New Year’s Eve Reads

First Night fireworks, Boston

First Night fireworks, Boston

Good Morning!!

Today is the last day of 2013. Tonight at midnight, we’ll bid adieu to another year. I can’t say I’m sorry to see this one go.

There will be lots of celebratory fireworks in cities around to world tonight; the revelry has already begun in New Zealand. USA Today:

New Zealand rang in the New Year with multicolored fireworks erupting from Auckland’s Sky Tower at midnight Tuesday as thousands of cheering revelers danced in the streets of the South Pacific island nation’s largest city.

Early pyrotechnic shows erupted over Sydney Harbor, dazzling hundreds of thousands viewers ahead of the main event in Australia and Dubai will later try to create the world’s largest fireworks show to ring in 2014.

Unfortunately we’ve also seen some scarier explosions in the past couple of days. Yesterday afternoon there was another accident in North Dakota involving the transport of crude oil. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: Cassleton, N.D. residents flee town after oil train explosion. So far the evacuations are still voluntary and only about 65% of the 2,400 residents of Cassleton have left their homes.

The explosion happened shortly after 2 p.m. Monday after a BNSF grain train derailed and crashed into a crude oil train near Casselton, which is 20 miles west of Fargo, causing tank cars to explode in towering mushroom-cloud flames. No one was injured in the crash….

In the initial hours after the explosion, authorities told residents to stay indoors to avoid the smoke. Later, when residents were urged to evacuate, some drove to Fargo, where a shelter had been set up for them.

BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the train carrying grain derailed first, then knocked several cars of the oil train off adjoining tracks. BNSF said both trains had more than 100 cars each….

“It was black smoke and then there were probably four explosions in the next hour to hour and a half,” said Eva Fercho, a Casselton resident who saw the fiery aftermath.

The cars were still burning as darkness fell, and authorities said they would be allowed to burn out.

From the Brampton (Canada) Guardian:

The derailment happened amid heightened concerns about the United States’ increased reliance on rail to carry crude oil. Fears of catastrophic derailments were particularly stoked after last summer’s crash in Quebec of a train carrying crude from North Dakota’s Bakken oil patch. Forty-seven people died in the ensuing fire.

The explosions Monday afternoon sent flames and black smoke skyward outside of Casselton, about 40 kilometres west of Fargo. Investigators couldn’t get close to the blaze and official estimates of how many train cars caught fire varied….

Ryan Toop, who lives less than a kilometre away, said he heard explosions and drove as close as about two city blocks to the fire, which erupted on a day when temperatures were below zero.

“I rolled down the window, and you could literally keep your hands warm,” Toop said.

The tracks that the train was on pass through the middle of Casselton, and Cass County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tara Morris said it was “a blessing it didn’t happen within the city.”

No kidding. I’d say that’s a pretty big understatement. Here’s some raw video of the explosion.

In Russia, there are fears that two suicide bombings on Sunday and Monday signal “that a terrorist campaign may have begun that could stretch into the Winter Olympics.” AP via ABC News:

In the wake of Sunday’s bombing at the city’s main railway station and Monday’s blast on a trolleybus, police reinforcements and Interior Ministry troops have been sent into the city, regional police official Andrei Pilipchuk was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency. He said more than 5,200 security forces are deployed in the city of 1 million.

The Health Ministry said three more victims died on Tuesday, raising the toll to 34 — 18 from the station bombing and 16 from the bus. Officials said 65 other people were hospitalized with injuries.

Volgograd authorities have canceled mass events for New Year’s Eve, one of Russia’s most popular holidays, and asked residents not to set off fireworks. In Moscow, festivities were to go ahead but authorities said security would be increased.

There has been no claim of responsibility for either bombing, but they came only months after the leader of an Islamic insurgency in southern Russia threatened new attacks on civilian targets in the country, including on the Winter Games that are to begin Feb. 7 in Sochi.

After their enthusiastic defense of the racism, sexism, pedophilia, and homophobia of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Roberts, you’d think right-wingers would hesitate to attack a mild commentary involving race on MSNBC, but you’d be wrong.

MSNBC Panel Criticized For Segment About Romney’s Black Grandchild (VIDEO). From TPM:

MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and the panelists on her Sunday morning show drew criticism Monday for poking fun at a Romney family photo that included their adopted African-American grandson, Kieran Romney.

Harris-Perry had the panelists attempt to caption a Romney family photo, which included all of Mitt Romney’s grandchildren.

Harris-Perry joked that Kieran Romney would marry Kanye West’s daughter, North West.

“Could you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws?” she asked.

Panelist and comedian Dean Obeidallah said the photo “really sums up the diversity of the Republican party.” And actress Pia Glenn started singing “one of these things is not like the other.”

Steve Benen took a look back at the Sunday political talk shows to see what proportion of the guests were from the Democratic and Republican parties. We knew this already, but it’s stunning to see it in a graphic.

The Great 2013 Sunday Show Race

The general impression is rooted in fact: the Sunday shows love Republicans. “Meet the Press,” “Face the Nation,” “This Week,” “State of the Union,” and “Fox News Sunday,” hoping to reflect and help shape the conventional wisdom for the political world, collectively favor GOP guests over Democratic guests every year, but who were the big winners in 2013?

The…chart shows every political figure who made 10 or more Sunday show appearances this year, with red columns representing Republicans and blue columns representing Democrats. For 2013, the race wasn’t especially close – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) easily came out on top, making 27 appearances this year. That works out to an average of one appearance every 1.9 weeks (or 2.25 Sunday show appearances a month, every month for a year).

sunday show guests

Incredible, isn’t it? Newt Gingrich doesn’t even hold any office and, as Benen points out, “hasn’t served in public office since resigning in disgrace 15 years ago” was in third place in front of Dick Durbin, the supposedly powerful Senate Majority Whip.

According to Mike Konczal of The New Republic, 2013 Was a Bad Year for Wall St. Lobbyists.

Last year, nobody thought that banks would face tougher holding requirements for capital, that regulations of the financial derivatives markets would advance, or that the final Volcker would be a pretty good start instead of an incoherent mess. Yet that is what appears to have happened in 2013. So what caused it? And how it might apply to future political goals?

The successes of 2013 were partially driven by the failures of Wall Street in 2012. The multi-billion dollar trading losses from JPMorgan Chase known as the “London Whale” changed the dynamics for financial reform in a way that took a year to realize. JPMorgan had been leading the charge against reform, arguing that the effort was over-harsh and destructive, and that Wall Street had already cleaned up its act on its own. Indeed, the big concern in 2012 was that Wall Street would convince enough moderate Democrats that Dodd-Frank had gone too far in certain respects, and that Congress would stop regulatory action before it was even completed. This fell apart right alongside the multi-billion dollar losses in JPMorgan’s position. Though various bills to remove parts of Dodd-Frank would pass the House by Republican votes, these efforts failed to generate moderate Democratic votes in the Senate after the Whale trade became public.

Read the rest at the link.

Hey did you know that dolphins like to get high? Read about it at The Independent: Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around.

In extraordinary scenes filmed for a new documentary, young dolphins were seen carefully manipulating a certain kind of puffer fish which, if provoked, releases a nerve toxin.

Though large doses of the toxin can be deadly, in small amounts it is known to produce a narcotic effect, and the dolphins appeared to have worked out how to make the fish release just the right amount.

Carefully chewing on the puffer and passing it between one another, the marine mammals then enter what seems to be a trance-like state.

The behaviour was captured on camera by the makers of Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, a series produced for BBC One by the award-winning wildlife documentary producer John Downer.

Hey, why is that surprising? Lots of animals probably enjoy altered states of consciousness. Have you ever seen a cat on catnip? What about a big cat?

Finally, I highly recommend these two posts on the NSF/Snowden story by NSFWCORP writers now publishing at Pando Daily, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine respectively.

Snowden’s biggest revelation: We don’t know what power is anymore, nor do we care

Rentacops on desktops: Edward Snowden’s dismissal of Surveillance Valley is wrong, and dangerous

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please post your recommended links in the comment thread.

I hope 2014 will be a great year for all of you!!


Tuesday Reads: Larry Klayman v. NSA; CBS’ 60 Minutes v. Truth; and Police v. Foreign Diplomats

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, 1957

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, 1957

Good Morning!!

Our weird winter weather is continuing. This morning’s temperature outside my house is zero degrees! And we’re expecting five more inches of snow this afternoon, most of it during the afternoon rush hour. I guess all I can do is grin and bear it.

Now let’s see what’s happening in the news today.

Lots of people are excited about the ruling yesterday by US District Court Judge Richard Leon that NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is “likely unconstitutional,” but the decision is on hold pending appeal by the Feds and as Reuters notes this morning, SCOTUS is probably going to have the final say on what happens to NSA surveillance programs following revelations from the massive trove of data stolen by Edward Snowden and passed to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

“This is the opening salvo in a very long story, but it’s important symbolically in dispelling the invincibility of the metadata program,” said Stephen Vladeck, a national security law expert at the American University law school.

Vladeck said 15 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have examined Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the provision of law under which the data collection takes place, without finding constitutional problems. “There’s a disconnect between the 15 judges on the FISA court who seem to think it’s a no-brainer that Section 215 is constitutional, and Judge Leon, who seems to think otherwise.”

Vladeck said there is a long road of court tests ahead for both sides in this dispute and said a higher court ultimately could avoid ruling on the big constitutional issue identified by Leon. “There are five or six different issues in these cases,” Vladeck said.

Robert F. Turner, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Center for National Security Law, predicted Leon’s decision was highly likely to be reversed on appeal. He said the collection of telephone metadata — the issue in Monday’s ruling — already has been addressed and resolved by the Supreme Court.

Maybe the solution would be to repeal the Patriot Act? Anyway, I think it’s important to note that this lawsuit was brought by Larry Klayman, a certified right wing nut who used to head Judicial Watch and now runs something called Freedom Watch.

larry Klayman

Here’s a little background on Klayman from The New York Times:

In the 1990s, he filed numerous lawsuits against President Bill Clinton and his administration, alleging a litany of personal and professional transgressions. Mr. Klayman later nettled Vice President Dick Cheney over his secret energy policy meetings and claimed that members of George W. Bush’s administration might have known in advance of the 2001 anthrax attacks in Washington.

More recently, Mr. Klayman, who has been called “Litigious Larry,” sued OPEC, accusing oil-rich nations of price fixing and of trying to “bring Western economies to their knees.” And he sued Facebook and its founder for $1 billion when, he said, it was too slow to take down a web page that threatened Jews with death.

The guy is a weirdo, so I have to wonder what it was that convinced a conservative Bush-appointed judge like Leon. And will ne be able to convince our right wing Supreme Court? I’d love to see NSA reined in, but I have serious doubts as to whether it will happen.

More on Klayman:

Mr. Klayman is a fixture of sorts in Washington. He founded, and then parted ways, with the conservative interest group Judicial Watch, which continues litigating grievances despite Mr. Klayman’s bitter departure. (He sued Judicial Watch, too, accusing it of breach of contract and other offenses.) His 2009 book is titled “Whores: Why and How I Came to Fight the Establishment.”

Mr. Klayman has not spared the current Democratic administration. At a Tea Party rally in October, he urged conservatives “to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.”

Last year, Mr. Klayman filed a lawsuit in Florida arguing that Barack Obama was ineligible to be president because “neither Mr. Obama, nor the Democratic Party of Florida, nor any other group has confirmed that Mr. Obama is a ‘natural born citizen’ since his father was a British subject born in Kenya and not a citizen of the United States.”

 A little more on the case from Politico:

On June 6, just a day after the Guardian report [on Edward Snowden's revelations about NSA phone data collection], Klayman filed suit in Washington on his own behalf and on behalf of two clients — Charles and Mary Ann Strange, parents of a Navy SEAL killed in a disastrous helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2011….

Klayman said he and Charles Strange were being targeted by the government because of their claims relating to Strange’s son’s death, which include a complaint that a Muslim imam cursed the dead SEAL team members during a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base.

“My colleagues have received text messages I never sent,” Klayman told the judge. “I think they’re messing with me,” he said, referring to the government.

Klayman implored the judge to rule against the NSA program not only on legal grounds but in order to avert what the conservative gadfly said was a violent revolution on the verge of breaking out due to the federal governments [sic] unbridled use of power.

“We live in an Orwellian state,” Klayman said, warning that citizens angry about surveillance were about to “rise up.”

If litigation fails, “the only alternative is for people to take matters into their own hands,” he told Leon.

I wonder what parts of these arguments convinced Judge Leon?

Despite the weirdness, Charles Pierce is cheering Leon’s decision:

No matter what you think of Snowden, or Glenn Greenwald, and no matter what you think of what they did, this ruling does not happen if the NSA doesn’t let a contractor walk out of the joint with the family jewels on a flash drive. This ruling does not happen if we do not know what we now know, and we don’t know any of that unless Snowden gathers the data and leaks it to the Guardian. This entire country was founded after a revolution that was touched off to a great extent by the concept of individual privacy.

Read all about it at the Esquire link.

I know it’s difficult for some males to understand this, but if Americans do have a right to privacy, then American women should also have that right in making decisions about what happens to their bodies–they should be able to choose whether or not and/or when to have a child. Therefore, they should have access to birth control and abortion without the interference of the state. If women–who represent more than 1/2 of the U.S. population–can’t have privacy; then there is a very big disconnect in the law that needs to be clarified. Are women people? Are they citizens? Griswald and Roe were also decided on the basis of privacy.

Lara_Logan_crop

After their fluff piece on NSA on Sunday, CBS’ 60 Minutes announced yesterday that Lara Logan, who was “suspended” after she hosted an utterly false report on the Benghazi attacks, will be returning to the program next year. Politico’s Dylan Byers:

Logan and McClellan took leave following public pressure over an Oct. 27 report in which security contractor Dylan Davies claimed to have been present and active at the Sept. 11 raid on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Reports later indicated that Davies had told both his contractor and the FBI that he was not present at the compound on the night of the attack. Logan later apologized and “60 Minutes” retracted the story.

Despite public criticism and internal frustrations among some members of the “60 Minutes” team, CBS News chairman and “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager decided to stand by Logan. Earlier this month, he held a meeting with CBS News staff in which he defended the 42-year-old journalist, saying that as EP he was ultimately responsible for failing to catch the mistake.

As an antidote, I recommend reading TBogg’s take on this decision at Raw Story: Lara Logan is tan, rested and ready to come back and be kind of bad at her job again.

Last week, it was revealed that LA Sheriff’s Office deputies who have been indicted by a Grand Jury had illegally arrested and “roughed up” two foreign diplomats in 2011. From the LA Times:

An Austrian consulate official was improperly arrested and searched by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies at the Men’s Central Jail, according to four indictments filed against 18 department officials.

The incident occurred in 2011 when the official and her husband were visiting an inmate who was an Austrian national….

The Austrian consul’s husband was arrested outside the jail because he had walked near the doors going into the visiting center, according to one of the indictments unsealed Monday.

When the consul requested to speak to a supervisor about her husband’s arrest, she too was placed in handcuffs and arrested, even though she had committed no crime and would have been immune from prosecution, the indictment said.

The couple were taken to a deputy break room and searched, the indictment said.

Read more details at the link. And from Firedoglake, Peter Van Buren explains why this is so outrageous:

One of the primary jobs for any embassy or consulate abroad is the welfare of its citizens. Indeed, many of the first diplomatic outposts abroad were set up to protect sailors and merchants. This work typically includes visiting one’s citizens in foreign jails, a task young diplomats around the world conduct. As a State Department foreign service officer myself for 24 years, I must have done this hundreds of times. But no matter how many times I did it, it was always an unsettling feeling to walk into a jail, go through security into a cell or holding room, and then walk back out.

Getting out, and being treated properly inside, was however more than an act of faith on my part. Diplomats abroad are protected people; under both formal treaties and long-established traditions (“diplomatic immunity”), a country should not mess around with another’s diplomats. Take a look at Iran– over thirty years since the kidnapping of American diplomats in Tehran, our two countries still are a long, long way from reestablishing relations.

I once safely visited in an underground facility of an Asian country’s secret police an American Citizen who likely had been tortured. The system generally works everywhere, from first world countries to crappy police states in the developing world. However, one rough area where it does not work is in Los Angeles.

Please read the rest if you can.

Devyani Khobragade

Today we learn that the NYPD also abused a foreign diplomat. The woman, a deputy consul general at the Indian embassy in NYC was arrested and handcuffed on the street and then subjected to a strip search at police headquarters. From The Guardian:

Bulldozers have removed security barriers outside the US embassy in Delhi as a diplomatic row prompted by the arrest of an Indian diplomat on visa fraud charges in New York intensified.

Devyani Khobragade, India‘s deputy consul general in New York, was charged last week with making false statements on an application for her housekeeper to live and work in the United States.

India’s national security adviser on Tuesday called the treatment of Khobragade “despicable and barbaric” and the country’s foreign secretary summoned the US ambassador. Politicians – including Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and vice chairman of the ruling Congress party, and Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the Hindu nationalist opposition BJP – refused to meet a visiting US congressional delegation.

The removal of the barriers was one of a slew of retaliatory actions taken by the Indian government as outrage at the arrest grew, including the withdrawal of import clearances and special airport passes. The incident has become a major story in India, dominating TV bulletins.

The false statements were that Khobragade had agreed to pay the housekeeper the New York minimum wage ($9.25), but had agreed privately with the woman that her actual salary would be only 1/3 that amount.

From NDTV All India:

Furious with the US for the arrest and alleged strip search of its high-ranking diplomat Devyani Khobragade, India today retaliated with a slew of measures to pare down the privileges of American diplomats. (10 latest developments)

US diplomats in consulates across India have been asked to surrender identity cards issued to them and their families, which entitle them to special privileges. India has also withdrawn all airport passes for consulates and import clearances for the embassy.

The Delhi police removed barricades outside the sprawling US embassy in the capital.

Ms Khobragade was subjected to a humiliating strip search and was kept in a cell with drug addicts after her arrest for alleged visa fraud in New York last week. (Read) Noel Clay, a spokesperson for the US State Department, told NDTV that standard procedures had been followed during Ms Khobragade’s arrest.

The US has implied that she enjoyed only limited immunity.

As part of its reciprocal measures, India is asking for details like salaries paid to Indian staff employed in US consulates, including those working as domestic helps with the families of American officials.

It seems that, between the NSA revelations and the increasing use of police state tactics by law enforcement, the US is managing to alienate much of the rest of  all the world.

I’m out of space, so I’ll wrap this up. Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a great day!


Thursday Reads

morning coffee book

Good Morning!!

Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds is apparently recovering from stab wounds inflicted by his son Gus on Tuesday. The young man shot himself after attacking his father. But state officials are investigating why Gus was refused psychiatric care the day before the attack. NBC Washington:

The incident has raised new questions about the capacity of Virginia’s mental health system. Tuesday, it was reported that hours before the attack Gus Deeds was the subject of an emergency custody order — but a bed at a hospital or psychiatric treatment facility was not available, and he was released home.

Now the Washington Post is reporting that  three hospitals within a two-hour drive of Bath County did have beds available, and two of the three say they were never contacted by the Rockbridge County Community Services Board trying to find a placement for Deeds son.

The state inspector general has now launched an investigation to find out what led to Gus Deeds’ release after the custody order was issued.

“Regardless of whether or not there were beds, there was not a system to determine if there were beds available,” Howell said. “It seems to me we should have a clearinghouse of some kind so that when somebody needs a bed, there is a very efficient way to find out where one is available.”

According to NBC Washington,

Dozens of mentally ill patients at risk of doing “serious harm” to themselves or others in Virginia were denied access to some psychiatric treatment in a span of just three months studied by state investigators, according to agency documents reviewed by the News4 I-Team.

An audit of Virginia’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, performed over a 3-month span in late 2011, found 72 people “at risk for serious harm” and in need of care received less treatment than necessary, in part because of a shortage of available psychiatric beds in the state.

Internal state investigators call the shortfall “a failure of the system” and a “canary in the coal mine” warning for Virginia leaders.

Agency documents show a decline in the overall number of treatment space for the mentally ill in Virginia. A 2007 report found 1,794 available hospital beds for the mentally ill in Virginia, but the number had dropped to 1,699 beds available in 2011.

Internal investigators reported, “Acute and intensive treatment beds in … state-operated psychiatric hospitals have also decreased, while the population has grown by approximately 13 percent during the last decade.”

Gee, I wonder if this has anything to do with budget cuts in states controlled by Republicans? From Think Progress:

“Many states appear to be effectively terminating a public psychiatric treatment system that has existed for nearly two centuries,” wrote researchers in a 2012 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), a nonprofit group that examines mental health issues. “The system was originally created to protect both the patients and the public, and its termination is taking place with little regard for the consequences to either group.”

According to the report, Virginia eliminated 15 percent of its public psychiatric beds between 2005 and 2010. The state has just 17.6 such beds per 10,000 people — less than 40 percent of the recommended minimum 50 beds per 10,000 people. That didn’t stop Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) from proposing even more cuts to mental health programs in 2012.

But McDonnell isn’t the only one to embrace such cuts. In fact, state governments across the nation slashed psychiatric funding to the point that, overall, the nation’s hospitals had just 28 percent of the recommended minimum number of hospital beds by 2010. Those reductions continued in the following years as states slashed $4.35 billion in mental health services between 2009 and 2012, forcing State Mental Health Agencies (SMHAs) to shutter mental health hospitals and eliminate nearly 10 percent of total available beds in those three years alone.

This is an issue that was discussed during the recent VA race for governor. From the Oct. 23rd Washington Post: Virginia’s mental health system needs money; candidates differ on how to provide it.

The major-party candidates for governor of Virginia agree that mental health systems need more resources. But their approaches differ greatly, based in part on how they view the Medicaid expansion of the new health-care law in Virginia.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe favors a Medicaid expansion wholeheartedly. He says it would provide new health-care coverage for about 400,000 Virginians and would increase money for mental health treatment.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli II opposes a Medicaid expansion completely and says McAuliffe’s estimates of its effect on Virginia are greatly overstated. Cuccinelli wants to increase state funding for mental health, but he would do so by shifting current Medicaid funds from other health-care areas. He also said he would target waste, fraud and abuse and use the savings to bolster options for the mentally ill and the intellectually disabled.

Fortunately for the people of Virgina, Terry McAuliffe won the election, and corrective measures will likely be taken. But they’ll come too late for Gus Deeds and his family. If a wealthy and connected family has this problem, can you imagine what it’s like for poorer people who need mental health treatment in Republican-controlled states?

teen+police+brutality+2

This story out of Philadelphia is horrible: Mom of Alleged Teen Shoplifter Accuses Police of Brutality. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that the boy is African American.

The mother of the 14-year-old boy, who was arrested for shoplifting, is accusing police of roughing him up.

“The picture speaks a thousand words,” says Marissa Sargeant, who shared several graphic photos with NBC10 that shows her son bruised, cut and swollen.

The teen was arrested by Tullytown Police for retail theft at Walmart on Tuesday night, along with an adult relative.

“What he did was wrong. He was coerced by a 19-year-old. He does know better,” said Sargeant.

“Roughing him up?” I’d say that’s quite an understatement, based on the photo.

Authorities say after the teen’s arrest, and before he was loaded into a police car, he took off running along Route 13 while handcuffed.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler tells NBC10 that police officers yelled warnings at the teen and fearing for his safety, they fired a stun gun to subdue him. The D.A. says the Taser struck the boy in the face and with his hands cuffed, the boy had no way to brace himself against falling face-first.

“That doesn’t sound right. There’s no way, if he was running from behind, that he would get hit with a taser in the front of his face,” said Sargeant.

The mom suspects police probably beat up her son as well, and I’d have to agree with her. Heckler is “investigating,” but he doesn’t think police did anything wrong. Sounds like a really unbiased “investigation,” doesn’t it?

Republicans are still blocking President Obama’s judicial nominees right and left, and Democrats are once again threatening to get rid of the filibuster for appointments. {Sigh…} Do you suppose there’s any chance they actually mean it this time? From The Washington Post:

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, is poised to move forward on Thursday with a vote on what is known on Capitol Hill as the “nuclear option,” several Democrats said. Mr. Reid and the senators who have been the most vocal on stopping the Republican blockade of White House nominees are now confident they have the votes to make the change.

“We’re not bluffing,” said one senior aide who has spoken with Mr. Reid directly and expects a vote on Thursday, barring any unforeseen breakthrough on blocked judges.

The threat that Democrats could significantly limit how the filibuster can be used against nominees has rattled Republicans. Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has brokered last-minute deals that have averted a change to filibuster rules in the past, visited Mr. Reid in his office on Thursday but failed to strike a compromise.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa took to the Senate floor and denounced Democrats, saying that if they changed the rules, Republicans would consider them applicable to all judicial nominees, including those for the Supreme Court. Mr. Reid has said he supports keeping intact the minority party’s ability to filibuster controversial Supreme Court nominees.

“Apparently the other side wants to change the rules while still preserving the ability to block a Republican president’s ability to replace a liberal Supreme Court Justice with an originalist,” Mr. Grassley said.

At Politico, William Yeomans, an American University law professor and former Justice Department official says “Nuke ‘em Harry!”

Democrats, it’s time to bid farewell to the filibuster as we’ve known it. Your restraint has gone beyond admirable to foolish. The institution for which you have shown extraordinary respect over the past four years, as Republicans flouted its best traditions, is no more. Republicans have overplayed their hand by disregarding prior agreements and turning the Senate into a graveyard—or at least a critical care unit—for obviously qualified presidential nominees. Republican obstruction has left you with nothing to lose by bringing the Senate fully into the 21st century and allowing the majority to rule. It’s time to change the rules….

Worried about blowback? Don’t be. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) helped expose the Republicans’ loss of leverage when he threatened that if the Democrats changed the filibuster rule, Republicans would appoint more justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Whoa! Is he suggesting that Republicans won’t appoint more radically conservative justices if Democrats keep the filibuster? That might be a deal worth taking, but it wouldn’t be worth the paper it was printed on. If Republicans regain control of the White House, any Supreme Court nominees will very much be in the model of Scalia and Thomas, and their colleagues Roberts and Samuel Alito—if not worse. That means they will disregard any pretense of judicial restraint to eviscerate civil rights laws, restrain congressional authority to enact social legislation, support states over the federal government and big business over labor, oppose the interests of consumers and make sure the executioner stays in business.

In reality, Republicans have nothing left with which to threaten you. Just stop and think about how unimportant the filibuster has been to you. You chose not to use it to stop Thomas and Alito, even though more than enough Democrats to support a filibuster voted against each. You embraced Scalia (by unanimous vote!) and Roberts. When Republican presidents went too far, you mustered the majority vote necessary to stop them without resorting to the filibuster. That’s why we didn’t have a Justice Bork, Carswell or Haynsworth, or a Secretary of Defense Tower, or an Associate Attorney General Reynolds. Sure, Miguel Estrada would be on the D.C. Circuit, but that hardly justifies tying your own hands in perpetuity.

He’s absolutely right, but do the wimpy Dems have the courage to act? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Here’s your stupid right wing corporate media story for today from Media Matters. David Gregory compares Obamacare to the Iraq war.

Not once but twice in recent days Meet The Press host David Gregory announced that the troubled launch of President Obama’s new health care law is roughly the equivalent to President Bush’s badly bungled war with Iraq. The NBC anchor was quick to point out that he didn’t mean the two events were the same with regards to a death toll. (Nobody has died from health care reform.) But Gregory was sure that in terms of how the former president and the current president are viewed, in terms of damage done to their credibility, the men will be forever linked to a costly, bloody war and a poorly functioning website, respectively.

“Everybody looked at Bush through the prism of Iraq,” Gregory explained. “Here, I think people are going to look at Obama through the implementation of Obamacare.”  It’s Obama’s defining event of their two-term presidency. It’s a catastrophic failure that’s tarnished Obama’s second term, and will perhaps “wreck” his entire presidency, according to the media’s “doom-mongering bubble,” as Kevin Drum at Mother Jones described it.

But like the painfully inappropriate comparisons to Hurricane Katrina that have populated the press, Gregory’s attempt to draw a Bush/Obama parallel is equally senseless. Bush’s war morass stretched over five years, so of course it defined his presidency.  Obama’s health care woes are in week number six and could be fixed within the next month.

Media Matters points out that not only is this “the mother lode of false equivalency,” but it’s a sly effort to “downgrade Bush’s historical failures, and to cover the media’s tracks of deception.”

I’ll end with two fascinating science stories to take your mind off politics and other distressing news.

Mars rock

From BBC News: Black Beauty rock ‘is oldest chunk of Mars’

A rock discovered in the Sahara Desert is the oldest Martian meteorite ever found, scientists believe.

Earlier research had suggested it was about two billion years old, but new tests indicate the rock actually dates to 4.4 billion years ago.

The dark and glossy meteorite, nicknamed Black Beauty, would have formed when the Red Planet was in its infancy.

The research is published in the journal Nature.

Lead author Prof Munir Humayan, from Florida State University, US, said: “This [rock] tells us about one of the most important epochs in the history of Mars.”

Read the rest at the link.

And from The Sydney Morning Herald: Siberian DNA link to Native Americans discovered.

The genome of a young boy buried at Mal’ta, near Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia, about 24,000 years ago has turned out to hold two surprises for anthropologists.

The first is that the boy’s DNA matches that of Western Europeans, showing that during the last ice age people from Europe had reached farther east across Eurasia than previously supposed.

The second surprise is that his DNA also matches a large proportion – about 25 per cent – of the DNA of living Native Americans. The first people to arrive in the Americas have long been assumed to have descended from Siberian populations related to East Asians. It now seems that they may be a mixture between the Western Europeans who had reached Siberia and an East Asian population.

Amazing, huh?
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please share your links in the coMenusmment thread.

Thursday Reads: A Mixed Bag of Stories

matisse_woman_reading

Good Morning!!

Dakinikat has arrived safely in Seattle, where she’ll be visiting with her father, her sister, and her elder daughter Jean. I’m going to fill in for her tomorrow morning, but she’ll be back to her regular blogging schedule soon.

I have no idea what’s happening in the news, because I spent last night watching two PBS shows on the JFK assassination. I’ve still been plowing through JFK books too. But RalphB posted a very interesting link last night that I want to highlight. From Jonathan Cohn, via Bob Cesca, Jonathan Cohn explains How to Interpret Obamacare’s Low Enrollment Numbers for October.

According to HHS calculations, 846,852 people have used the site to complete applications. That means they have created accounts and submitted information to see whether they are eligible for federal programs or tax credits. Those applications include people applying for households with multiple members. In total, it represents 1,509,883 people. The federal government has processed applications for the vast majority of them—98 percent, or 1,477,853 people. Of those, about a third have actually selected a health plan or been deemed eligible for a program like Medicaid. That’s 502,466.

How does that half million break down? About four out of five (396,261) are in Medicaid. The rest (106,185) of them have picked private insurance plans. These numbers include both those who enrolled through the website that the federal government is maintaining (healthcare.gov) and those who enrolled through sites that states like California, Kentucky, and Connecticut are running on their own. The majority (three-fourths) of the people getting private insurance have done so through state sites. Just a quarter, or 26,794, have enrolled through the federal site.

But because the media narrative is that the the Obamacare rollout is “failed,” “botched,” and “worse than expected,” all we’re hearing is the 106,185 figure–as if getting people covered by Medicaid doesn’t count. Tell that to the previously uninsured families who will now be able to take their sick kids to a doctor! By the way, in the first month of the Massachusetts health care exchanges, only 123 people signed up. As Bob Cesca puts it,

because there’s an “Obamacare is a Failed Policy” script that must be serviced, the lowest number of the batch has to be quoted. That’s why you’ve been reading about 106,000 rather than 1.5 million.

Have I told you lately how much I think the corporate media sucks?

secret service badge

At a time when many Americans are remembering the JFK assassination and the lax security that contributed to his death, we’re learning about another scandal in the Secret Service. From The Washington Post: Two Secret Service agents cut from Obama’s detail after alleged misconduct.

A call from the Hay-Adams hotel this past spring reporting that a Secret Service agent was trying to force his way into a woman’s room set in motion an internal investigation that has sent tremors through an agency still trying to restore its elite reputation.

The incident came a year after the agency was roiled by a prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, prompting vows from senior officials to curb a male-dominated culture of hard partying and other excesses….

The disruption at the Hay-Adams in May involved Ignacio Zamora Jr., a senior supervisor who oversaw about two dozen agents in the Secret Service’s most elite assignment — the president’s security detail. Zamora was allegedly discovered attempting to reenter a woman’s room after accidentally leaving behind a bullet from his service weapon. The incident has not been previously reported.

In a follow-up investigation, agency officials also found that Zamora and another supervisor, Timothy Barraclough, had sent sexually suggestive e-mails to a female subordinate, according to those with knowledge of the case. Officials have removed Zamora from his position and moved Barraclough off the detail to a separate part of the division, people familiar with the case said.

The misconduct wasn’t reported to the inspector general until the end of October after the WaPo had started investigating the incident, but

According to the Secret Service’s internal findings, Zamora was off duty when he met a woman at the hotel’s Off the Record bar and later joined her in her room.

The review found that Zamora had removed ammunition from the chamber of his government-issued handgun during his stay in the room and then left behind a single bullet. He returned to the room when he realized his mistake. The guest refused to let him back in. Zamora identified himself to hotel security as a Secret Service agent.

The report apparently didn’t explain why Zamora took a bullet out of this gun or why the woman refused to let him back into her room. We’ll all have to draw our own conclusions.

Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen, Obama’s nominee to head the Federal Reserve, will be appearing before the Senate Banking Committee today for her confirmation hearing.

US News and World Report lists “three things to expect” from the hearing: 1.) Republicans talking about inflation, 2) “measured reassurances” to nervous Republicans about nonexisitant inflation from Yellen, and 3) “a jumpy stock market.”

USA Today offers “five things to watch for”: 1) “can she handle a national stage,” 2) “Will she sound like Greenspan or Bernanke?” 3) “How will Yellen reconcile the Fed’s dual mandate to boost employment while keeping inflation low with her own economic philosophy?” 4) “Will she drop clues on tapering?” 5) “How will she handle questions about “too big to fail” banks?”

If Yellen were a man, would USA Today be asking if she can “handle a national stage?” As for question 2, she’ll sound like Bernanke obviously. Read USA today’s speculations at the link.

On the stock question, markets are responding favorably so far. From the WSJ: U.S. Stock Futures Inch Higher.

U.S. stock futures held steady near record levels, as dovish comments from Federal Reserve chairwoman nominee Janet Yellen helped offset disappointing results from some blue-chip companies.

European markets rose as sluggish euro-zone growth figures suggested accommodative monetary policies would remain in place for some time….

Investors will be keenly focused on Ms. Yellen’s confirmation hearing before the Senate banking committee, starting at 10 a.m. In her planned opening statement, released late Wednesday, Ms. Yellen said that because unemployment is still too high, and inflation is running below target levels, the Fed is using its monetary-policy tools, even unconventional ones like asset purchases, to promote a more robust recovery.

“I believe that supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy,” Ms. Yellen said.

Investors will be listening to the question-and-answer period for any clues on when she might expect to start winding down, or tapering, the $85-billion-a-month bond purchase program.

From Bloomberg Businessweek: Yellen Says U.S. Performing ‘Far Short’ of Potential.

“A strong recovery will ultimately enable the Fed to reduce its monetary accommodation and reliance on unconventional policy tools such as asset purchases,” Yellen said in testimony prepared for her nomination hearing before the Senate Banking Committee today in Washington. “Supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy.”

Yellen, the Fed’s vice chairman, voiced her commitment to using bond purchases known as quantitative easing to boost growth and lower unemployment that remains above 7 percent more than four years after the economy began to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

“Her approach is, ‘Let’s do more QE now to get the job done faster,’ ” said Laura Rosner, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas SA in New York and a former researcher at the New York Fed. “Yellen is repeating her commitment to getting the job done.”

In three pages of prepared remarks for the 10 a.m. hearing, released yesterday, Yellen, 67, said unemployment is “still too high, reflecting a labor market and economy performing far short of their potential,” and that inflation is expected to remain below the Fed’s 2 percent goal. She also highlighted areas where the economy has improved, saying housing “seems to have turned a corner” and the auto industry has made an “impressive comeback.”

bodies

The situation in the Philippines is still desperate, according to the NYT: Traumatized City in the Philippines Begins to Bury Its Dead.

TACLOBAN, the Philippines — Pausing occasionally to dodge driving rains by hiding under loose scraps of plywood, a group of firefighters lowered unidentified bodies into a mass grave here Thursday, six days after the city was largely destroyed in Typhoon Haiyan.

For days, the bodies had sat in public. First they were uncovered on roadsides; then they were placed in body bags. After that, they were collected, and nearly 200 were stored at the biggest site, a government office. In the nearby City Hall, the center of local government relief efforts, the stench from the bodies could be powerful when the wind blew off the harbor….

The official death toll for Tacloban City rose to 2,000 on Thursday, but that covers only bodies that have been collected or visually confirmed by authorized officials. The visually confirmed bodies are those readily visible from roadsides, as relief crews have yet to start digging through towering piles of debris, much of it studded with nails.

There are also 3,000 injured, by the official tally, and 194 people for whom the paperwork has been completed for them to be declared missing.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Up in Canada, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is still refusing to step down:

It’s clear now, amid more damning allegations and public embarrassment, that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has no intentions of relinquishing his post.

City council must decide how to continue operating after Wednesday’sdramatic pleas from councillors for the mayor to seek treatment for alleged substance abuse.

He faces yet another challenging day at City Hall on Thursday following the release of more police documents alleging disturbing details about the mayor’s erratic behaviour.

Ford, however, has repeatedly refused to step aside, even after admitting last week that he had smoked crack cocaine about a year ago possibly while drunk..

“I can’t change the past,” he said in council Wednesday. “All I can do is move on and that’s what I’m doing.”

It’s like a family intervention played out in public; but the target of the intervention is in control of a large city. “He continues to be the chief magistrate of the city; he continues to have signing powers,” says city councilman  Anthony Perruzza.

Ryan Ferguson

Ryan Ferguson

I’ll end with some feel-good news. I’ve been following the Ryan Ferguson story for a few years now. Ferguson is a young Missouri man who has been in prison for 10 years for a murder he didn’t commit. Yesterday he was finally freed. If you aren’t familiar with the case, here is some background from CBS News and a timeline of the case from KDSK.com.

From The New York Daily News:

Ferguson — who was serving 40 years for the 2001 murder and robbery of Kent Heitholt, an editor for the Columbia Daily Tribune — said he was still dealing with the shock of walking out of the clink.

“When I finally realized it was actually over, it was incredible relief because I was afraid,” he told the news station. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. They don’t really tell you a whole lot. It was a sensation like no other, and seeing my family right there and hugging them, and knowing that we were going to go home together — it was amazing.”

A state appeals court vacated Ferguson’s conviction after the panel found he did not receive a fair trial.

The panel found that prosecutors withheld evidence from defense attorneys and managed to get a conviction from two witnesses who later recanted their testimony.

Ferguson was arrested after his friend, Chuck Erickson, told cops in 2003 that the pair attacked Heitholt during a night of drinking. A night janitor, Jerry Trump, also said during the trial that he saw the two teens near the parking lot where the editor was killed.

Erickson later admitted that he lied about what happened the night Heitholt was killed and Trump told a courtroom years later that he was coached by prosecutors before he testified. Trump could face perjury charges.

So…. those are my picks for today. What stories are you following? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a great day.


Wednesday Reads: Election Results, Smoking Crack and Dueling Plagiarisms

021efd667a24acb55d0f80b82a096088Good Morning

Well…Election Day is over, and here are the results…in link dump format:

Ally of Clintons Narrowly Wins Election as Virginia Governor – NYTimes.com

Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Democratic fund-raiser and ally of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, was elected governor of Virginia on Tuesday, narrowly defeating the state’s conservative attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, and confirming Virginia’s evolution as a state increasingly dominated politically by the Democratic-leaning Washington suburbs.

Bill de Blasio poised to usher in new era of liberal governance in New York – The Washington Post

Bill de Blasio overwhelmingly was elected mayor here Tuesday, becoming the first Democrat to lead New York in 20 years and ushering in a new era of activist liberal governance in the nation’s largest city.

Shortly after polls closed at 9 p.m., several networks projected that de Blasio soundly defeated Republican Joe Lhota, a protégé of former mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Chris Christie Coasts to 2nd Term as Governor of New Jersey – NYTimes.com

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey won re-election by a crushing margin on Tuesday, a victory that vaulted him to the front ranks of Republican presidential contenders and made him his party’s foremost proponent of pragmatism over ideology.

Well, about that ideology.  You have to admit, he scored big points with his base when he took down that teacher who was a) an educator b) union member and 3) a woman…meanwhile, in Illinois a gay marriage bill was approved!

The General Assembly today narrowly approved a gay marriage bill, clearing the way for Illinois to become the 15th state to legalize same-sex unions.

The bill got 61 votes in the House, one more than the bare minimum needed to send the measure back to the Senate, which quickly signed off. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would sign the bill into law should it reach his desk.

Reaction is rolling in tonight from the White House to City Hall.

President Barack Obama issued a statement praising the General Assembly.

“As president, I have always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally under the law. Over time, I also came to believe that same-sex couples should be able to get married like anyone else,” he said in the statement. “So tonight, Michelle and I are overjoyed for all the committed couples in Illinois whose love will now be as legal as ours – and for their friends and family who have long wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and equally under the law.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement following the House vote.

“Today is a critical moment in history for Illinois and for the entire LGBT movement. Finally, gays and lesbians across our state are guaranteed the fundamental right to marry, and countless couples with children will be acknowledged for what they are under the law – families just like everyone else,” said Emanuel in the statement.

Hey, I know y’all have heard of this guy in Canada.  Rob Ford, Toronto Mayor, Admits Having Smoked Crack Cocaine (VIDEO)

Rob Ford said Tuesday he loves his job and will stay on as mayor of Toronto despite admitting for the first time that he smoked crack.

Ford earlier acknowledged he smoked crack “probably a year ago” when he was in a “drunken stupor,” but balked at growing pressure on him to resign.

“I was elected to do a job and that’s exactly what I’m going to continue doing,” Ford said. “On Oct. 27 of 2014, I want the people of this great city to decide whether they want Rob Ford to be their mayor.”

Well, check out the tie this dude was wearing when he gave his speech today: Rob Ford’s Ridiculous Crack-Apology Football Tie Now Available on eBay | Vanity Fair

For The World’s Most Dignified Press Conference this afternoon, Canadian mayor/crack enthusiast Rob Ford wore, naturally, The World’s Most Dignified Necktie.

It is black, made of polyester (the crack-cocaine of synthetic fibers), contains the logos of various N.F.L. teams (the Washington Redskin Native American mascot receives prominent placement), and is currently available for $14.99 on eBay. Is that more than the cost of an individual-sized portion of crack, or less? You’d have to ask someone who knows crack like the back of his crack-pipe-wielding hand—someone like Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

Who can speed-dial the crisis mangers more quickly: Surrey Clothing, which manufactured the tie, or the N.F.L., whose franchises now share the above screen grab with a portly 44-something crack lover?

So, he’s wearing a NFL tie…great branding there. Bullying football players, concussion cover-ups, racist team names…and a poster boy for drunk, crack smoking politicians.  But back to Rob Ford. Wow, now that guy has balls…dude gets caught smoking crack…admits he did it, possibly during a drunken stupor…and says he is staying put as Mayor of Toronto.

That is almost as ballsy as Rand Paul, who gets caught repeatedly plagiarizing, admits he did it…challenges Rachael Maddow to a faux duel…then announces he will go “dueling” Tarantino style on anyone’s ass who accuses him of cheating again! Only to turn around and blame his staff…what an asshole. Well, it looks like someone has finally had enough of Rand Paul’s shit: Washington Times ends Sen. Rand Paul column amid plagiarism allegations – Washington Times

Which leads me to this little op/ed from Cagle Cartoons: Corrections by Jason Stanford

Last week’s news contained some factual errors that merit correction. We strive for accuracy at all times and regret falling short in these rare instances.

An article on Sunday claimed that the National Security Agency collected data on tens of millions of phone calls in France and Spain. In actual—if less sensational—fact, the records were “handed over to the NSA by European intelligence services as part of joint operations.” We regret getting the story exactly backwards.

131506 600 Corrections cartoonsDaryl Cagle / Cagle Cartoons

Also on Sunday, a television news magazine featured an American security contractor who claimed to have fought off terrorists at the State Department compound in Benghazi. It now appears that this person filed an official report stating he was nowhere near the compound. We regret not checking out his story before giving him a national platform.

In repeated interviews on Monday and Tuesday, Sen. Lindsay Graham threatened to filibuster federal nominations because “the people who survived the attack in Benghazi have not been made available to the U.S. Congress for oversight purposes.” In fact, they did testify before Congress recently. The cable news anchors regret not challenging him on this easily verified factual misstatement.

A guest op-ed on Monday by actress and author Suzanne Somers misattributed the rantings of emails in ALL CAPS to Vladimir Lenin and Winston Churchill. Furthermore, her op-ed repeated the previously discredited assertion that Canadian doctors are fleeing socialized medicine for the unregulated profiteering in the United States. Also, Ms. Somers also mistook a dog for a horse, but in the greater scheme of things this worries us less than thinking the Thigh Master pitchwoman was a credible health care policy expert. We regret the error.

An article on Monday incorrectly implied that the Obama administration did not know about half of those with health insurance policies purchased on the individual market would receive cancellations. In fact, the regulations written in 2010 predicted that 40%-67% of those in the individual market would lose their policies because of market forces, including insurance companies unilaterally lowering benefits, shrinking coverage or increasing your co-pays, i.e., behaving like insurance companies. We regret the error.

In a follow-up story Tuesday, morning news co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck further claimed this information was “buried in Obamacare,” asking “Where was that information up at the top? Where was that in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012? Where was that information?” While she did list the progression of years in correct sequential order, the predicted changeover in the individual health insurance market had been previously reported in 2010 by the network that now employs her. She may or may not regret the error.

Okay, because it is so good…here is the rest of it:

Repeated television interviews last week featured consumers with cancelled insurance policies. After Michael Hiltzik of The Los Angeles Times and Paul Waldman of The American Prospect quickly debunked the horror stories, it became clear that the television journalists failed to do more than turn on the camera and say, “Golly” and “Oh, really? Wow.”

It is doubtful that a single television reporter asked any of these people four crucial questions: What did their old plan cover? Did they go to the exchanges? If the premiums were cheap, were the co-pays and deductibles affordable? Did they qualify for subsidies? We regret giving frightened consumers platforms to air uninformed complaints without ever performing what would be recognized by experts as “journalism” until the cameras were turned off. The answers to these questions revealed that the real horror story was how insurance companies could get away with junk policies that left consumers exposed to financial ruin until Obamacare came along.

Journalism’s apparent inability to ask follow-up questions, challenge assumptions and debunk lies has left the country in a bit of an uninformed tizzy about its national and financial security. All of this would have been simple to prevent had journalists had checked their facts before polluting the news with false information.

However, researching a subject can get in the way of achieving the ratings usually attained through sensationalizing falsehood and ignorance. We regret the errors, but we can’t promise it all won’t happen again next week. After all, we hear Sally Struthers has written something about Benghazi that’s really dynamite.

Oh…can’t wait for that report! Ya know, I loved Struthers’ work for starving children in Africa:

Starvin’ Marvin (Season 1, Episode 9) – Full Episode Player – South Park Studios

While trying to get a free promotional digital sports watch, the boys end up contacting an organization that helps starving children in Africa. Mistaking Cartman for a starving African child, government authorities send him to Ethiopia. Adding chaos to confusion, a flock of wild turkeys revolt after their treatment at the hands of the local genetic engineer. South Park is at the mercy of genetically altered turkeys.

If you don’t remember this episode…

Starvin’ Marvin is the eighth episode of the first season of the American animated television series South Park. It first aired on Comedy Central in the United States on November 19, 1997. In the episode, Cartman, Kenny, Kyle and Stan send money to an African charity hoping to get a sports watch, but are instead sent an Ethiopian child whom they dub Starvin’ Marvin. Later, Cartman is accidentally sent to Ethiopia, where he learns activist Sally Struthers is hoarding the charity’s food for herself. In an accompanying subplot, after genetically engineered turkeys attack South Park residents, Chef rallies the residents to fight back, in a parody of the film Braveheart.

Okay, joking aside…there’s another rape case on video that is making news. 16-Year-Old Florida Girl Held Down By Classmates, Raped On Videotape: Cops

A 16-year-old’s visit to a Hollywood, Florida home turned into a nightmare when a pack of five teens descended upon her, dragged her by the hair, kicked and punched her, then held her down while she was raped in a videotaped assault, police say.

Four of the accused and the victim are students at South Broward High, according to their Facebook pages. The three boys and two girls, ages 15 to 19, have been charged with felony sexual battery and false imprisonment.

“It just makes it all the more disturbing when you have this many people working in concert and aggression,” Maria Schneider, state prosecutor in charge of the juvenile unit, said Monday. “I can’t imagine how overwhelmed and under siege someone would feel under these circumstances. It’s very traumatic.”

Hospital officials declined to say whether the victim, who bled from an ear and drifted in and out of consciousness with her eyes swollen shut when police questioned her Saturday morning, remained hospitalized Monday. Because of the nature of the crime, the Sun Sentinel is not naming her.

There is some pretty graphic detail in the article.

Next up, two links from AJAM:

SC tribe looks to casino in NC to preserve its heritage | Al Jazeera America

In central South Carolina, clay is pulled from the land near the Catawba River by a Native American tribe of the same name. The loam is processed much as it was thousands of years ago, coiled into pots, scraped and burnished with river rocks and fired over an open pit until it can endure.

And in that ancient pottery tradition — the oldest continuing one in North America — lies the story of the Catawba people, according to the tribe’s elected chief, Bill Harris.

It is also motivation for its economic future. The Catawba Indian Nation, South Carolina’s only federally recognized Indian tribe, is looking to a casino resort and high-stakes bingo as a way to ensure its cultural future.

Central to the tribe’s plan for economic development: Holding the federal government to its promise, the tribe will expand throughout its ancestral lands. It has set its sights on 16 acres across the state line, in Cleveland County, N.C., where it hopes to build a 220,000-square-foot gaming facility and 750-room resort. It estimates that the $340 million casino project will initially create at least 4,000 jobs in a county where unemployment lingers at about 10 percent.

There’s another hurdle to the plan. The Cherokee, the Catawba’s historical trade rival, view the casino plans as competition.

“Based on the newly released information provided by Cleveland County, we are greatly concerned that this development will negatively impact job growth and revenue at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and for the western region of North Carolina,” Cherokee Chief Michell Hicks said in a statement in the tribe’s newspaper.

That is a long read, but it is interesting to see the competition between the two tribes…over what seems to be an endless supply of customers. The new outpost that Harrah’s Cherokee Casino is building is actually just north of Banjoville, on the other side of the Georgia/North Carolina border.

Median wage falls to lowest level since 1998  by David Cay Johnston| Al Jazeera America

Last year the median wage hit its lowest level since 1998, revealing that at least half of American workers are being left behind as the economy slowly recovers from the Great Recession.

But at the top, wages soared — the latest indication in a long-running trend of increasing inequality, with income gains going to top earners while the majority of workers see stagnant or falling wages.

Al Jazeera is the first news organization to report these figures from the Social Security Administration (SSA), which were released late in October.

The median wage — half of workers make more, half less — came to $27,519 last year, virtually unchanged from 2011. Measured in 2012 dollars, the median wage was down $4.

The 2012 median wage was at its lowest level since 1998, when the median stood at $26,984.

From its all-time peak in 2007, the median wage was down $980. That means someone at the midpoint in pay worked 52 weeks last year but earned about the equivalent of working just 50 weeks at 2007 pay levels, the last peak year for the economy.

The average wage, on the other hand, improved last year. It increased to $42,498, up $434, or 1 percent from 2011 after considering inflation. But the average wage remained below its $42,921 peak in 2007, I calculated from the SSA data.

These figures from the SSA cover only cash pay, not fringe benefits such as health insurance and pensions. The figures are reported to the Internal Revenue Service to verify what individuals put on their tax returns.

More on what those numbers mean at the link.

I will end with this cartoon from Luckovich: 11/6 Luckovich cartoon: ‘If you like your health plan…’ | Mike Luckovich

110613-toon-luckovich-ed

So…what’s going on in your world this morning? Tell us about it below in the comment section!