Open Thread: Hillary in India

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) watches a girl do karate during an anti-human trafficking event in Kolkata May 6, 2012.

[Click on the photo to see more pictures of Hillary Clinton in India.]

This is just going to be a link and photo dump, because I know absolutely nothing about Indian politics.

From the NY Daily News:

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, hoped to narrow a gap with India over Iran on Monday as she tried to throw a spotlight on issues dear to her heart such as the fight against sex trafficking.

Mrs Clinton was paying the first visit by a top US official to the eastern metropolis Kolkata and will then meet in New Delhi with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, amid concern that the growing US-India partnership has been drifting….

On Sunday, Mrs Clinton sought to draw attention to sex trafficking in India, where forced prostitution of women and girls is one of the largest illicit businesses.

Mrs Clinton appeared visibly moved as she watched a dance by former victims of sex trafficking, who recounted their plight in a synchronised performance designed as a form of therapy by the local group Kolkata Sanved.

Mrs Clinton called the recital “mesmerising” and thanked each of the six dancers, telling them she was proud of them. She was shown quilts which former trafficking victims sew as a way to give them new livelihoods.

“What you’re doing is so important to try to not only help yourselves but to help other young girls,” Mrs Clinton said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd L) holds a sari during an anti-human trafficking event in Kolkata May 6, 2012.

Here’s another article on the anti-trafficking event: Hillary’s date with history
She’s cheerleader in trafficking crusade

To them, she was “US ka bahut bara neta….Bill Clinton ki biwi (a top leader of the US….Bill Clinton’s wife)”. To her, they were the faces of a movement close to her heart.

When Poonam Khatoon, 16, and Uma Das, 19, finally found themselves face to face with Hillary Clinton at the Rabindranath Tagore Centre of the ICCR on Sunday afternoon, all it needed was a smile to break down the barriers.

“Aami bhabtei parini onar shamne darate parbo. Uni amader lorai-tey shamil hoyechhen, sheta ekta boro byapar (I couldn’t imagine I would be standing in front of her. She has joined our crusade, that’s a big thing),” Uma told Metro of her meeting with the US secretary of state.

Community worker Uma and Poonam, a student of Class IX, are daughters of women in prostitution involved with Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a grassroots movement to end sex trafficking. The duo took turns escorting Hillary through a pictorial journey of a trafficked girl.

At the end of the event, Hillary told the women she was their “cheerleader” and that she would “stand by” them. They asked her to talk publicly about human trafficking as much as she could.

The secretary of state’s keepsake from the Sunday afternoon rendezvous was a green wristband with the words: “Cool Men Don’t Buy Sex”.

Hillary not only wore the band immediately, she insisted that members of her entourage sport one each as well. “She was also gifted a T-shirt that read: ‘Together we can end sex trafficking’.

Another photo from the trafficking event

From the Washington Post:

NEW DELHI — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in India’s capital Monday with a clear message for the country’s leaders: Cooperate with us on with Iran.

Yet less than a mile from her meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, there was another group meeting with Indian leaders. An Iranian trade delegation is in New Delhi, overlapping with Clinton’s trip and potentially undermining one of its main purposes.

The Obama administration is turning up the pressure on India to join international sanctions against Iran that would choke off funds for the country’s nuclear program. India, which relies on Iran for about 12 percent of its oil imports, has so far been unwilling to go along.

“This is a regime that has a history of aggressive behavior,” Clinton warned of Iran during a town hall-style meeting Monday morning in Kolkata, her first stop in a three-day swing through India. “And I don’t think you deal with aggressors by giving in to them. … Our goal is resolve this peacefully and diplomatically, and that’s why we need India to be part of the international effort.”

Finally, a report from India on Hillary’s meeting with the prime minister:

New Delhi: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Hillary and the Prime Minister discussed several issues related to Indo-US relations. She also urged India to speed up the civil nuclear deal and cut oil imports from Iran….

Before her meeting with the Prime Minister, Hillary met Mamata Banerjee earlier on Monday and promised more US investment in West Bengal….

According to a US consulate statement, the top US diplomat, who had an hour-long meeting with Banerjee, discussed a range of issues including stepping up US investments in the state, according to a US consulate statement.

“Touching on issues, ranging from increasing US investment in West Bengal, including in the retail sector, US-India relations, regional affairs and strong people-to-people connections, the Secretary reaffirmed to the chief minister the US desire to work with India and West Bengal to deepen and broaden our partnership,” it said.


Friday Reads

Good Morning!

Is there such thing as the dog days of spring?  Sheesh, it’s getting hot out there!

So, I’ve found a few interesting things for you this morning.  It seems Colin Powell is the one on the American Apologia tour.

Colin Powell says his erroneous address to the United Nations about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction provides a lesson to business leaders on the importance of staying skeptical and following their intuition.

“Yes, a blot, a failure will always be attached to me and my UN presentation,” the former U.S. secretary of state writes in a new book of leadership parables that draws frequently on his Iraq war experience. “I am mad mostly at myself for not having smelled the problem. My instincts failed me.”

Powell, 75, laments that no intelligence officials had the “courage” to warn that he was given false information that Iraq had such weapons during preparations for his February 2003 speech before the U.S. invasion the following month. Regrets are sprinkled through “It Worked For Me,” along with lessons gleaned from a career that carried him from foxholes in Vietnam to senior positions at the Pentagon and the State Department.

Wow.   I thought there were plenty of warnings about that.  I guess it just didn’t come from the right people.

Billionaire Energy Investor and professional Gadfly–T Boone Pickens–blames the Koch  Brothers for a lack of a cogent US energy policy.

Pickens’ biggest concern right now centers on what he sees as the Obama administration’s lack of an energy policy. He says special interests are blocking real energy reform, and he singles out Koch Industries, a chemical, fertilizer and refining juggernaut run by brothers David and Charles Koch, as the main culprit.

“The biggest deterrent to an energy plan in America is Koch Industries,” he says. “They do not want an energy plan for America because they have the cheapest natural gas price they’ve ever had, and they’re in the fertilizer business and they’re in the chemical business. So their margins are huge. And they do not want you to have an energy plan, because if you had a plan, then natural gas prices would come up.”

The Obama administration may be lacking a cohesive, straightforward approach to America’s energy independence, but fossil fuel production has greatly expanded since Obama took office. The president has approved drilling permits in federal lands and waters that were previously off limits to oil and gas companies, much to the chagrin of environmentalists. From 2005 to 2011 the amount of foreign energy sources imported by the U.S. fell by 15%. Obama rejected the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in January, but he has recently expressed support for building the southern portion of the pipeline that would extend from Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s very hard to get an energy plan,” Pickens laments. “It isn’t a failure of the Democrats. It’s not a failure of the Republicans. It’s a bipartisan failure. Over the years neither party could provide the leadership to have an energy plan.”

You can listen to a video where Pickens explains the current falling gas prices.  He also believes that Israel will attack Iran sometime in the fall.  So, has Wall Street quit driving up gas prices for the moment?

The oil markets have become just another profitable Wall Street casino. Why? Because, as the infamous outlaw Willie Sutton said, “That’s where the money is.” Oil markets as well as other commodity markets require a certain number of speculators. Oil producers and end users go to these markets in order to lock in prices for the products they use or sell. From refiners to shippers to airlines, oil markets provide a way to obtain price certainty for a specified period of time. To make these markets function, speculators are needed to take the other side of those trades. For more than a century about 30 percent of these commodity markets involved speculators and 70 percent of the participants in terms of volume were real producers, distributors and users. That’s what a healthy commodities market looks like.

But once financialization metastasized, the proportions flipped. Now 70 percent of the action comes from speculators, while only 30 percent comes from those who really produce, distribute and use the actual commodities. The casino has taken over.

CNN is being replaced by MSNBC as the number two cable news network.  I guess its dishwater dull, People Magazine approach to the news just isn’t selling.  There’s some speculation it could be that folks only watch CNN if there’s a disaster afoot.  Other than that, they have better things to do.

CNN long ago ceded the No. 1 position among cable news channels to Fox News. But now CNN seems to be ceding the No. 2 position to MSNBC. In prime time, the most lucrative part of the day, CNN has had fewer viewers than MSNBC for 22 of the last 24 months. (CNN usually has more viewers than MSNBC during the day, however.)

“They were first in, and established the genre,” said a cable news executive who insisted on anonymity to speak candidly about the competition. “But they got too comfortable. They just made so much money that they didn’t have to change.”

MSNBC, on the other hand, did change. Like Fox News, MSNBC now has hosts with clear political points of view at key times of the day. CNN promotes itself as the top source for nonpartisan news on television.

“CNN appears committed to a business model that doesn’t work,” said Robert Seidman, an editor of the ratings Web site TV by the Numbers. The site posted a chart on Tuesday that showed all but one of CNN’s programs down by double digits in April. (One program, “Anderson Cooper 360,” was down by single digits.)

In response, CNN executives pointed out that Fox News and MSNBC were experiencing ratings slumps, too — attributable, perhaps, to a pause in the presidential election season.

A cache of Bin Laden documents have been released to the Public.  How’s that for some light summer beach reading?

“Bin Ladin’s frustration with regional jihadi groups and his seeming inability to exercise control over their actions and public statements is the most compelling story to be told on the basis of the 17 de-classified documents,” the center’s release states.

There were many more documents taken from the raid that ended in the killing of bin Laden, but they have yet to be released.

Among the more interesting revelations is bin Laden’s criticism of regional groups affiliated with Al Qaeda for carrying out attacks on Muslim targets. According to the Guardian, “in one [document], he exhorts leaders of the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to stop attacking local security forces and focus on the main enemy, the US.” One letter-writer to bin Laden said that “the terrorist group was losing support in the Muslim world.”

Another document has Adam Gadahn, an American-born spokesman for Al Qaeda, advising bin Laden on how to best use the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks for propaganda purposes.

Okay, so I will end with some fun summer reading:  The Right-Wing’s 20 Biggest Sex Hypocrites.  I’m so proud that one of my senators made number 4 on the hit parade.  Hey, and Number One–Jimmy Swaggert–is still preaching on in Baton Rouge!  Party on Dudes!!

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana is infamous for his extreme social conservatism and for pandering to the Christian Right. Vitter has supported a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage nationwide (although he claims to support “states rights,” Vitter makes an exception when it comes to gay marriage), promoted abstinence-only sex education, called for school board meetings in Louisiana to open with prayers, and repeatedly preached against abortion. Vitter loves to play the red state/blue state card, saying that he represents socially conservative “Louisiana values” rather than secular “Massachusetts values.” But in 2007, it was revealed that Vitter had been a client of the Washington, DC escort service operated by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, a.k.a. the DC Madam; Vitter admitted he had cheated on his wife with a prostitute, but no criminal charges were filed because of the statute of limitations. Despite his blatant hypocrisy, Vitter was re-elected to the Senate in 2010.

Gingrich, Dr. Laura and Rush made the list too! Read about all the pervs who are so family values oriented!!!  It’ll make you shake your head and laugh it off at the same time!!

So, there’s a little newsy news for you.  What’s on you reading and blogging list today?


Indefinite Detention without Trial Open Thread

Today President Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which, among other things, gives the President the power to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial. It also enshrines in law the ability of the government to use the military against American citizens.

At the same time, Obama issued a signing statement in which he says he will not use on the indefinite detention authority. As we know from three years experience, the President is a liar. Furthermore, the power will be passed on to future Presidents, and they may be less hesitant to use it. Here is the text of the signing statement (PDF), via the Washington Post. Some exerpts:

The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists. Over the last several years, my Administration has developed an effective, sustainable framework for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected terrorists that allows us to maximize both our ability to collect intelligence and to incapacitate dangerous individuals in rapidly developing situations, and the results we have achieved are undeniable. Our success against al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents has derived in significant measure from providing our counterterrorism professionals with the clarity and flexibility they need to adapt to changing circumstances and to utilize whichever authorities best protect the American people, and our accomplishments have respected the values that make our country an example for the world….

Section 1021 affirms the executive branch’s authority to detain persons covered by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541
note).

This section breaks no new ground and is unnecessary. The authority it describes was included in the 2001 AUMF, as recognized by the Supreme Court and confirmed through lower court decisions since then. Two critical limitations in section 1021 confirm that it solely codifies established authorities. First, under section 1021(d), the bill does not “limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” Second, under section 1021(e), the bill may not be construed to affect any “existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” My Administration strongly supported the inclusion of these limitations in order to make clear beyond doubt that the legislation does nothing more than confirm authorities that the Federal courts have recognized as lawful under the 2001 AUMF. Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.

In other words, Obama already had the power to detain American citizens, but because he is a great and magnanimous leader he will not act on the power, so we shouldn’t worry our pretty heads about it. Habeas Corpus is available only if granted by our benign and glorious leader.

Here’s the statement released by the ACLU on the President’s decision to sign the bill into law.

President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law today. The statute contains a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision. While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use the authorities granted by the NDAA, and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations. The White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the NDAA, but reversed course shortly before Congress voted on the final bill.

“President Obama’s action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield. The ACLU will fight worldwide detention authority wherever we can, be it in court, in Congress, or internationally.”

….

“We are incredibly disappointed that President Obama signed this new law even though his administration had already claimed overly broad detention authority in court,” said Romero. “Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back the constitutional excesses of George Bush in the war on terror was extinguished today.

There’s more at the link.


World War III Alert

Another dangerous portion of this new law imposes sanctions on Iran’s central bank. From the National Journal article cited above:

The bill also sets in motion strong sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, in an attempt to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program, by impeding Iran’s ability to process payments for the roughly $90 billion in oil and gas it sells each year. The measures, which would penalize any foreign financial institution that does business with the central bank, sparked threats by Iranian officials to cut off access to the Strait of Hormuz, which could block transportation of most oil exports from the Persian Gulf.

The administration retains a national security waiver for the sanctions – and one to waive the petroleum sanctions if it determines there isn’t enough global supply to offset the lost Iranian oil – but has said it opposes being held to a timeline that could fragment to the international coalition working to isolate Iran or potentially spike oil prices.

Please discuss the NDAA, the signing statement, or any other topics that are on your mind.


The only thing worse than running out of oil

Is not running out of oil.

This headline today is not good news: Does shale oil boom mean U.S. energy independence is near?Smog in New York. (Edwin Ewing, Wikimedia) Neither is this one that the US has a “200-year-supply” of coal. Nor these about all the fuel available in the Marcellus Shale, or the Canadian tar sands, or the Green River oil shale.

At this point it’s obvious to the meanest intelligence that burning fossil fuels adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, which causes climate change, which causes floods, fire, famine, pestilence, and war. It will kill billions of humans. I’ll repeat that. It will kill us. And I do mean “us.” Anybody who thinks they’ll be unaffected by the social consequences of global disasters is too dumb to last long in the hard new world. We are committing suicide.

We’re doing it right now. Not tomorrow. Not if things get worse. All we have to do is keep on doing what we’re doing.

Can I tell you a secret? Apparently, a lot of people don’t know this. Earth is the only planet we have.

Greenhouse gases are a gun pointed at our own heads. We have pulled the trigger.

But now comes the only good news: Planets work very slowly. The bullet has decades to travel. It’s already been traveling for about two centuries. Who knows how much more time we have? Probably minutes, but at least we’re not dead yet. If we did it very fast, we could move our heads out of the way.

Instead people write pleased headlines that more ways have been found to keep the bullet on track.

The whole species is headed for a Darwin Award. Except in this case it’ll be the planet whose survival is improved after we eliminate ourselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner.

Crossposted from Acid Test


Monday Reads

Good Morning!! Yesterday was an exciting day for the Libyan rebels, who have taken over the capital city, Tripoli. From the NYT:

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s grip on power dissolved with astonishing speed on Monday as rebels marched into the capital and arrested two of his sons, while residents raucously celebrated the prospective end of his four-decade-old rule.

In the city’s central Green Square, the site of many manufactured rallies in support of Colonel Qaddafi, jubilant Libyans tore down green flags and posters of Colonel Qaddafi and stomped on them. The leadership announced that the elite presidential guard protecting the Libyan leader had surrendered and that they controlled many parts of the city, but not Colonel Qaddafi’s leadership compound.

The National Transitional Council, the rebel governing body, issued a mass text message saying, “We congratulate the Libyan people for the fall of Muammar Qaddafi and call on the Libyan people to go into the street to protect the public property. Long live free Libya.”

Officials loyal to Colonel Qaddafi insisted that the fight was not over, and there were clashes between rebels and government troops early on Monday morning. But NATO and American officials said that the Qaddafi government’s control of Tripoli, which had been its final stronghold, was now in doubt.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens next. I hope it will mean the U.S. pulling out of there, but that’s probably a vain hope. After all, Libya has oil and gold.

Business Insider: AFTER QADDAFI: Oil Prices Will Tank, Stock Prices Will Soar

Watch what happens to oil prices if and when the Qaddafis lose and leave.

In short order, Libyan oil production will ramp up. As it does, oil prices in world markets will fall and oil futures markets will reflect the expected increase in production of oil from Libya. The key prices to watch are those trading in Europe, like Brent. US oil prices (WTI) are no longer the leading indicator of world prices intersecting with world supply/demand. Excess inventory at Cushing, OK is complicating the pricing structure.

We expect oil prices to fall when highly desirable, sweet Libyan crude production is fully resumed and enters the pipeline. Maybe, they are going to fall by a lot. This will come as a much-needed boost to the US economy and to others in the world.

Remember: the oil price acts like a sales tax on consumption. To clarify this relationship we convert crude oil prices to gasoline prices and then estimate what a change in gas price will mean for the American consumer. Roughly, a penny drop in the gas price per gallon gives Americans 1.4 billion more dollars a year to spend on other than gasoline. That is a huge stimulant to the economy. The ratio is different in Europe because the gas taxes are so much higher there. Nevertheless, it is still significant.

In other news, President Obama is still on vacation, and unemployment is still soaring. From the SF Chronicle: Obama keeps full vacation day after Libya briefing

In between briefings on Libya, President Barack Obama packed golf, beach time, a stop at a seafood restaurant and a visit to a wealthy friend’s seaside compound into his Martha’s Vineyard vacation Sunday….

Then Obama and his family headed to dinner at the house where White House adviser Valerie Jarrett is staying.

Earlier, Obama spent about an hour at the home of Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts after playing golf with some buddies. The golf foursome included Obama’s Chicago pal Eric Whitaker, UBS America executive Robert Wolf and a White House aide. Obama spent the morning at the beach with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia.

From the LA Times: Congresswomen hear economic, unemployment woes at Inglewood event

…hundreds of people from Los Angeles-area communities…gathered Saturday to share their stories of hardship and to urge local members of Congress to push corporations to help fix the economy and devise ways to put people back to work. Three Democratic U.S. representatives attended the event: Maxine Waters and Karen Bass of Los Angeles and Laura Richardson of Long Beach….
The recession has slammed Los Angeles County, where 1 in 4 workers are jobless or underemployed, according to Good Jobs LA. This summer, L.A. businesses announced 5,700 layoffs, the jobs advocacy group said.

At the same time, corporations are hoarding almost $2 trillion in cash but failing to invest in jobs, the advocacy group said. The group also cited skyrocketing bonuses for many chief executives and big tax breaks for some of the nation’s largest companies.

Warren Buffet recently asked President Obama to raise taxes on the rich for the good of all. Another multi-billionaire, David Koch, disagrees with Buffet that rich Americans should sacrifice anything for their country.

America’s current tax system forces people making $50,000 a year to pay a higher rate than hedge fund managers making $2.4 million an hour. Warren Buffett penned an op-ed last week declaring that America’s super-rich have been “coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress.” Lamenting the numerous tax loopholes and special breaks afforded to billionaire investors, Buffett noted that in his entire career, even when capital gains rates were as high as 39.9 percent, he never saw anyone “shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain.”

Charles Koch, head of the massive petrochemical, manufacturing, and commodity speculating Koch Industries corporation, has responded to Warren’s call for shared sacrifice: “No Thanks.” In a statement to right-wing media, Koch states:

Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good; this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending. I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.

Yeah, like supporting wingnuts like Scott Walker and Paul Ryan is good for our country. I’d like to see Koch’s fortune confiscated. Maybe we need to bring back the guillotine?

Romney's home in La Jolla, CA

Speaking of rich A$$holes, Mitt Romney has decided that his $12 million mansion in La Jolla must be enlarged–he wants the already huge house to be four times as big.

LA JOLLA — GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, scheduled to attend a series of fundraisers this weekend in San Diego, is also working on plans to nearly quadruple the size of his $12 million oceanfront manse in La Jolla.

Romney has filed an application with the city to bulldoze his 3,009-square-foot, single-story home at 311 Dunemere Dr. and replace it with a two-story, 11,062-square-foot structure. No date has been set to consider the proposed coastal development and site development permits, which must be approved by the city.

The former governor of Massachusetts purchased the home three years ago. According to a description from the listing agent, the Spanish-style residence at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac is sophisticated and understated in its décor, “offering complete privacy and unsurpassed elegance.”

Tentative plans call for new retaining walls and a relocated driveway, but would retain the existing lap pool and spa.

Just how many homes does this man own anyway? Slate Magazine says “just” two. He had a huge house in Massachusetts, not too far from where I live, but he sold it in 2009 for $3.5 million.

I guess after he used (screwed) our state to set up his run for President, he decided to clear out and move his con man act to California. He also sold a “$5.25 million, 9,500-square-foot ski villa in Deer Valley, Utah,” according to Slate. Time calls that “the new frugality.” He’s hanging onto a home in New Hampshire apparently. Where’s that guillotine?

In science news, from Clive Cookson at the Financial Times: Life on earth came from space

The existence of amino acids in space has already been proved by the analysis of meteorites that have struck earth, and comet samples collected in space during Nasa’s Stardust mission. It has been harder to prove that traces of nucleobases found in meteorites were not the result of contamination after they arrived – but the new study seems to do so, while showing that nucleobases reach earth from space in greater diversity and quantity than scientists had thought.

The Nasa team analysed samples of 12 carbon-rich meteorites, including nine found in Antarctica (a rich collecting ground), and detected guanine and adenine, two of the four nucleobases that make up DNA. They also found three related molecules known as nucleobase analogues, a discovery which provides confirmation that the organic compounds in meteorites come from space.

“You would not expect to see these nucleobase analogues if contamination from terrestrial life was the source, because they’re not used in biology,” says Michael Callahan, lead author of the study, which appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “However, if asteroids are cranking out prebiotic material, you would expect them to produce many variants of nucleobases, not just the biological ones, because of the wide variety of ingredients and conditions in each asteroid.”

Further confirmation came from an analysis of Antarctic ice, taken from near where the meteorites were collected, which showed no trace of the compounds.

Wait…. you mean life didn’t originate in the Garden of Eden?

In related news, a court has ruled that a teacher who made fun of creationism and Christianity cannot be sued for expressing her opinions.

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that a California teacher could not be sued for criticizing Christianity and Creationism during a college-level European history course.

“This was a really important ruling for academic freedom,” University of California constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, who took on the case pro bono, told The Orange County Register. “There has never been a precedent set for something like this before. Teachers should be able to criticize religion just like they can criticize government, business and similar groups without the fear of being sued.”

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a lower court’s decision, which held that teacher James Corbett violated a student’s First Amendment rights by making comments during class that were hostile to religion in general, and to Christianity in particular….

Corbett said during his class that serfs opposed social, political and economic [sic] that were in their best interest because of religion, compared Creationism to “magic,” and made twenty other comments that then-sophomore Chad Farnan alleged were disparaging to Christians.

Oh, did I mention this was a college course? Good grief!!

That’s all I have for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Bomb Scare at John Boehner’s Ohio Office

Let them eat cake.

WCPO TV, Cincinnati

WEST CHESTER, Ohio – A bomb squad was called to House Speaker John Boehner’s West Chester office Sunday.

A West Chester officer on patrol spotted three black suitcases at the door of Boehner’s office around 11:30 a.m.

West Chester police and fire and the Butler County Bomb Squad responded to the scene.

The bomb squad spent two hours disrupting the packages one-by-one with a robot to ensure the area was safe.

Police said there were no bombs in the suitcases, only papers…There were messages on each of the briefcases that included the words “jobs and oil.”

Hmmmm…are some of Speaker Boehner’s unemployed constituents getting frustrated? I wonder what “included the word” means? Were there other words on the suitcases other than “jobs and oil?” What was on the papers in the briefcases?

Cincinnati.com reports that

Boehner’s Cincinnati-Dayton Road office has been the scene of several protests in recent weeks.

Last week, Boehner’s local staff locked the office door and refused to meet with members of Service Employees International Union and union groups when about 125 protestors showed up chanting immediately in front of the office.


Sunday Reads: Pigs, Pigs and more Pigs

Unlike the pigs that reared their ugly heads yesterday...this little guy is cute.

Good Morning, as I begin to write this post on Saturday night…I’m watching the last few minutes of the Lightning vs Bruins hockey game. Lightning just won! Waahoo! 5 to 2 (Hey, been a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning since they were playing exhibition games at the Florida State Fair Grounds.)

Okay…on to this mornings reads.  Gonna start things off with the Pigs. They really seemed to be rooting around Saturday. We had lots of big fat oil Pigs, a teary eyed bone Pig,  a jackass GOP Governor Pig and one particularly vile French Pig.

Gaddafi, a dictator Pig with a fancy for plastic surgery, dragged the press out to a funeral Saturday to bury what he said were nine imams, killed during a NATO strike in Brega. However, the dead were not buried in the “prestigious” cemetery in Tripoli, instead the propaganda laden funerals took place in a “windblown” cemetery, near a highway overpass overlooking an idle port.

As Libya Buries Airstrike Victims, Mourners Hint at Deception – NYTimes.com

Louafi Larbi/Reuters

A crowd of about 500 gathered Saturday to bury nine people killed in a NATO airstrike. The Libyan government said the dead were imams, but some of the mourners suggested otherwise.

Earlier in the week, the propaganda apparatus had been focused on a gathering of tribal leaders in support of Colonel Qaddafi. Now, the deaths of the imams appeared to lay the ground for marshaling an even wider body of opinion. Calling the NATO attackers “crusaders” set the tone, as did the assertion, common in all the bombings, that NATO was lying when it identified the Brega target as a “command-and-control” center for pro-Qaddafi forces.

But the funeral itself seemed strangely flat, at least in political terms. For one thing, despite the location being broadcast on Libyan state television, and circulated in cellphone text messages, barely 500 people showed up, in a city of two million. No important government officials attended. For all the browbeating directed at foreign reporters by mourners who vowed their love for Colonel Qaddafi and their hatred for NATO, the event, taken as a whole, seemed underwhelming.

Part of the problem lay in the contradictions and uncertainties that flowed from official accounts, and those given by the mourners.

According to officials, the nine coffins, with bodies wrapped in the green of Islam, were those of the dead Muslim clerics. But some mourners offered differing counts. Two men whispered that their uncles, among those being buried, were soldiers, and one of those said the man concerned had been dead for weeks. Another identified one of the dead as a driver.

The NYT reports that Obama has yet again given in to the GOP’s favorite pastime, no not the PLUB “Save a Fetus and Defund Planned Parenthood” campaign.  I guess you could call it their second favorite pastime, that “Drill baby Drill” one they chant quite often.  Obama Shifts to Speed Oil and Gas Drilling in U.S. – NYTimes.com

President Obama, facing voter anger over high gasoline prices and complaints from Republicans and business leaders that his policies are restricting the development of domestic energy resources, announced Saturday that he was taking several steps to speed oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters.

It was at least a partial concession to his critics at a time when consumers are paying near-record prices at the gas pump. The Republican-led House passed three bills in the last 10 days that would significantly expand and accelerate oil development in the United States, saying the administration was driving up gas prices and preventing job creation with antidrilling policies.

Administration officials said the president’s announcement, which included plans for expanded drilling in Alaska and the prospect of new exploration off the Atlantic coast, was intended in part to answer those arguments, signal flexibility and demonstrate his commitment to reducing oil imports by increasing domestic production.

Why doesn’t Obama just declare himself a Republican and get it over with.

On to the flooding in the Mississippi Delta region of Louisiana. Dakinikat had a most excellent article about the decision to open the floodgates of misery down in her neck of the woods.  If you did not read it yesterday, stop what you are doing and read it now…then come back and read the links below.  You will get a better perspective of the situation.

Miss. River closing would cost U.S. $300m per day – CBS Evening News – CBS News

As Coast Guard debates closing the Miss. River and the Port of New Orleans – one of the nation’s busiest – businesses hold their breath

As many as 25 barges broke loose near Baton Rouge today. Two of them hit a bridge before they could be secured. Another danger from the Mississippi River flooding looming late Saturday is the possible shutdown of the river as a waterway for shipping.

[…]

“Every day that this river is closed, the detrimental economic consequence not to New Orleans but to the entire United States is $295 million a day and it grows exponentially after the fourth day,” said Gary Lagrange, CEO of the Port of New Orleans.

I have become so jaded about the way news of this flood is being reported and  why the gates where opened.  You can click the link above if you want and read about it all, I just don’t feel like commenting now.

MoJo has a great post about the environmental consequences of opening up the floodgates.

Does a Monster Flood Have to Fuel a Monster Dead Zone Too? | Mother Jones

Sediment-laden water pours into the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. Credit: Norman Kuring, Ocean Color Team.Sediment-laden water pours into the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. Credit: Norman Kuring, Ocean Color Team.


As you can see from the image above, a lot more than water comes down a river. The Mississippi and its distributary, the Atchafalaya River, carry an average of 230 million tons of soil into the Gulf of Mexico every year. On flood years, the total runs a lot higher.

That’s going to cause downstream problems this year… all the way downstream to the ocean. But before we go there, let’s take a quick look at how the system works.

It’s a very informative article, so check it out.

Juan Cole wrote a piece this past week on the problems with State Universities accepting money from big corporations and “wealthy cranks”

The Koch Brothers and the End of State Universities | Informed Comment

The real scandal around the endowment by the Koch brothers of two chairs at Florida State University is that state universities now have to seek such outside money and accept strings. The reason they have to do so is that many state legislatures have chosen not to have state universities any more. At many ‘state universities’ the state contribution to the general operating fund is less than 20 percent, falling toward 10 percent.

This abandonment of their responsibilities to higher education on the part of the states hurts students in the first instance. Institutions that used to be affordable to students from working and lower middle class backgrounds are now increasingly out of reach for them. State universities are becoming the new Ivies, a good bargain still for the upper middle class and the wealthy, but a distant dream for the daughter or son of a worker in a fast food restaurant.

This development is also scary because it promotes the corruption of academia.

Cole does a great job as usual, I’ll highlight one the best lines:

Rich people are good at making money. They aren’t necessarily good at academic skills. In fact, many are downright hostile to academic knowledge that brings into question their shibboleths.

Damn straight!

Remember that favorite diversion of the GOP and PLUBs, the one where they piss on Women’s Rights. Not to mention wiping away affordable healthcare for the same barefoot and pregnant women they just pissed on. Check this out: In BoehnerWorld, It’s “Women and Children Last!” » New Deal 2.0

Continuing the attacks on women and children is creating stormy seas for the Speaker.

Like the notorious first-class passengers on the Titanic who scrambled ahead of women and children into the lifeboats, Boehner & Co. act as if leaving women and children to fend for themselves as they shovel money towards America’s wealthiest is the proper response to an economic crisis.

[…]

But for the GOP, it’s the economic titans who deserve our largess in the form of reduced tax burdens. In a time when many families are barely making ends meet, Boehner actually told Matt Lauer recently that asking the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes was “totally off the table”.

Dakinikat already discussed this declaration from the Boehner. What an ass.

Gabby Giffords is heading to FLA once again, lets hope this time she gets to see her husband take off on the Shuttle Program’s last flight into space. Gabrielle Giffords, space shuttle Endeavour ready again: U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and space shuttle Endeavour are ready again to launch. – OrlandoSentinel.com

NASA’s remaining worry is a slight one: a 30 percent chance of bad weather because of the possibility of high crosswinds and cloud cover at Cape Canaveral on Monday morning. Liftoff is scheduled for 8:56 a.m. for a mission rescheduled a half-dozen times since last summer.

With the recent news about the horrifying numbers of rape in the Congo, this book review from the New York Times Sunday Book Review seems appropriate.  Book Review – Dancing in the Glory of Monsters – The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa – By Jason K. Stearns – NYTimes.com

Michael Kamber for The New York Times

A rape vicitm in Livungi, Congo, 2010.

The fighting has left tens or even hundreds of thousands of women gang-raped and led to what may be millions of war-­related deaths; at its peak, some 3.4 million Congolese (the only one of these tolls we can be remotely sure of) were forced to flee their homes for months or years. But it draws little attention in the United States. As Jason K. Stearns, who has worked for the United Nations in Congo, points out, a study showed that in 2006 even this newspaper gave four times as much coverage to Darfur, although Congolese have died in far greater numbers.

One reason we shy away is the conflict’s stunning complexity. “How,” Stearns asks, “do you cover a war that involves at least 20 different rebel groups and the armies of nine countries, yet does not seem to have a clear cause or objective?” “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters” is the best account so far: more serious than several recent macho-war-correspondent travelogues, and more lucid and accessible than its nearest competitor, Gérard Prunier’s dense and overwhelming “Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe.”

[…]

The task facing anyone who tries to tell this whole story is formidable, but Stearns by and large rises to it. He has lived in the country, and has done a raft of interviews with people who witnessed what happened before he got there. Occasionally the chain of names of people and places temporarily swamps the reader, but on the whole his picture is clear, made painfully real by a series of close-up portraits.

The review goes on to mention that Stearns does seem to go a bit easier on Rwanda in this book, compared to his UN Report on DR Congo…which I found here:

DR Congo: UN-mandated group finds evidence Rwanda, army aiding rival rebels

Interesting? I’ll let you know if it’s a good book…just started reading it.

This next link is for you history buffs, it is a list of Carnivals put together by different history bloggers. Carnivals are a list of links in various categories of history…it is like our morning reads in a way.   Carnival Roundup | History News Network 

Here is an example, give this carnival link a look:

Carnival of Geneology, 105th edition, featuring the technology of genealogical research, is up at Creative Gene.

Cool huh?

From Minx’s Missing Link File: Okay, no monkey in your pocket jokes…this guy was serious about his luggage packing skills.  Careful, that’s real leopard: man smuggles half a jungle in first class | World news | guardian.co.uk

A Thai vet treats a panther cub rescued from the luggage of a suspected wildlife trafficker

A Thai vet treats a panther cub rescued from the luggage of a suspected wildlife trafficker from the United Arab Emirates. Photograph: Freeland Foundation/EPA

A first-class passenger has been arrested at a Thai airport after being found carrying suitcases filled with baby leopards, panthers, a bear and monkeys. The animals had been drugged and were headed for Dubai.

[…].

When authorities opened the suitcases, the animals yawned, said Steven Galster, director of Freeland, who was present during the arrest. There were two leopards, two panthers, an Asiatic black bear and two macaque monkeys – all about the size of puppies.

“It looked like they had sedated the animals and had them in flat cages so they couldn’t move around much,” Galster said. Some of the animals had been placed inside canisters with air holes.

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  This one is a good one.  The Best Street Photographer You’ve Never Heard Of | Mother Jones

Photo: Vivian Maier/John Maloof Collection

Four years ago, a Chicago real estate agent stumbled upon a box of negatives. Little did he know that he’d discovered Vivian Maier.

IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO TAKE measure of Vivian Maier’s photos without taking stock of her story. She was by all accounts remarkably private, someone who didn’t always enjoy the company of other adults. And yet her photographs feel like a celebration of people—a celebration of what Studs Terkel, the late grand oral historian, liked to call “the etceteras” of the world.

Well, that should keep you busy for a while…what else are you reading today?