concept of making it a crime to copy a sufficient quantity of software, music, or videos -- even if no money changes hands.
The proposal would also make it possible for border guards to search travelers' electronic gadgetry for infringing files-- something which has been harshly criticized by groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge, which have criticized the draft treaty.
The U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement last week that recent ACTA negotiations in New Zealand were "constructive." The next meeting is in Switzerland in June.
O'REILLY: Now, next week, the governor is going to sign, we believe, a very stringent state law that gives the police in Arizona very, very broad authority to question people. And a lot of people say it's going to be racial profiling. You're going to look for Hispanics, question them, to see if they're here legally or not. And it's just not fair. And you say why?
MCCAIN: I say that the federal responsibilities have not been fulfilled. Therefore, the states are acting -- the state of Arizona is acting and doing what they feel they need to do in light of the fact that the federal government is not fulfilling its fundamental responsibility to secure our borders. Our borders must be secure.
O'REILLY: But what about the racial profiling? You know that's going to happen has to happen.
MCCAIN: I hope -- I would be very sorry that if some of that happens. And I regret it, but I also regret the -- really, it's not just the murder of Robert Krantz. It's the people whose homes and property are being violated. It's the drive-by that -- the drivers of cars with illegals in it that are intentionally causing accidents on the freeway. Look, our border is not secured. Our citizens are not safe.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi's comments follow a warning by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a quake is certain to hit the capital Tehran and that many residents should relocate. In a prayer sermon, the cleric said:
"Many women who do not dress modestly... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes. What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes. A divine authority told me to tell the people to make a general repentance. Why? Because calamities threaten us."
Iran is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, and seismologists have warned for 20 years that one is likely to hit Tehran, which straddles scores of fault lines, in the near future. Some 12million people live in the city, which was last struck in 1830.
Two weeks ago President Ahmadinejad said "at least 5 million" should leave Tehran because of the earthquake threat.
When pressed for details by the Boston Globe on his opposition to financial reform, he comes off as deeply confused, trying desperately to avoid talking about specifics:
"I want to see when it's going to come up, how it's going to come up," he said. "I'm always open to trying to work something through so it is truly bipartisan."
When asked what areas he thought should be fixed, he replied: "Well, what areas do you think should be fixed? I mean, you know, tell me. And then I'll get a team and go fix it."
He appeared to oppose the creation of a consumer protection agency within the Federal Reserve. "It's more government, it's more government regulation at a time when businesses are trying just to pay their bills," he said. "Is that good? . . . If it's an area we need to fix, then I'm certainly open to it. But I haven't heard that that's the biggest thing that's problematic with it."
The Daily Dude is recommending Scott Brown as Palin's running mate in 2012-- at least she'll have someone (who by comparison) makes her look smarter.
They have called the new blood-sucking species Tyrannobdella rex which means "tyrant leech king". Zoologist, Dr. Mark Siddall from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, was quick to recognize it as a new species. He said it had some very unusual features, including just one single jaw, eight very large teeth and extremely small genitalia. "The leech could feed on aquatic mammals, from their noses and mouths for example, where they could stay for weeks at a time."
The creature was first discovered in 2007 in Peru when a specimen was plucked from the nose of a girl who had been bathing in a river. The creature lives in the remote parts of the Upper Amazon and has a "particularly unpleasant habit of infesting humans", the scientists say. Studies also revealed that it had "a preference for living up noses"
Monday, April 19, 2010
43-year-old Andrew Moore had lived in Australia since he was 11 years old, but had never officially become a Australian citizen. However, the Australian government scheduled him for deportation last October for failing the Migration Act's character test after he served a sentence for manslaughter.
Moore's family in Australia (including a teenage son) and supporters had pleaded for him to be allowed to stay due to severe physical and mental illness. The family says the government failed him, and legal and immigration experts say it could have prevented his death, but the Immigration Minister and his department callously deny any responsibility.
Moore's government-appointed doctor, Ed Morgan, had documented that he was at risk of relapsing into alcohol, heroin and benzodiazepine abuse. ''He has expressed fears that in a new country with limited support he will again be likely to relapse,'' Morgan wrote. ''Having known Andrew for many years I … feel drug and alcohol support is paramount to his ongoing care.''
Moore's family expressed their ''disappointment at the failure of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to put in place sufficient support networks for Andrew on his deportation to the United Kingdom. This is particularly [grievous] given that Andrew had lived most of his life in Australia and was being deported to a country that he had no existing connection to.''
Greg Barns, a director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said a government welfare worker should have accompanied Moore in London to ensure he used the appropriate services. ''[The death] could arguably have been avoided if the Australian government had not been so determined to apply the law inflexibly,'' Barns said.
Michael Grewcock, a lecturer at the University of NSW and an expert on character-test deportations, said that, notwithstanding the coroner's finding, ''the Australian government still bears a moral responsibility for what happened. It was known Andrew Moore was seriously ill and that he had a history of substance abuse. It was entirely predictable that having been abandoned at Heathrow without any meaningful social support that he would be a risk to himself or others. He was, to all intents and purposes, Australian and his risk should have been addressed here via the parole system and the welfare services generally available to ex-prisoners".
Sunday, April 18, 2010
The drink, made from the coca leaf and named after the indigenous Colla people from Bolivia's highlands, went on sale last week across the South American country. The first batch of 12,000 bottles, priced about $3 for a liter, were distributed in La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.
The familiar-sounding name and packaging may rile the Atlanta-based soft drinks manufacturer, but Coca Colla could also cause groans in Washington. It is made from the coca leaf, a mild stimulant that wards off fatigue and hunger, and has been used in the Andes for thousands of years in cooking, medicine and religious rites. Coca is also the raw ingredient of cocaine, the powerful narcotic that is the primary target of the U.S.-led "war on drugs".
For many years, Bolivia tried to wipe out the leaf at Washington's behest. But that was before Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian and coca grower, was elected president, championing coca as a crop with legitimate uses.
While the new socialist government vowed zero tolerance for cocaine, it still wasted no time in expelling DEA agents (accusing them of spying) and encouraged Bolivian companies to use coca to make teas, syrups, toothpaste, liqueurs, sweets and cakes. If the coca spin-offs work out, the government said the area of land authorized for legal cultivation of the leaf may expand from 12,000 hectares to as much as 20,000 hectares.
The U.S. has warned Bolivia that most of the coca crop would likely be siphoned off for cocaine, and accused Morales of failing to co-operate in the fight against drugs.
Sedition - Through speech or writing, inciting or promoting discontent, resistance or rebellion against an organized government.In 1940, the Smith Act was passed, which made it a crime to advocate or to teach the desirability of overthrowing the United States Government, or to be a member of any organization which does the same. It was often used against Communist Party organizations in the 40's and 50's. In 1957 however, the Supreme Court ruled (in the case of Yates v. United States), that teaching an ideal, no matter how harmful it may seem, does not equal advocating or planning its implementation. Although unused since the 1960's, the Smith Act remains a Federal law.
As recently as 2005, a nurse at a New Mexico VA hospital was investigated by the FBI for sedition after writing a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, accusing several national leaders of criminal negligence. After the ACLU took up her case, the charges were dropped.
"We're mortified that this has become an issue of any kind, and why anyone would be offended, we don't know," head of publishing Bob Sessions said.
The reprint cost $18,000, but stock in bookshops will not be recalled as it is "extremely hard" to do so, according to the publisher.
During the two weeks that clandestine spy program was in use, it was activated several hundred times-- in each instance, a tiny camera atop a school-issued laptop snapped a photo, software inside copied the laptop screen image, and a locating device recorded the Internet address. The system was designed to take a new picture every 15 minutes until it was turned off.
The Philadelphia school district has already confessed to possessing over 400 secret photos of 15-year-old Blake Robbins and his family members-- including pictures of Blake partially undressed and of Blake sleeping in his own bed. Each time, the spy program fired the images off to network servers at the school district.
Back at district offices, the Robbins' lawsuit alleges, employees with access to the images marveled at the tracking software. It was like a window into "a little soap opera," a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program. "I know, I love it," Cafiero replied. The district's records show that the controversial tracking system captured thousands of webcam pictures and screen shots from many other students in their private residences.
Robbins and his parents say they first learned of the technology when an assistant principal at Blake's high school confronted the teen with an image collected by the tracking software. The image showed him with a handful of Mike and Ike candies-- which the administrator thought were illegal pills.
Senator Arlen Specter has introduced legislation to close what he said was a loophole in federal wiretap laws that seemingly allowed the unauthorized (and potentially illegal) monitoring by the school district. "Many of us expect to be subject to certain kinds of video surveillance when we leave our homes and go out each day - at the ATM, at traffic lights, or in stores, for example," Specter, who is running for reelection, said. "What we do not expect is to be under visual surveillance in our homes, in our bedrooms and, most especially, we do not expect it for our children in our homes."
Saturday, April 17, 2010
"Mrs. Esters (Oprah's cousin) is adamant about setting straight the family history. Oprah wasn't raised on a pig farm. There was one pig. She didn't milk cows; there was only one cow . . . Yes, they were poor-- we all were-- but Aunt Hat owned her own house, plus two acres of land and a few chickens, which made her better off than most folks in the Buffalo community. Hattie Mae did not beat Oprah every day of her life, and Oprah most certainly did not go without dolls and dresses . . . Oh, I've talked to her about this over the years. I've confronted her and asked, 'Why do you tell such lies?' Oprah told me, 'That's what people want to hear. The truth is boring, Aunt Katherine. People don't want to be bored. They want stories with drama."
. . .
"Oprah maintained that because her dark skin she had to sleep on the porch in the back of the room house, while her light-skinned sister slept with her mother in Vernita's bedroom. She said that discrimination made her feel ugly. "White people never made me feel less," she said year later. "Black people made me feel less . . I felt like an outcast." Katharine Esters responded sternly to Oprah's poignant memory. "This bothers me more than her corncob doll lies and her cockroach lies, because it plays into the damaging discrimination practiced by our own people," she said. "Oprah slept on the porch only because Vernita had to take care of her baby and there was just one bedroom. That's it. Period. If Oprah was discriminated against because of her skin color, I'd tell you. [Katharine Esters is a civil rights activist who works for the Urban League in Milwaukee] "Oprah puts too much stock on color . . . I suppose that her wanting to be white makes her see things the way she does, but sleeping on the porch had nothing to do with her dark skin. The fact of the matter is that Oprah was no longer an only child when she came to live in Milwaukee. She was not the princess anymore or the center of everyone's attention. Her mother and the landlady fussed over the babies, not Oprah, and that was very hard for her."
. . .
"Oprah once dated a radio DJ named Tim Watts. Unlike [her relationship with] John Tesh, this relationship didn't end well. [Oprah paid Watts $50,000 for confidentiality after they split up]. I asked [Watts] what he could say [to the tabloids] that would make Oprah pay him $50,000 in hush money not to talk . . . I was wondering what he knew about her . . . He said she did not want him to talk about her brother being gay [Jeffrey Lee died of AIDS on December 22, 1989]. It's no big deal to have a brother who is homosexual, but apparently it was to Oprah . . . Tim also said he knew about some lesbian affairs or whatever . . . But that's all he said, and we never went into it."
. . .
"In addition to her 500 employees at Harpo, Oprah required everyone at O, The Oprah Magazine, to sign confidentiality agreements and swear never to reveal anything about her, something few other publications required of their employees. When Oprah was asked why she imposed such imperial restrictions on those who worked for her, she again said it was all about "trust,", but this time Chicago Tribune journalists Ellen Warren and Terry Armour called her on it. "Actually, that's precisely what it's not about," they wrote. "It's about mistrust"
. . .
"Oprah became so accustomed to rapturous audiences that she reacted negatively if she saw someone not standing to applaud her. "One time she spotted a young black man who just sat there [in the studio audience]," said a publishing executive. "She began heckling him. 'I see someone here who is very brave.' She began shuckin' an jivin': 'Oh no. I don't have to stand up and cheer for Oprah. No, sir. Not me. I'm the man. I won't bow to Oprah.' She did her whole ghetto shtick. It was ugly, very ugly for about four or five minutes while the poor guy just sat there as she mocked him. She wouldn't let up either . . . She was pissed that he was not giving her the adoring routine that the rest of the audience was . . . Turned out the young man was mentally challenged and severely disabled."
. . .
"You had to get your book up to Oprah's breasts to become a bestseller," said the writer Blair Sabol. "Our publicist's rule was if she holds [the book] is her lap, you'd make the list in two weeks. If she holds it at her waist, you'd be on in a week. If she clutches it to her bosom, you're headed for number one. So, naturally, we all aimed for Oprah's boobs."
The pair are said to be working with British lawyers to see if the pope can be arrested for his part in the alleged cover-up of widespread sexual abuse in the Catholic Church during a visit to the United Kingdom in September. Last year, Israel's foreign minister Tzipi Livni was forced to cancel a planned trip to Britain after a British judge was persuaded by Palestinian activists to issue a warrant for her arrest over her role Israel's invasion of Gaza in 2008.
The Vatican has suggested that the pope is immune to prosecution as he is a head of state - Dawkins and Hitchens believe that he is not immune as the Vatican is not represented at the United Nations.
Last month Dawkins wrote a scathing article for the Washington Post in which he called the pope:
A leering old villain in a frock, who spent decades conspiring behind closed doors for the position he now holds; a man who believes he is infallible and acts the part; a man whose preaching of scientific falsehood is responsible for the deaths of countless AIDS victims in Africa; a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence.
Hitchens told the Sunday Times of London: "This man is not above or outside the law. The institutionalized concealment of child rape is a crime under any law and demands not private ceremonies of repentance or church-funded payoffs, but justice and punishment."
Friday, April 16, 2010
"You don't go ahead and accommodate every behavioral pattern that is against the ideal," Huckabee said when asked about same-sex marriage. "That would be like saying, well, there are a lot of people who like to use drugs, so let's go ahead and accommodate those who want who use drugs. There are some people who believe in incest, so we should accommodate them. There are people who believe in polygamy, so we should accommodate them."
In the interview with a New Jersey student newspaper, he continued: "I think this is not about trying to create statements for people who want to change the basic fundamental definitions of family. Children are not puppies. This is not a time to see if we can experiment and find out, how does this work?"
In the same vein, wouldn't it be unacceptable to allow fat bigots to raise children on the off-chance that they would raise morbidly obese children?
Thursday, April 15, 2010
But in fact, tax refunds reached an all-time high this year in part because of the stimulus. Taxes are at their lowest levels in 60 years, according to William Gale, co-director of the Tax Policy Center and director of the Retirement Security Project at the Brookings Institution.
"The relation between what is said in the tax debate and what is true about tax policy is often quite tenuous," Gale said. "The rise of the Tea Party at at time when taxes are literally at their lowest in decades is really hard to understand."
Middle-income Americans are now paying federal taxes at or near historically low levels, according to the latest available data cited by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That’s true whether it comes to their federal income taxes or their total federal taxes.
A family of four in the exact middle of the income spectrum will pay only 4.6 percent of its income in federal income taxes this year, according to a new analysis by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center. This is the second-lowest percentage in the past 50 years.
Ali Hussain Sibat, the father of five, was to be executed after noon prayers Friday, but a frenzy of media coverage, appeals by international human rights groups and intervention by several Lebanese government officials, may have saved his life, at least temporarily. His lawyer, May al-Khansa, said she was still unsure whether the beheading had been waived or postponed.
A Shi'ite Muslim, Sibat traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2008 to perform a religious pilgrimage known as 'umra,' when he was arrested by Saudi's religious police who accused him of practicing sorcery. The charges stem from Sibat's job in Lebanon, where he has hosted a popular television show in which he made predictions on an Arab satellite TV channel from his home in Beirut.
There is no legal definition of witchcraft in Saudi Arabia, but horoscopes and fortune telling are condemned as un-Islamic.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
The researchers also visited an unnamed restaurant in the South Korean capital Seoul where they say they purchased 13 whale products on two occasions in June and September 2009.
Four came from an Antarctic minke whale, four from a sei whale, three from a North Pacific minke, one from a fin whale and one was from a Risso's dolphin, the researchers say.
The DNA profile of the fin whale meat genetically matched meat that had been bought in Japanese markets in 2007, according to a BBC report.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The Salt Pit death was the only fatality known to have occurred inside the secret prison network the CIA operated abroad after the Sept. 11 attacks. The death helped lead to a review that uncovered abuses in detention and interrogation procedures, and forced the agency to change those procedures.
The CIA's use of torture on suspected terrorists had been the subject of much debate long before it was ended in 2006. The extra-judicial prison network was closed down by the Obama administration last year.
The man who died in the Salt Prison was Gul Rahman, a suspected militant captured on Oct. 29, 2002. Little has emerged about the Afghan's death, which the Justice Department is investigating. The Associated Press has uncovered new information about his capture in Pakistan and his Afghan imprisonment.
The detailed account of the case was assembled from documents and interviews with both militants and officials in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and with more than two dozen current and former U.S. officials.
Monday, April 12, 2010
A furious transatlantic row has erupted over quotes that were attributed to a retired Italian bishop, which suggested that Jews were behind the current criticism of the Catholic church's record on tackling clerical sex abuse. A website quoted Giacomo Babini, the emeritus bishop of Grosseto, as saying he believed a "Zionist attack" was behind the criticism, considering how "powerful and refined" the criticism is.
The comments, which have been denied by the bishop, follow a series of statements from Catholic churchmen alleging the existence of plots to weaken the church and Pope Benedict XVI. Allegedly speaking to the Catholic website Pontifex, Babini, 81, was quoted as saying: "They do not want the church, they are its natural enemies. Deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are God killers."
Mount Batur, which has erupted 26 times since 1840, is about 40 miles northeast of the provincial capital, Denpasar. It last erupted in 2000 and is considered an active volcano. It regularly lets off steam. Oka said the route the tourists were hiking is considered safe and accidents there are uncommon.
Guillermo Zuloaga, owner of Globovision, was arrested on a warrant for remarks that were deemed "offensive" to the president, Attorney General Luisa Ortega said.
Zuloaga was detained by military intelligence agents as he was preparing to fly on his private plane with his wife to the Caribbean island of Bonaire, where they planned to vacation.
The arrest was seen by many as the culmination of a long campaign to rein in a channel that Chavez believes has been undermining his government. Globovision has been the only stridently anti-Chavez channel left on the air since another opposition-aligned channel, RCTV, was forced off cable and satellite TV in January. RCTV was booted off free TV in 2007.
Ortega said prosecutors are investigating Zuloaga for remarks he made during a recent Inter American Press Association meeting on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, where he joined other media executives in criticizing Chavez's government for limiting free speech and cracking down on critics.
Zuloaga is alleged to have said that Venezuela's government is cracking down on its critics and commenting that it was a shame that a short-lived 2002 coup against Chavez failed. Zuloaga has not yet publicly responded to the accusations.
"And then you have this punk ass Billy Payne that goes on TV yesterday. First of all, he ain't told his kids and grandkids to be like Tiger Woods. Let's not kid ourselves. He ain't tell his kids and grandkids to be like Tiger Woods. For them to get on there and act like he's all Uncle Tom, the master on the plantation, that pissed me off. I wish somebody would just walk up to him and punch him in his face."
More of the interview centered on the recent report that Barkley and Michael Jordan taught Woods how to gamble and womanize. Barkley denied this, saying of his relationship with Woods:
"Tiger is my brother. I love him. I only had two problems with Tiger with this whole thing. Number one, I told him years ago to quit saying you're not black because all these people who smile at your face, when you screw up, you're going to be black. And that's come back to bite him in the ass. We kept telling him not to say that. These people are not your friend.
"And secondly, I wish he would get to the point where he says, 'Hey listen, I'm not going to walk around on eggshells anymore. I understand that I messed up. I own this. This is my fault. I have apologized to my wife and I have apologized to my kids. The rest of y'all can kiss my ass.' Them the only two things, problems I have with Tiger."