Monday Reads: Hello Darkness, my old friend

Traditional New Orleans Jazz funeral in the 1970s

Well, it’s another day to find out how low the party and appointments of KKKremlin Caligula can go and it’s low.  It’s about as low as the nadir of morality set by the monster himself.  Today’s news isn’t pleasant at all from any vantage point.  I’m reminded that death is a natural part of life and one that every one tries to ignore but must face.  I’d like to give a jazz funeral for some of these items, but I’m having a hard time celebrating the life before the loss.

Today, is our first day without Net Neutrality. Any of us that have been on the internet a long time–1981 for me–will know that everything use to be much freer, less commercial, and less ridden with stalkers.  I don’t miss the old modem that required a telephone ear/mouth piece.  I don’t miss having to direct dial to most sites.  I also do not miss that the only graphics you would ever see were in either gold and green and entirely composed of characters.  I do miss the days before AOL let all their subscribers lose on the web and there is much we will miss with the death of Net Neutrality. This is from Slate.

Monday, June 11, is the first day of the post-net neutrality internet. In December, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the Obama-era rules that prohibit internet companies from slowing down or speeding up access to certain websites, but it took about six months for the repeal to get a sign-off from the Office of Management and Budget and for the new rules to be published in the federal register. Beginning, well, now, your internet access could—emphasis on could—feel dramatically different than it did yesterday.

Under the new network neutrality rules, internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T are allowed to throttle traffic that travels over their network or even block access to entire websites as long as the companies alert their subscribers in their terms of service that they reserve the right to do so. But since most people in the United States don’t have more than one or two internet providers to choose from for broadband service, that means if users don’t wish to accept those terms, many won’t have anywhere else to go for their internet. Without net neutrality rules stopping them, internet providers will also be able to charge websites a fee to reach users faster.

Those internet providers stand to win the most from the net neutrality repeal, since they’ll be able to operate what is essentially a two-way toll, collecting money from both subscribers and websites that want priority access to users. Already-powerful, deep-pocketed companies that can afford to pay for the fast-lane service, like Facebook or Yelp could wind up in a position to set the price, relegating smaller companies, nonprofits, or struggling news organizations to what is, in effect, a slower internet.

Leo Touchet, Jazz Funeral No. 70 (New Orleans, Louisiana) (1969)

We’re seeing another nail in the coffin of voting rights.  Today’s death blow came from the Supreme Court of the United States and yes, you know the ones that did it to us. This is from Buzzfeed‘s Court Reporter Chris Geidner:”The Supreme Court Just Upheld Ohio’s Aggressive Process For Purging Voters From The Rolls. The court split 5–4 on ideological grounds.”

The Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s system for purging inactive voters from the rolls — a decision that could lead other states to implement its aggressive procedure that can be triggered after a person fails to vote in one federal election.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote Monday’s 5–4 decision for the court, which was split along ideological lines.

Under Ohio’s system, voters who do not vote in a two-year period are sent a notice from the state. If they do not return the notice and then fail to vote for the next four years, their voter registration is canceled.

The Supreme Court held that the state’s process did not violate federal law.

Ohio had argued that its process was based on a provision of the National Voter Registration Act that allows states to remove people from voting rolls based on the grounds that they moved.

The A. Philip Randolph Institute, which sued the state, argued that the state, in fact, violated a different provision — which says that a person cannot be removed from voter rolls simply for failing to vote.

The court ruled that the state only uses the failure to vote “as a rough way of identifying voters who may have moved,” but that it actually begins the removal process by sending “a preaddressed, postage prepaid card to these individuals asking them to verify that they still reside at the same address.”

The court rejected the challengers’ argument that Ohio’s system violates the “Failure-to-Vote Clause.” The clause, Alito wrote, “simply forbids the use of nonvoting as the sole criterion for removing a registrant, and Ohio does not use it that way.”

Justice Stephen Breyer summed up the dissenting justices’ view that Monday’s decision was an exercise in circular reasoning.

Most of us are still swooning from the weekend that basically cut the United States away from its closest allies, friends, and countries that share the values of reason, justice, and modernity.  Have we just witnessed the murder of the post-World War 2 coalition of the world’s greatest economic and democratic powers?  From the keyboard of Jeffrey Goldberg writing for The Atlantic:  “A Senior White House Official Defines the Trump Doctrine: ‘We’re America, Bitch’. The president believes that the United States owes nothing to anyone—especially its allies.”

Many of Donald Trump’s critics find it difficult to ascribe to a president they consider to be both subliterate and historically insensate a foreign-policy doctrine that approaches coherence. A Trump Doctrine would require evidence of Trump Thought, and proof of such thinking, the argument goes, is scant. This view is informed in part by feelings of condescension, but it is not meritless. Barack Obama, whose foreign-policy doctrine I studied in depth, was cerebral to a fault; the man who succeeded him is perhaps the most glandular president in American history. Unlike Obama, Trump possesses no ability to explain anything resembling a foreign-policy philosophy. But this does not mean that he is without ideas.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve asked a number of people close to the president to provide me with short descriptions of what might constitute the Trump Doctrine. I’ve been trying, as part of a larger project, to understand the revolutionary nature of Trump’s approach to world affairs. This task became even more interesting over the weekend, when Trump made his most ambitious move yet to dismantle the U.S.-led Western alliance; it becomes more interesting still as Trump launches, without preparation or baseline knowledge, a complicated nuclear negotiation with a fanatical and bizarre regime that quite possibly has his number.

Trumpian chaos is, in fact, undergirded by a comprehensible worldview, a number of experts have insisted. The Brookings Institution scholar (and frequent Atlantic contributor) Thomas Wright argued in a January 2016 essaythat Trump’s views are both discernible and explicable. Wright, who published his analysis at a time when most everyone in the foreign-policy establishment considered Trump’s candidacy to be a farce, wrote that Trump loathes the liberal international order and would work against it as president; he wrote that Trump also dislikes America’s military alliances, and would work against them; he argued that Trump believes in his bones that the global economy is unfair to the U.S.; and, finally, he wrote that Trump has an innate sympathy for “authoritarian strongmen.”

We continue to discover how deep Russian interference was in our election in 2016.  This is horrifying and it shows how big money and big lobbyists are killing our democracy.

You should read the entire article but here’s the money line.

Several prominent Russians, some in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle or high in the Russian Orthodox Church, now have been identified as having contact with National Rifle Association officials during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, according to photographs and an NRA source.

The contacts have emerged amid a deepening Justice Department investigation into whether Russian banker and lifetime NRA member Alexander Torshin illegally channeled money through the gun rights group to add financial firepower to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.

Other influential Russians who met with NRA representatives during the campaign include Dmitry Rogozin, who until last month served as a deputy prime minister overseeing Russia’s defense industry, and Sergei Rudov, head of one of Russia’s largest philanthropies, the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. The foundation was launched by an ultra-nationalist ally of Russian President Putin.

Less we forget, Matt Ygelisias writing for Vox reminds us that: “There’s actually lots of evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. The untenability of the “no collusion” talking point.”   We also need a jazz funeral for the truth.  We’re victims of weaponized, industrial strength gaslighting.

“In all of this, in any of this, there’s been no evidence that there’s been any collusion between the Trump campaign and President Trump and Russia,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday at his weekly press conference. “Let’s just make that really clear. There’s no evidence of collusion. This is about Russia and what they did and making sure they don’t do it again.”

From Ryan’s perspective, it would be convenient if it were true that Robert Mueller’s investigation had turned up no evidence of collusion, but it simply isn’t.

Republicans from Donald Trump on down have made “no collusion” a mantra. The term itself is ill-defined in this context; you won’t find in the US code. But roughly speaking, the question is whether the campaign got involved with Russian agents who committed computer crimes to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

The verdict on this is unclear. But there is certainly plenty of evidence pointing toward collusion; what you would call “probable cause” in a legal context, or what a journalist might simply consider reason to continue investigating the story. And the investigating thus far, both by special counsel Mueller and by journalists working on the story, has been fruitful. The efforts have continued to turn up contacts between Trumpworld and Putinland, cover-ups, and dishonesty.

Even as recently as Friday afternoon, we got new indictments charging Trump’s former campaign chair and his former GRU operative business partner with witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

It’s important, obviously, not to prejudge a case. It turns out that Saddam Hussein was acting like a man who was covering up a secret nuclear weapons arsenal because he didn’t want the world to know how weak his defenses really were.

By the same token, it’s certainly possible that the various Trump-Russia contacts never amounted to anything and that they’ve been consistently covered up for some reason otherthan an effort to hide collusion. But both the contacts that have been revealed so far and the deception used to deny their existence are certainly evidence of collusion — evidence that should be (and is being) pursued by the special counsel’s office and that should not be dismissed by the press or by elected officials.

Yglesias has documented a rather long list of fires and smoking guns.  Go check it out.  We definitely need to throw a jazz funeral for what’s left of the values the Republican party held and ran on for years.  This is from NBC News: “The GOP once championed alliances and free trade. Why is it silent now?”

But after a weekend when President Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “very dishonest and weak,” after he refused to sign the joint communique from the G-7 summit, and after a top Trump aide said “there’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door” — those same Republican leaders have been silent.

(What did Trudeau do, by the way, to earn that condemnation from Team Trump? He said that Canada would respond with reciprocal tariffs on the U.S. tariffs the Trump administration imposed on Canada — nothing he and his government haven’t said before, including on “Meet the Press” a week ago.)

The one exception to this GOP silence was Sen. John McCain, who tweeted: “To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.”

But other Republicans haven’t repeated that message, which is striking when free trade has been one of the GOP’s central tenets over the last few decades. And there’s only one explanation for that Republican silence: Trump has bullied the entire party into submission — well, at least those who will have to face voters again.

Today begins the frightening process of watching two madmen sit across the table to compare dick sizes.   My money is on the North Koreans.

As Rick Wilson says:  “Everything Trump touches dies.”  We have not attended our last funeral but let’s try to find ways to comfort ourselves in the small celebrations of our daily lives.   This includes all of my dear friends here on Sky Dancing who I consider the best of family.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Here’s some good news for a change: a judge in the Southern District of California will allow a lawsuit by the ACLU challenging the Trump administration policy of separating parents and children at the border to go forward.

Bloomberg: Judge Calls Trump’s Border Separations of Children ‘Brutal.’

The Trump administration failed to kill a legal challenge to its practice of separating undocumented parents and children who seek to enter the U.S. to flee persecution at home, with a judge handing an early victory to civil rights activists who say the policy is unconstitutional and cruel.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego on Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss the suit, in which the American Civil Liberties Union argues that splitting up families at the border violates their due process rights.

The practice, spearheaded by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, caused widespread outrage after images of children in detention centers circulated on social media. The government argues separations are necessary to properly prosecute adults who cross into the U.S. illegally, while activists say children are being used as pawns in an informal policy intended to deter migrants.

“These allegations sufficiently describe government conduct that arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child,” the judge wrote. The conduct, if true, “is brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.” [….]

Sabraw said the ACLU’s claims are particularly troubling because the plaintiffs in the case had allegedly come to the U.S. seeking asylum out of fear for their well-being in their home countries. The suit applies to migrants who formally present themselves at ports of entry as political refugees as well as those who seek asylum after they are apprehended during illegal border crossings.

“The government actors responsible for the ‘care and custody’ of migrant children have, in fact, become their persecutors,” the judge said.

Read more at the link. The entire filing can be read here.

More good news: a new NBC/WSJ poll found that voters are much more likely to support candidates who stand up to Trump.

NBC News: Poll: Economic satisfaction under Trump isn’t helping his party’s 2018 chances.

By a whopping 25-point margin, voters say they’re more likely to back a congressional candidate who promises to serve as a check on President Donald Trump, according to a new national poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

And by a similar margin, they say they’re less likely to vote for someone who has supported the president on most issues.

At the same time, six-in-10 are satisfied with the U.S. economy, and a plurality of voters give Trump credit for the economic improvement.

Despite that economic optimism, however, the poll shows that Democrats enjoy a 10-point advantage on congressional preference, with 50 percent of registered voters wanting a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 40 percent who want a GOP-controlled one.

Now if national Democrats would just wake up and realize that standing up to Trump is the best mid-term strategy!

The summit with North Korea is coming up next week, but Trump isn’t listening to advice from experts on how to proceed, according to Politico: Trump and Bolton spurn top-level North Korea planning.

National Security Adviser John Bolton has yet to convene a Cabinet-level meeting to discuss President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with North Korea next week, a striking break from past practice that suggests the Trump White House is largely improvising its approach to the unprecedented nuclear talks.

For decades, top presidential advisers have used a methodical process to hash out national security issues before offering the president a menu of options for key decisions. On an issue like North Korea, that would mean White House Situation Room gatherings of the secretaries of state and defense along with top intelligence officials, the United Nations ambassador, and even the treasury secretary, who oversees economic sanctions.

But since Trump agreed on a whim to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on March 8, the White House’s summit planning has been unstructured, according to a half-dozen administration officials. Trump himself has driven the preparation almost exclusively on his own, consulting little with his national security team outside of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Senior officials from both the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations called the absence of a formal interagency process before such a consequential meeting troubling. Peter Feaver, a former National Security Council (NSC) official in the George W. Bush White House, said his colleagues would likely have held “quite a few” meetings of the so-called Principals Committee of Cabinet-level NSC members in a comparable situation. A former top Obama White House official echoed that point, calling the lack of top-level NSC meetings “shocking.”

Trump has also not presided personally over a meeting of those senior NSC officials, as a president typically does when making the most important decisions.

On the other hand, Trump has given serious thought to whether he should invite Kim Jong Un to play golf with him in Florida if the summit goes well. The Daily Beast reports:

Trump has floated hitting the links with his counterpart as he considers a secondary charm offensive to complement the diplomatic tête-à-tête. The president has already told those close to him and advisers that he is open to inviting Kim to a follow-up summit at Trump’s famous Mar-a-Lago estate and private club in Palm Beach, Florida, as Bloomberg first reported this week.

And, according to two administration officials, Trump has also raised the possibility of a leisurely activity and, perhaps, getting in 18 holes with Kim if the two end up getting along.

“He has also discussed [possibly] golfing with Kim,” a senior Trump administration official said.

It is unclear if such an outing would or could occur during a potential follow-up meeting or the one planned, then canceled, then planned again for Singapore. The site of the upcoming Singapore talks, a five-star hotel on Sentosa Island, is located near a theme park, resorts, and—as luck would have it—multiple golf courses.

The article says no one actually know if Kim even plays golf.

I suppose Kim would agree with Trump on this though. At The Washington Post, Josh Rogin writes that Trump still wants to pull U.S. troops out of South Korea.

For almost two years, President Trump has been talking about withdrawing large numbers of U.S. troops from South Korea, where there are currently around 28,000 stationed. The president’s advisers have repeatedly argued against a large-scale reduction, but he remains unpersuaded. And after his upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump will have another big chance to push the issue.

Less publicly, but still privately, Trump continues to say he doesn’t agree with the argument that U.S. troops in South Korea are strategically necessary, and he thinks the United States gets nothing back from paying to keep them there, according to administration officials and people who have spoken to Trump directly about the issue. He often asks his generals to explain the rationale for America’s deployments in Asia and expresses dissatisfaction with their answers.

At Trump’s direction, the Pentagon has taken a hard line in ongoing negotiations with the South Korean government over a new cost-sharing agreement for U.S. troops there. If those negotiations fail, Trump could have another excuse to move forward with large reductions….

Inside the administration, top officials have been trying — and failing — to convince the president of the strategic value of the South Korea-based troops since the beginning of his administration. In February, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly reportedly talked Trump down from starting a withdrawal.

Trump has picked fights with most of our allies at this point. Now he’s whining about having to to the Canada on Friday because he’s mad at Justin Trudeau.

The president has vented privately about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as their trade tensions have spilled into public view. He has mused about finding new ways to punish the United States’ northern neighbor in recent days, frustrated with the country’s retaliatory trade moves.

And Trump has complained to aides about spending two days in Canada for a summit of world leaders, believing the trip is a distraction from his upcoming Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with Trump’s views.

In particular, the president said Tuesday to several advisers that he fears attending the Group of Seven summit in rural Charlevoix, Quebec, may not be a good use of his time because he is diametrically opposed on many key issues with his counterparts — and does not want to be lectured by them.

Additionally, Trump has griped periodically both about German Chancellor Angela Merkel — largely because they disagree on many issues and have had an uneasy rapport — as well as British Prime Minister Theresa May, whom he sees as too politically correct, advisers say.

Awwww . . . poor baby. BTW, have you heard that State Department spokesperson and former Fox and Friends host Heather Nauert thinks Germany was our ally during World War II? Rachel Maddow discussed this at the beginning of her show last night.

Please watch the video–even if you already saw it last night. These are the people who are running our foreign policy!

Politico reports that many foreign leaders are beginning to wake up to Trump’s insanity: Foreign leaders who embraced Trump now feel burned.

Trump calls Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, who visits the White House Thursday, his “good friend.” French president Emmanuel Macron is a “great friend.” And Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a “great friend, neighbor, and ally.” All have sought to butter up Trump through friendly face time, recognizing that the quickest way to the president’s heart is through his ego.

But all, to varying degrees, are exasperated with Trump.

The president is moving ahead with a June 12 summit with North Korea despite Abe’s grave concerns about its wisdom. He has also threatened to slap tariffs on imported Japanese cars and metals. It’s hardly what Abe expected when he became the first foreign leader to meet with Trump after the November election or when he flew with Trump on Air Force One in February 2017 for golfing at his Mar a Lago resort.

Macron treated Trump to a military parade in Paris last summer. He and Trump also exchanged hugs and handshakes during an April visit by the French leader, during which Trump said of his guest: “He is perfect.” But a few weeks later, Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal despite French pleas, and shows no sign of heeding Macron’s request that he rejoin the Paris climate accords, which Trump rejected last year.

Trump has also threatened trade sanctions on the European Union, and is already slapping them on Canada — prompting Trudeau to call Trump’s tariffs on steel imports “insulting and unacceptable.” That’s a change of tune from the early months of Trump’s presidency, when Trudeau avoided criticizing Trump, and even took Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner to a Broadway play in March 2017.

All have paid a domestic political price back home for their efforts to make nice with a highly divisive U.S. president. One French parliamentarian fumed after Macron’s visit that France had “prostituted” and “humiliated” itself.

Angela Merkel knew who she was dealing with from day one, evidence that we need more women in leadership positions around the world.

That’s it for me today. What stories have you been following?


Wednesday Reads: Anti-Putin, Anti-Woman and Good for Canada!

Good Morning!

Let’s start the day off with the latest news about Syria:

Peacekeepers attacked in Syria as U.S. accuses Russia of supporting regime

The U.S. accused Russia of escalating the Syrian conflict by sending attack helicopters to President Bashar Assad‘s regime, and U.N. observers were attacked Tuesday with stones, metal rods and gunfire that blocked them from a besieged rebel-held town where civilians were feared trapped by government shelling.

UPDATE 3-US worried Russia may be sending Syria helicopters | Reuters

* Clinton says helicopter sale would escalate conflict

* Syria conflict is civil war, UN official says

* Pentagon buys helicopters from Russian arms exporter (Adds senator holding up nomination of Pentagon official)

The United States is worried Russia may be sending Syria attack helicopters and views Russian claims that its arms transfers to Syria are unrelated to the conflict there as “patently untrue,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday.

The comments came as the Pentagon found itself on the defensive for doing business with Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, given concerns in Congress about the firm’s role in arming the Syrian regime.

The 15-month-old conflict in Syria has grown into a full-scale civil war, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said on Tuesday.

More on that statement from the UN: Syria in civil war, U.N. official says

Syria’s 15-month uprising has grown into a full-scale civil war where President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are trying to recapture swathes of urban territory lost to rebels, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said on Tuesday.

“Yes, I think we can say that,” U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous said when asked if the Syrian crisis could now be characterized as a civil war.

“Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory in several cities to the opposition and wants to retake control of these areas,” he said.

His remarks, the first time a senior U.N. official has declared Syria’s conflict is a civil war, came as the United States said Russia could be sending attack helicopters to Syria.

The International Red Cross said the situation was deteriorating in several parts of Syria simultaneously as fighting intensifies.

There are more reports about the use of children as human shields…U.N. adds Syria to list of countries killing children

The U.N. special envoy for children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said the United Nations had also received credible allegations that the armed opposition, including the Free Syrian Army, had also used children during the 15-month conflict.

“There’s been extraordinary violence against children in Syria,” Coomaraswamy told reporters.

“Children as young as 9 years of age were victims of killing and maiming, detention, torture, arbitrary arrest and were used as human shields by the Syrian government forces, including the Syrian armed forces, the intelligence forces and the shabiha militia,” she said.

Those forces have also regularly raided and used schools as military bases and detention centers, Coomaraswamy added.

Here are some other links on the Syrian violence:

Russia, Soviet Style – NYTimes.com

U.S. Says Russia Supplies Syria with Combat Helicopters | World | RIA Novosti

News Wrap: Clinton Accuses Russia of Sending Attack Helicopters to Syria | PBS NewsHour | June 12, 2012 | PBS

Meanwhile, in Russia:

Protesters Defy Efforts to Muffle Anti-Putin Outcry –  This is an amazing series of photos that show thousands of Anti-Putin protestors in the streets.

https://i2.wp.com/graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2012/06/12/world/0612russia_337ss-slide-0LWY/0612russia_337ss-slide-0LWY-articleLarge.jpg

Tens of thousands of protesters thronged central Moscow in a drenching rain on Tuesday, voicing renewed fury at President Vladimir V. Putin and defying recent efforts by his government to clamp down on the political opposition movement.

The large turnout, rivaling the big crowds that had gathered at the initial antigovernment rallies in December, suggested that the tough new posture adopted by the Kremlin against the protests was emboldening rather than deterring Mr. Putin’s critics.

On Friday, Mr. Putin signed a new law that imposes steep financial penalties on participants in rallies that cause harm to people or property. On Sunday, officials arrested five more people on charges related to the last protest, which ended in a melee between demonstrators and riot police officers. And on Monday, the authorities searched the homes of several opposition leaders and issued summonses ordering seven of them to appear for questioning on Tuesday so they could not attend the rally.

Opposition issues manifesto, demands Putin quit

Participants of the June 12 opposition rally – the so-called March of Millions – have adopted the Free Russia Manifesto, which demands Vladimir Putin’s resignation, a snap State Duma vote and a new Constitution.

The protesters demand that a new law on parliamentary elections be developed, which would provide for “fair, transparent and competitive elections.” This bill should be adopted by the current parliament, which “would become its last and only” function, the document reads.

Then, a newly-elected parliament should work out a project for Russia’s Constitution, which would significantly limit presidential powers, giving more authority to MPs in terms of forming the government and holding parliamentary investigations.

The opposition also demands that the presidential time in office should be limited to either one six-year term or to two four-year terms. The parliament should also call a referendum on a project for the overhaul of the constitution.

Among other demands is the adoption of laws that guarantee local self-government and direct governors’ elections, as well as reforming of courts and law enforcement agencies.

The manifesto also points out that the difference between the living standards in Moscow and other Russian cities, which may lead to “civil confrontation and dissolution of the state.”

It continues…

“The population has a legal right for a peaceful mass protest in order to put pressure on power and to change it. Our fight for political rights is linked to economic rights. We seek changes at all levels of life,” said one of the opposition activists Evgenia Chirikova. She read the text of the document to the crowd which gathered at Moscow’s Sakharov Avenue.

Next week the March of Millions organizing committee is planning to decide on a date and the format of elections to a joint opposition body, Ilya Ponomarev, a deputy from the opposition Fair Russia party told Itar-Tass. The vote will be held on the internet, he said.

Wow, that is something to see. So in addition to these articles about Putin and the protestors, here are a few comics.

Back here in the states, Democrat to offer bill repealing ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws

The House Democrat who represents Trayvon Martin’s district will soon propose legislation repealing the nation’s “Stand Your Ground” laws, which are under a microscope following the shooting death of the Florida teenager earlier this year.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) said eliminating such laws might have prevented February’s fatal confrontation between the 17-year-old Martin, an unarmed African-American, and George Zimmerman, 28, an Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer carrying a 9mm handgun.

I don’t know about it preventing the killing, it seems to me Zimmerman would have done the same thing without the Stand Your Ground law. I still am thrilled that she is doing something about it however…These Stand Your Ground laws are horrible.

Wilson this week said the law threatens to enable “a horrendous crime.”

“The thought that George Zimmerman could get away with such a horrendous crime is a travesty of justice,” Wilson said Tuesday in a statement announcing her bill. “There are bills in other states known by different taglines that have the same unintended consequences as [Florida’s] Stand Your Ground [law]. They should all be repealed.”

Wilson’s proposal — which she expects to introduce next week when the House returns from this week’s recess — would discourage “Stand Your Ground” laws by withholding some federal transportation dollars from states that adopt them.

Wilson’s bill has no chance of moving this year in the GOP-controlled House, but it will shine a brighter light on the nation’s gun laws as a number of states are eyeing adoption of legislation similar to Florida’s law.

And now, two links on Women’s Rights…first from Cairo: Arab women cry for end to harassment

After years of enduring vulgar and degrading comments or worse by men on the streets of Egypt’s capital, Cairo University student Cherine Thabet decided she had enough.

“Do you know that it would be strange for a woman to leave her house and return without hearing two or three strangers’ opinions about her chest, in all kinds of colorful language,” she asked in a blog post. “Can you imagine that it is routine for a big man to stand quietly by as a woman gets groped?”

Her post received a torrent of comments from women throughout the Middle East who complained that they, too, are tired of a common practice of Arab men that is usually just whispered about by women.

“We should confront society [about this] as much as we can,” said Thabet, 21, who has been campaigning online, on the street and on Egyptian television about the issue since her post. “We should talk and talk [about it], so everyone understands what the problem is.”

Read the rest of it at the link…then take a look at this:

Healthcare, reproductive rights divide U.S., Canada in poll

On one side of the border, a woman can see a doctor for free and is guaranteed paid maternity leave. On the other, most women do not qualify for free healthcare and one in five under 65 does not have medical insurance.

These differences and others make Canada the best country among the world’s wealthiest nations to be a woman and keep the United States out of the top five, according to a poll of experts released on Wednesday by TrustLaw, a legal news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The United States ranked sixth among the 19 countries in the Group of 20 economies, excluding the European Union economic grouping, in the global survey of 370 recognized gender specialists.

Germany, Britain, Australia and France followed Canada in that order, while India, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia polled the worst.

Even though there are many similarities between the US and Canada:

the countries are very different in the area of gender equality, the experts said. Canada’s constitution promotes and safeguards women’s rights while a lack of consensus over reproductive rights in particular erodes them in the United States, experts said.

“Canada leads the pack with its promotion of women’s access and opportunities across various sectors of society, including education, economic participation and healthcare,” said Sarah Degnan Kambou, president of the International Center for Research on Women in Washington, which took part in the survey.

The poll showed how the lack of universal health care and the struggle over abortion rights in the United States – important issues ahead of the November presidential election – were key to perceptions of women’s freedoms in the country, according to the experts polled.

Read on…

While a pregnant woman in Canada is guaranteed 15 weeks paid maternity leave, she receives no federally guaranteed time off with pay in the United States. If the expectant mother is one of the 16 percent of American women under 65 with no health insurance – according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – she may have to forgo adequate prenatal and postnatal care because she can’t afford it.

Canada also ranks better than the United States on maternal mortality, reporting 12 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008, half the number recorded in the United States, according to the United Nations.

POLITICS, TREATIES AND RIGHTS

While women’s political representation in Canada lags behind some G20 countries, it fares better than in the United States. Nearly a quarter of seats in Canada’s lower house of parliament are held by women, compared to 17 percent in the United States, according to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

“Our political participation levels, particularly in Congress, are embarrassingly low as compared to other countries in the G20, such as South Africa, Germany and Argentina,” said ICRW’s Kambou. In South Africa, women hold 42 percent of seats in parliament’s lower house.

Canada was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), often referred to as the international bill of rights for women.

The United States is the only democracy and the only G20 country that has yet to ratify CEDAW, primarily due to concerns of religious and social conservatives that it will undermine what they call “traditional family values”.

It is really a sad state of affairs for women in this country. Embarrassing too.

Aside from quality of health, the TrustLaw survey asked respondents to rank G20 countries in terms of the overall best and worst places for women and in the categories of freedom from violence, participation in politics, workplace opportunities, access to resources like education and property rights and freedom from trafficking and slavery.

(For full coverage of the poll visit g20women.trust.org)

(TrustLaw is a free legal news site run by Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit trust.org/trustlaw. For more information on the TrustWomen Conference visit trustwomenconf.com)

HOW THEY RANK

Best and worst G20 countries for women

1. Canada 2. Germany 3. Britain 4. Australia 5. France 6. United States 7. Japan 8. Italy 9. Argentina 10. South Korea 11. Brazil 12. Turkey 13. Russia 14. China 15. Mexico 16. South Africa 17. Indonesia 18. Saudi Arabia 19. India

That is all I have for you today, please share your morning news with us…comment section is below!


Evening News Reads: Freak Show and Violent Shootings

Good Evening

Warning, tonight’s post is a bit graphic.

There have been some violent, freakishly gory and strange events going on in North America lately. Is a full moon coming soon? I don’t know what else to say but just put the links out there.

In Seattle today, there were two shootings, and at the time of this post, 3 to 4 people are dead and the suspect may be in custody….or he may have shot himself.  This all happened near Washington University.

Police: Seattle cafe gunman may have shot self – CBS News

AFP: Seattle gunman shoots self after three killed in cafe

Woman dies in shooting outside Town Hall | Local News | The Seattle Times

I have many friends in Seattle, and one has a daughter that goes to WU… doesn’t it always make these violent mass shootings more worrisome when you know someone who lives where it happens.

In Indianapolis, another shooting has taken place:

Two dead, three wounded in Indianapolis shooting, police say | Reuters

A gunman killed one person and wounded three others at an apartment complex in Indianapolis on Wednesday, before turning the gun on himself, police said.

The shooter was hospitalized in critical condition but later died, according to interim Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Rick Hite.

Police did not identify the victims or the gunman and said they could not comment on possible motives.

Then of course there is the Zombie attack in Miami, which just gets more disgusting and disturbing as the days go by. Earlier there was a photo which was allegedly a picture of the victim when he was brought to the ER. It was horrible and has since been taking of the Albany news site, but there are still copies of it on the web. Here is a link to the Village Voice that has the image still up on it’s blog…it is graphic.

New video shows more grisly details of face-eating attack in Miami – Miami-Dade – MiamiHerald.com

Rudy Eugene walked naked alongside the MacArthur Causeway before pouncing on a homeless man he found dozing in the shade of the elevated Metromover train tracks.

For almost 18 grisly minutes, Eugene savaged his victim, punching him and stripping the man’s pants before gnawing off the homeless man’s face — all as cars and cyclists rolled by on the busy causeway on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

The new details of the horrific attack were captured in additional video footage taken by security cameras at the nearby Miami Herald building.

18 minutes? Think about that…

Face-chewing victim face surgery, long recovery  | ajc.com

Police union officials representing the officer said the scene on the MacArthur Causeway was one of the goriest they had ever seen.

“He had his face eaten down to his goatee. The forehead was just bone. No nose, no mouth,” said Sgt. Armando Aguilar, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police.

Poppo has been in critical condition in recent days, but police didn’t give an update on his condition Wednesday.

And if this was all just too crazy, over in Canada there has been strange things going on too.

Check out this headline:

The Press Association: Porn star hunted over body parts

You read that right…

Canadian police hunt male porn star over posted hand, foot | The Australian

Canada Severed Foot

A police officer removes a package from the Conservative Party headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario, containing a severed human foot. Source: AP

POLICE have launched a hunt for a male porn star after a human hand was found in the mail at an Ottawa post office, and a decomposing foot was sent to Canada’s ruling Conservative Party.

A nationwide warrant has been issued for Luka Rocco Magnotta, 29, also known as Eric Clinton Newman and Vladimir Romanov.

Montreal police spokesman Ian Lafreniere told a press conference the suspect has no criminal record and asked the public’s help in tracking him down.

Police in Ottawa had previously disclosed that both packages were sent to Ottawa from Montreal.

The gruesome discoveries, described by Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews as “very disturbing,” were made hours after a severed torso was also discovered by a janitor in Montreal early Tuesday in a suitcase in a pile of garbage.

Mr Lafreniere said the finds are thought to be linked after an investigation brought them to a Montreal apartment that is believed to be scene of the dismembering.

Luka Rocco Magnotta video allegedly shows suspect dismembering victim | News | National Post

Slaying suspect Luka Rocco Magnotta once dated Karla Homolka

This is all so crazy…

I will post updates to Seattle in the comments, and a few other strange news items that caught my eye.