Sunday ReadsPosted: November 14, 2010
Since it’s Sunday, I’ll begin with a religious item: Catholic bishops say more exorcists are needed
Citing a shortage of priests who can perform the rite, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are holding a conference on how to conduct exorcisms.
The two-day training, which ends today in Baltimore, is to outline the scriptural basis of evil, instruct clergy on evaluating whether a person is truly possessed, and review the prayers and rituals that comprise an exorcism. Among the speakers will be Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and a priest-assistant to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan.
Now there’s a serious issue for you. Never mind the disintegrating economy, the President’s Catfood Commission, our multiple wars of aggression in the Middle East, and the likelihood that very far right Republicans will likely control Congress and the White House for the next 30 years (if the country survives that long). No, the really important issue is the need for priests who can drive out demons.
On second thought, maybe some of those nuts DC could benefit from exorcisms…
Despite strong interest in the training, skepticism about the rite persists within the American church. Organizers of the event are keenly aware of the ridicule that can accompany discussion of the subject. Exorcists in U.S. dioceses keep a very low profile. In 1999, the church updated the Rite of Exorcism, cautioning that “all must be done to avoid the perception that exorcism is magic or superstition.”
So how do you know when an exorcism is needed?
Signs of demonic possession accepted by the church include violent reaction to holy water or anything holy, speaking in a language the possessed person doesn’t know and abnormal displays of strength.
The article does say that diseases and psychological disorders must be ruled out before someone is determined to be possessed.
Emptywheel has an interesting take on why George W. Bush plagiarized much of his memoir, Decision Points, from other authors: It’s Safer When You Don’t Let the President Reflect for Himself.
She suggests that Bush may have copied from published sources in order to keep his story straight. He presumably told so many lies over the eight years of his presidency that he might slip up if he tried to write anything from memory. She does note that:
Bush admitted to war crimes in his book, so he did exhibit a general lack of caution in his presentation of some of the touchy legal issues dealt with in the book. But unlike Cheney (who has explicitly said that the statute of limitations will have expired on some of the crimes he’ll describe in his upcoming memoir), Bush may well need to finesse…issues [such as his decision not to pardon Scooter Libby].
Speaking of war crimes, the Obama administration has taken the coward’s way out once again in regard to the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed. From the Washington Post: Opposition to U.S. trial likely to keep mastermind of 9/11 attacks in detention
Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will probably remain in military detention without trial for the foreseeable future, according to Obama administration officials.
The administration has concluded that it cannot put Mohammed on trial in federal court because of the opposition of lawmakers in Congress and in New York. There is also little internal support for resurrecting a military prosecution at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The latter option would alienate liberal supporters.
The administration asserts that it can hold Mohammed and other al-Qaeda operatives under the laws of war, a principle that has been upheld by the courts when Guantanamo Bay detainees have challenged their detention.
So can the Obama administration manage to reach a decision more craven than this one? According to the Washington Post, the months-long internal administration deadlock over trying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 co-conspirators has resulted in a decision: apoplexy. No trying them in federal courts in New York; no trying them at Guantanamo Bay in a military commission. Just… nothing. [....]
And that’s the maddening thing. The Obama team talks about a “different political environment” as if it has nothing to do with creating one. Attorney General Holder talks about federal courts’ capability for handling terrorism trials — you see dangerous secrets leaking out of the Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani trial? Or al-Qaeda storming Manhattan, Cobra-style, to free their comrade? — and then undercuts his own arguments with a defense of military commissions and indefinite detention without trial.
Well, then make a case, and make it consistently. Build support and maintain it. Be willing to stake political capital on it. Or concede that you never meant what you said about justice.
You could say something similar about most of Obama’s campaign promises versus his real actions as President.
Rahm Emanuel has announced his candidacy for Mayor of Chicago.
The former North Side congressman and White House chief of staff laid out a broad agenda, declaring he’d work to help generate jobs, improve education and decrease crime at a juncture in the city’s history when all three need to be addressed.
And he plans to do all that–you guessed it–without raising taxes! That’s what all the Republicans say. Oh wait–he’s running as a Democrat. Good luck Chi-town, you’re going to need it.
The UK Guardian reports that McDonald’s, KFC, and PepsiCo will help write the UK’s new policies on “obesity and diet-related diseases.”
The Department of Health is putting the fast food companies McDonald’s and KFC and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease, the Guardian has learned.
In an overhaul of public health, said by campaign groups to be the equivalent of handing smoking policy over to the tobacco industry, health secretary Andrew Lansley has set up five “responsibility deal” networks with business, co-chaired by ministers, to come up with policies. Some of these are expected to be used in the public health white paper due in the next month.
The groups are dominated by food and alcohol industry members, who have been invited to suggest measures to tackle public health crises. Working alongside them are public interest health and consumer groups including Which?, Cancer Research UK and the Faculty of Public Health. The alcohol responsibility deal network is chaired by the head of the lobby group the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. The food network to tackle diet and health problems includes processed food manufacturers, fast food companies, and Compass, the catering company famously pilloried by Jamie Oliver for its school menus of turkey twizzlers. The food deal’s sub-group on calories is chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walkers crisps.
This sounds like something U.S. politicians would do. Is our insanity taking over the world? Or is it demon possession?
Scientists say that naked body scanners are bad for your health.
US scientists warned Friday that the full-body, graphic-image X-ray scanners that are being used to screen passengers and airline crews at airports around the country may be unsafe.
“They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays,” Dr Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at Johns Hopkins University school of medicine, told AFP.
“No exposure to X-ray is considered beneficial. We know X-rays are hazardous but we have a situation at the airports where people are so eager to fly that they will risk their lives in this manner,” he said.
The possible health dangers posed by the scanners add to passengers and airline crews’ concerns about the devices, which have been dubbed “naked” scanners because of the graphic image they give of a person’s body, genitalia and all.
They could be bad for your mental health too. Here is one example of what can happen if you are selected for naked body scanning and choose to “opt out.”
Andrew Burmeister had been searched using an airport scanner before and didn’t like it at all. On a return trip from Charlotte, he was selected for another body scan screening and chose to opt out, as the sign said he was entitled to do. Burmeister said the screeners became rude and made him sit down, away from his belongings, which were now sitting unattended on the end of the conveyor belt. Eventually a team allowed him to collect his belongings and, after a turn through the metal detector, he was taken to a private area to be screened.
Mr. Burmeister says these screeners were much friendlier, but despite this, his story is still particularly unsettling. They patted him down and asked him lots of questions. They also swabbed his belongings, removing each one individually and scanning it for explosives. But that’s not the unsettling part. While they were busy going through his belongings, they were chatting to him. One mentioned that he was ‘lucky’ that this was all that was happening because after October 31, the screening for passengers who opt out of a body scan would become a lot more “intimate.”
For the camera-shy, TSA will offer an alternative: “enhanced” pat-downs. This is not the gentle frisking you may have experienced at the airport in the past. It requires agents to probe aggressively in intimate zones — breasts, buttocks, crotches.
If you enjoyed your last mammography or prostate exam, you’ll love the enhanced pat-down. And you’ll get a chance to have an interesting conversation with your children about being touched by strangers.
Reviews of the procedure are coming in, and they are not raves. The Allied Pilots Association calls it a “demeaning experience,” and one pilot complained it amounted to “sexual molestation.” The head of a flight attendants’ union local said that for anyone who has been sexually assaulted, it will “drudge up some bad memories.”
Have I told you lately that I’ve decided I’m never going to fly again? If you do need to fly, and having your genitals stared at by beefy TSA morons is troubling to you, you might want to check into National Opt-Out Day, scheduled for Wednesday, November 24–the day before Thanksgiving and one of the busiest travel days of the year.
“The goal of National Opt-Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change,” reads the call to action at OptOutDay.com, set up by Brian Sodegren. “No naked body scanners, no government-approved groping. We have a right to privacy, and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we’re guilty until proven innocent.”
This isn’t big news for most people, but The New York Times has a front page piece on “U.S. aid for ex-Nazis.”
A secret history of the United States government’s Nazi-hunting operation concludes that American intelligence officials created a “safe haven” in the United States for Nazis and their collaborators after World War II, and it details decades of clashes, often hidden, with other nations over war criminals here and abroad.
The 600-page report, which the Justice Department has tried to keep secret for four years, provides new evidence about more than two dozen of the most notorious Nazi cases of the last three decades. [....]
Perhaps the report’s most damning disclosures come in assessing the Central Intelligence Agency’s involvement with Nazi émigrés. Scholars and previous government reports had acknowledged the C.I.A.’s use of Nazis for postwar intelligence purposes. But this report goes further in documenting the level of American complicity and deception in such operations.
The Justice Department report, describing what it calls “the government’s collaboration with persecutors,” says that O.S.I investigators learned that some of the Nazis “were indeed knowingly granted entry” to the United States, even though government officials were aware of their pasts. “America, which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became — in some small measure — a safe haven for persecutors as well,” it said.
And let’s not forget that George W. Bush’s family actively supported the Nazi regime before WWII, and he was elected President of the U.S.
Dr. David Kelly was found dead in a field near his home in Oxfordshire in 2003, shortly after he was revealed to be the source of a BBC leak that accused Tony Blair’s government of exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. His death prompted suspicions among many that he may have been killed in retaliation for the leak.
Kelly himself had predicted he would be “found dead in the woods” if the UK invaded Iraq.
Now the Daily Mail is reporting new evidence that Kelly was murdered.
Dr Andrew Watt, an experienced clinical pharmacologist, says he has told Thames Valley Police it is not possible Dr Kelly could have swallowed more than a ‘safe’ dose of two coproxamol tablets because there was so little in his system after death.
He said: ‘I reported to the Thames force that I believe that the death of Dr Kelly may have been murder. I have received an acknowledgement and they have given me an incident number.
‘I have been told that the inquiry is being conducted by a very senior officer.’
A second development also casts doubt on the suicide verdict of the Hutton inquiry – which took the place of a formal inquest.
The Mail has established that Dr Kelly left an upbeat answerphone message to his friend Nigel Cox just days before his body was found on July 18, 2003. Dr Kelly said he was looking forward to joining him for a game of cards on July 23.
An interesting sidelight to the Kelly case is that Kelly sent an e-mail to then NYT “reporter” Judith Miller shortly before his death. Emptywheel mentions this in a recent post about the work of the National Security Archive:
…as I was reading it, all I could think of was David Kelly’s last email to Judy Miller, warning of dark actors playing games, followed shortly by Tony Blair’s apparently unplanned trip to the US, just in time for him to be out of the country when Kelly was suicided (not to mention for him to be here in the aftermath of the Plame outing which Dick Cheney had ordered Judy to be included in). After all, its hard to look at the timeline the NSA lays out without also thinking of Judy Miller’s key pieces of propaganda–boosting claims about the aluminum tubes–on September 8 and 13, 2002 (indeed, those articles appeared at the same time as the Brits were strengthening these claims, which makes me wonder whether her work wasn’t a key part of pushing the UK to make its claims about the tubes stronger).
We knew the Brits and the US built their propaganda for war together. We knew that Judy Miller was an integral part to that. But when we see the emails going back and forth commenting on each others drafts, it raises once again the question of where the emails back and forth to the war effort’s chief propagandist got disappeared to.
It’s all connected. What is Obama’s role in the giant cover-up? Is he just in the WH to make sure none of the secrets get out, or does he have a more active role in future “dark actions?”
Taking my tinfoil hat off now.
[MABlue's Sunday picks]
Cigarette companies are evil.
Cigarette Giants in a Global Fight on Tighter Rules
As sales to developing nations become ever more important to giant tobacco companies, they are stepping up efforts around the world to fight tough restrictions on the marketing of cigarettes.
Companies like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are contesting limits on ads in Britain, bigger health warnings in South America and higher cigarette taxes in the Philippines and Mexico. They are also spending billions on lobbying and marketing campaigns in Africa and Asia, and in one case provided undisclosed financing for TV commercials in Australia.
“A” Rating for Hamas? The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been running a scam grading. What a disgrace!
Terror Group Gets ‘A’ Rating From Better Business Bureau?
The Better Business Bureau, one of the country’s best known consumer watchdog groups, is being accused by business owners of running a “pay for play” scheme in which A plus ratings are awarded to those who pay membership fees, and F ratings used to punish those who don’t.
To prove the point, a group of Los Angeles business owners paid $425 to the Better Business Bureau and were able to obtain an A minus grade for a non-existent company called Hamas, named after the Middle Eastern terror group.
Patrick Smith, who runs the blog Ask The Pilot has a thoughtful column about the panicky and incoherent reaction to something we’ve been living with forever, only with more composure.
News flash: Deadly terrorism existed before 9/11
With respect to airport security, it is remarkable how we have come to place Sept. 11, 2001, as the fulcrum upon which we balance almost all of our decisions. As if deadly terrorism didn’t exist prior to that day, when really we’ve been dealing with the same old threats for decades. What have we learned? What have we done?
Well, have a look at the debased state of airport security today. We continue enacting the wrong policies, wasting our security resources and manpower. We have implemented many important changes since Lockerbie, it’s true (actually, many of the new protocols are post-9/11), but much of our approach remains incoherent. Cargo and packages go uninspected while passengers are groped and harassed over umbrellas and harmless hobby knives. Uniformed pilots are forced to remove their belts and endure embarrassing pat-downs.
Frank Rich has been writing really good columns lately. I’m not going to stop him while he’s on a roll.
Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?
The top 1 percent of American earners took in 23.5 percent of the nation’s pretax income in 2007 — up from less than 9 percent in 1976. During the boom years of 2002 to 2007, that top 1 percent’s pretax income increased an extraordinary 10 percent every year. But the boom proved an exclusive affair: in that same period, the median income for non-elderly American households went down and the poverty rate rose.
It’s the very top earners, not your garden variety, entrepreneurial multimillionaires, who will be by far the biggest beneficiaries if there’s an extension of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts for income over $200,000 a year (for individuals) and $250,000 (for couples). The resurgent G.O.P. has vowed to fight to the end to award this bonanza, but that may hardly be necessary given the timid opposition of President Obama and the lame-duck Democratic Congress.
Is anyone even surprised by this?
Spanish priest arrested over ‘21,000 child porn images’
A Catholic priest in Spain has been arrested over the alleged possession of thousands of images of child sex abuse.
Who has the better argument?
Parties battle over bare breasts
The Danish People’s Party wants pictures of bare breasts in an introduction film to scare away fundamentalists.
But, Conservatives counter with a good point:
“Bare breasts are not a protection against fundamentalism,” [Conservative Integration Spokesman] Khader says on his Facebook page.
“Quite on the contrary. Fundamentalists as so sex crazy that bare breasts would make them flock to the country. Perhaps one should try naked pigs and pork – that’ll keep them away…”
I’ll score this one for the Conservatives.
What does your hair say about your health? Check it here:
8 Things Your Hair Says About Your Health
When it comes to our hair, most of us worry most about what to do with it: how short to cut it, how to style it, whether to color it once it begins to go gray. But experts say that our hair says a lot more about us than how closely we follow the latest styles. In fact, the health of our hair and scalp can be a major tip-off to a wide variety of health conditions.
Some interesting wonky stuff abou the devastatingly lasting effect of slavery.
The historical roots of inequality
US commentators regularly lament the country’s racial and ethnic inequality. This column presents data from 1870 and 1940-2000 to argue that the divide has its roots in the slave trade and that its legacy persists today through the racial inequality in education.
It’s Sunday. You can enjoy your gossip column. It looks like the life of the Hell’s Kitchen Chef is unraveling.
The cook, the grief, his wife & his (alleged) lover
For Gordon Ramsay, the past few weeks have been like living in his very own Kitchen Nightmare. Only it has extended beyond his kitchen and into every other room of his house. Like an unwatched pot, the TV chef’s personal and professional life has boiled over in spectacular fashion, leaving the mother of all cleaning-up jobs.
Not that anyone is rushing to pull on the Marigolds; quite the contrary. In typical fashion, Ramsay has heaped more coals this weekend on to a fire he lit three weeks ago when he sacked his father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson. Specifically, he claimed his wife Tana has much to learn about what her father gets up to when not running restaurants, lashing out after his wife’s parents wrote to their daughter, urging her to dump the man she married 14 years ago, aged 22.
So what news articles and blog posts do you recommend today?