Saturday, October 25, 2014

An East Coast singer

Whose tour circuit fairly encompasses the the stopping points of her childhood, Amy Black sings "That Old Hurt" from her This Is Home album.

Just saying

With the year end holidays approaching

If you are comfortable and well fed have you thought of contributing to your local food bank? Not only do they provide food directly to people in time of need, but they are a major support of various soup kitchens and other feeding programs in this hugely wealthy/needy country of ours. You can give through Feeding America or directly to your local organization. If you are tapped out, you can always volunteer, they always need help.

Feeding America also has various corporate partners to boost their efforts, like Bank of America which will match every dollar donated with 2 of its own.

The difference between Japan and the US

From the pen of Signe Wilkinson

R.I.P. Jack Bruce

The Cream of British bassists.

A look at the current lack of character in America

Franco Ordonez, writing for McClatchy, examines the fragile state of the AMerican character in the face of the latest "crisis", Ebola. The disease may be ugly and deadly but the American reaction runs a close second.
The death of Crowl’s neighbor, Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient identified with Ebola in the United States, set off a wave of anxiety and fear across the country and political knee-jerking that’s becoming more and more familiar in the United States...

What happened next was predictably American: The public was rocked with nightmares about spreading microscopic viruses and bioterrorism, like the scares that followed anthrax, avian flu and H1N1 swine flu. Politicians, both Republican and Democratic, sought to score political points or prove they were willing to do more than anyone else should another case arise.

Hundreds of microphone-wielding journalists and their television cameras flooded into Dallas to speak with neighbors of Duncan’s and give minute-by-minute updates of the nurses and those who’ve been quarantined. At least two students from Nigeria who applied to a small Texas college were told they wouldn’t be admitted because of Ebola.

Elsewhere, a teacher from a Maine elementary school was placed on leave after parents worried she might have been exposed to Ebola during a trip to Dallas for an educational conference. Syracuse University rescinded an invitation to a Washington Post photographer over fears about his reporting trip to Liberia. In Washington, D.C., a bus was quarantined at the Pentagon when a passenger vomited in the parking lot.

When caught unprepared in a crisis, Americans have a tendency to see things in apocalyptic terms, said Allan Lichtman, a distinguished professor of history at American University in Washington, D.C. It may not be a uniquely American trait, but it’s one that appears we’re particularly conditioned to and bound to repeat.
Consider the panic of 300 million people over 8 cases in a nation with quality healthcare to the situation of the populations in West Africa currently dealing with the outbreak.
More than 5,000 people have died across West Africa, mainly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. With many cases going unreported and United Nations estimates that infections could be doubling every three to four weeks, the fears are that cases might reach into the hundreds of thousands by the end of the year.
Probably the fact that first person to bring Ebola to the US was black had nothing to do with our reaction, certainly much less than Fox News and the GOP brains trust but one fact is obvious to does who aren't buying into the scare. The only thing we are fearing is fear itself.

Sam Brownback fucked the entire state

Bill Maher uses New Rules to destroy Sam Brownback and rip the pandering media that supports him.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fifty Freaking Years Ago

Petula Clark, already well known in Europe, hit the big time in the United States with "Downtown".

And you thought W was bad

From the pen of Ben Sargent

Paladino shines spotlight on real purpose of charter schools

Carl Paladino, erstwhile Teabagger candidate for governor of New York, redirected himself to running and winning a seat on the Buffalo Board of Education. Having done so, Crazy Carl proceeded to use that public office for his own profit, as if it were just another building project.
Ever since developer Carl Paladino joined the Buffalo School Board more than a year ago, questions have swirled about his financial interests in charter schools. In fact, Paladino has interests in six different charter schools in Buffalo and, undeniably, makes money on them.

“If I didn’t, I’d be a frigging idiot,” he said.

But whether that means Paladino draws huge profits from charter schools or has a conflict of interest in promoting charter schools in the city is a different question altogether.

The Alliance for Quality Education, a statewide organization that advocates greater support for traditional public schools, released a nine-page report today on Paladino’s charter school interests. The report – titled “Good for Kids or Good for Carl?” – questions Paladino’s ethics and profit-taking related to charter schools. An anti-Paladino and anti-charter school rally is planned at City Hall prior to tonight’s regular board meeting.

“The profit motive is a powerful force,” said Billy Easton, executive director of the alliance, “and Paladino has a clear conflict of interest. He could abuse his power for personal gain.”

In response, Paladino spent several hours with The News answering questions and reviewing his financial files on the charter schools in which he has a partial or full-ownership stake: Tapestry, Applied Technologies, West Buffalo, Health Sciences, Aloma D. Johnson and Charter School of Inquiry, which is slated to open next year.

He said charter schools account for only 2 percent of Ellicott Development’s holdings and that no other developers have charter school holdings because they’re too risky an investment. Charter schools are only guaranteed a life span of up to five years before they must apply to the state for a charter extension.

By Paladino’s own accounting, he has invested well over $20 million in project costs for these schools over the past five years.

He said he has made deals with charter schools because he believes in them and only seeks a return on investment of 10 percent.

“No other developer would risk their money this way,” he said, “because I’m totally insane.”
he is quite correct on that last statement. According to the .pdf of the NY State Office of the Comptroller which oversees local government and accountability, Crazy Carl is probably in violation of the law so the question becomes what are we going to do about it?

It's unfair to bottom feeders

To call the people preying on the Ebola fears of the many by hawking fake cures and protections by that name. In Nature, bottom feeders serve the function of cleaning up the environment. In society, the scammers are what needs to be cleaned up.
Scammers are cashing in on Americans’ Ebola panic by offering bogus “cures” and treatments containing everything from herbal oils and dark chocolate to silver and snake venom, federal officials say.

Some websites offer personal protection kits that include full body “germ protection suits,” rubber gloves, face masks, disinfectant spray and “natural” dietary supplements that sellers claim can prevent infection.

One such site, Dr. Rima Truth Reports, at, sold personal protection packs and family protection packs that included products called “Nano Silver” and “CBD organic dark chocolate bars.” The site advertised these supposed nutrients as nontoxic treatments for Ebola, citing what it described as research funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission sent a letter last month to the New Jersey company that runs the Dr. Rima website, Natural Solutions Foundation, warning that promoting silver or chocolate as a cure for Ebola was a violation of federal law.

In response to the letter, the company posted a statement online, arguing that the agencies have no authority to regulate its products.

“FDA has been itching to ban silver and other natural remedies for decades because they are cheap, effective, compete successfully with antibiotics and are safe for everyone,” said the statement.

The company then directed readers how to donate to its legal defense fund.

The letter was one of at least three such warnings the FDA and FTC sent last month to companies for advertising products that supposedly treat or cure Ebola, the virus that’s devastated communities in parts of West Africa and killed one man in the United States.

The other two companies, Young Living and dōTERRA International LLC, allegedly claimed that essential oils of cinnamon bark and oregano could ward off Ebola and other diseases, according to the letters.

There are no FDA-approved vaccines or cures for Ebola, and experimental drugs to treat the disease are in very early stages of development, the agency said in a consumer alert.
If a fool and his money are soon parted, then we are a country of fools. And those that use the fear of others to make money are the worst of a bad lot.

UPDATE: And the latest twist is using Ebola themed e-mails to spread malware viruses to your computer.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It's time for "Another Ride"

Which just happens to be the name of this tune from New York based band Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds from their Pound Of Dirt album.

So, are you going to vote or not?

From the pen of Wiley

Republicans counting their chickens

And if you are not wealthy, oil & gas tycoon who can pay for his own health insurance but not his fair share of taxes you won't benefit from their control of Congress. As they anticipate that cursed event, the Republican/Teabaggers are reheating the same old tired proposals to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted. And along the way they hope to rape the resouces of this country for a big and fast profit, but none for you.
The proposals would mainly benefit energy industries, reduce taxes and regulations for businesses generally, and continue the attack on the Affordable Care Act. It is a mix that leaves many economists, including several conservatives, underwhelmed.

“Some of those things will help,” Matthew J. Slaughter, an economics professor at Dartmouth College, said after reviewing nearly four dozen measures that House Republicans have labeled “jobs bills.” He cited some business tax cuts, for example, even as he cautioned about the cost of such actions.

“But,” added Mr. Slaughter, who served on President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, “it just struck me as sort of a compendium of modest expectations. If you ask me, ‘What’s your ballpark guess for how many jobs are going to be created?,’ it’s just not many.”

With the prospect of Republicans’ winning control of the Senate and maintaining control of the House in the midterm elections, interest is rising over what they would do to address what polls show is voters’ top concern: economic growth and jobs.

Speaker John A. Boehner has been promoting a roster of 46 House-passed jobs bills that Republicans say could finally make it to Mr. Obama’s desk if voters put them in charge of the Senate for the first time in the president’s tenure. On Twitter, Mr. Boehner’s hashtag for the initiatives is #StuckInTheSenate.

The list includes measures to approve the Keystone XL pipeline; expand offshore oil drilling; block federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”; and open national forests to timber companies. Also making the cut were more parochial measures, like water projects in central Oregon and in California’s San Joaquin Valley, and rules allowing business owners to record phone calls or meetings with federal regulators.
What the hell! This planet will be too far gone to support your kids and grandkids so we might as well get what we can now. Amirite?

So Ottawa was attacked by one gunman

Now consider that Canadian cities were attacked by several US armies, colonial and national, and never conquered. One soldier was killed in the initial attack and the gunman was stopped by one policeman doing his job. And now the Conservative Prime Minister, in a US style over-reaction, want to enact TOUGH surveillance and detention laws.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged more surveillance and detention powers for security forces in Canada on Thursday after a gunman killed a soldier and raced through parliament before being shot dead.

Addressing the House of Commons just meters from the spot where the gunman, a reported convert to Islam, was shot dead on Wednesday, Harper said lawmakers would expedite new powers to counter the threat of radicals.

"The objective of these attacks was to instill fear and panic in our country," Harper said. "Canadians will not be intimidated. We will be vigilant, but we will not run scared. We will be prudent but we will not panic."

Harper pledged to speed up a plan already under way to bolster Canadian laws and police powers in the areas of "surveillance, detention and arrest."
By and large, the laws planned serve mainly to re-enforce a sense of fear and panic on the populace, that are useful to Conservatives for electoral purposes but generally serve no public safety function. And Canada is achieving this without the benefit of Fux Nooz spew, which has been banned in Canada for its lies, on their TV's. Brilliant!!

The act of voting needs no reason

But if you must have one, try this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

She wrote it, she sings it

With some help from her friend and erstwhile boss Mary Black. Eleanor McAvoy sings "Only A Woman;s Heart"

They never get tired of putting it on

From the pen of Tom Toles

Latest efforts to squeeze the poors

And perhaps, replace the many traditional industries by replacing them with a reborn usury industry, many states are making it easier to fuck over low income borrowers.
Over the last two years, lawmakers in at least eight states have voted to increase the fees or the interest rates that lenders can charge on certain personal loans used by millions of borrowers with subpar credit.

The overhaul of the state lending laws comes after a lobbying push by the consumer loan industry and a wave of campaign donations to state lawmakers. In North Carolina, for example, lenders and their lobbyists overcame unusually dogged opposition from military commanders, who two years earlier had warned that raising rates on loans could harm their troops.

The lenders argued that interest rate caps had not kept pace with the increased costs of doing business, including running branches and hiring employees. Unless they can make an acceptable profit, the industry says, lenders will not be able to offer loans allowing people with damaged credit to pay for car repairs or medical bills.

But a recent regulatory filing by one of the nation’s largest subprime consumer lenders, Citigroup’s OneMain Financial unit, shows that making personal loans to people on the financial margins can be a highly profitable business — even before state lending laws were changed. Last year, OneMain’s profit increased 31 percent from 2012.

“There was simply no need to change the law,” said Rick Glazier, a North Carolina lawmaker, who opposed the industry’s effort to change the rate structure in his state. “It was one of the most brazen efforts by a special interest group to increase its own profits that I have ever seen.”
Brazen is the new definition of commonplace it seems. And the poors get to take another one on the chin because every one knows they don't have a SuperPAC to buy legislators or even lobbyists to put in a good word for them. So goes another day in Paradise.

Why you should vote

Given that most Republicans wear this warning with a misplaced pride

This is a question you have to ask yourself


Four of the Blackwater mercenaries on trial for the Mansour Sq. killings in Iraq have been found guilty on most of the charges.
Four former Blackwater Worldwide security contractors were convicted Wednesday on charges stemming from a deadly 2007 shooting in Iraq.

Federal court jurors found one defendant guilty of murder and three others of manslaughter and weapons charges, roundly asserting that the shooting was criminal. The defendants showed little emotion as the lengthy verdict was read.

Seventeen Iraqis died when gunfire erupted on Sept. 16, 2007 in the crowded Nisour Square in Baghdad. The shooting inflamed anti-American sentiment abroad and helped solidify the notion that Blackwater, America’s largest security contractor in Iraq, was reckless and unaccountable.

The former contractors said that they were ambushed by insurgents and that civilian deaths were the unfortunate, unintended consequences of urban warfare.

The defendants were Blackwater guards. One of them, Nicholas A. Slatten, who the government said fired the first shots, was convicted of murder. The others — Dustin L. Heard, Evan S. Liberty and Paul A. Slough — were convicted on manslaughter and firearms charges.

The three men avoided murder charges after prosecutors missed a deadline and let the statute of limitations expire for all other charges.

Jurors in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia began deliberating on Sept. 2. They faced a complicated verdict form that ran 16 pages and required them to consider charges against each contractor for every victim. They asked few questions and offered no hints about their discussions.
Seven years later a verdict and we wait to see what the sentence will be. And those that profited mightily from these and other mercenaries are still enjoying their gains.

Record opium crop in Afghanistan

Before we invaded Afghanistan,
the Taliban had essentially eliminated opium production in all the areas they controlled. And if President Cheney and his W had not been so keen on war, we could have had bin-Laden given to us without a war. And now 13 years and too many deaths later, opium production is rising to new heights for the benefit of the Taliban.

Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has hit a record-high, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) wrote in a letter on Tuesday, calling into question the efficacy of the $7.6 billion U.S. counter-narcotics effort aimed at curbing the illicit trade – an important source of funding for the Taliban insurgency, and a major contributor to the country’s rampant corruption.

Afghan farmers grew a record 209,000 hectares of opium poppy in 2013, up from the prior record in 2007 of 193,000 hectares, according to the latest statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The country’s opium poppy cultivation was valued at $3 billion in 2013 – a 50 percent increase from the previous year – as Afghanistan continues to produce nearly 90 percent of the world’s supply.

Even worse, these figures are projected to climb as security deteriorates in rural Afghanistan and eradication efforts lose steam.

“In past years, surges in opium poppy cultivation have been met by a coordinated response from the U.S. government and coalition partners, which has led to a temporary decline in levels of opium production,” Special Inspector General John Sopko said in the letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry and other Obama administration officials.

“The recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior efforts,” he wrote.

The record-setting year was hardly surprising. Since the U.S. forced the Taliban out of power in 2001, opium cultivation in Afghanistan has generally been on the upswing.

“All efforts at counter-narcotics in Afghanistan have failed,” said Jonah Blank, an Afghanistan expert at the RAND Corporation in Washington, D.C. “You can’t wage a counterinsurgency and conduct serious opium eradication at the same time. What you’re doing is impoverishing farmers, you’re saying, ‘Trust us, and by the way we’re going to destroy your crops and leave you with nothing.’”

Until 2009, Washington favored a more aggressive eradication approach that frequently had the exact opposite effect as intended, fuelling corruption at the local level. Since Afghanistan's central government is so weak, eradication programs were typically enforced or administered by the country’s powerful warlords, with the tiny fraction of crops that were eradicated usually belonging to their political enemies.

“So the U.S. military was in the business of enriching warlords at the expense of others and always at the expense of poor farmers,” said Blank.
We went from a dicey situation to the worst of all possible worlds thanks to the incompetence, stupidity and malice of a handful of conservatives who should all now be in Leavenworth, but they aren't. At least the heroin will be cheap.

John Oliver does it again

On his Sunday show he found and illuminated another of our country's Thousand Points of Shame. This one about the translators for our military that we are leaving behind for the Taliban to do with what they will.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Have I told you about Della Mae?

Just in case I haven't here is a recent video from the 2014 Pickathon Pumphouse Sessions in Portland, Oregon. The song is "Paper Prince" from their This World Oft Can Be album.

The Supreme Court gives value for money.

From the pen of Ben Sargent

Hitting .120 is bad in baseball

But not so bad if you are a drone in the Pakistan Target Zone. It seems that some people did the actual on the ground leg work necessary to identify in some way the victims of Droney and his friends.
KARACHI: A recent research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that only 12% of drone victims in Pakistan have been identified as militants. Moreover, the research also stated that fewer than 4% of the people killed have been identified as members of al Qaeda.

The research contradicts US Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim last year that only “confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level” were fired at.

The number of US drone strikes in Pakistan has hit 400 between June 2004 and October 2013.

Of the 2,370 people killed in these strikes, 704 have been identified, of which only 295 were reported to be members of some kind of armed group.

More than a third of them were not designated a rank, and almost 30% are not even linked to a specific group.

The Bureau has a project titled Naming the Dead, which has gathered the names and details of people killed by CIA drones in Pakistan since June 2004.

According to Mustafa Qadri, a Pakistani researcher for Amnesty International, the findings “demonstrate the continuing complete lack of transparency surrounding US drone operations.”

Responding to the Bureau’s investigation, US National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said that the strikes were only carried out when there was “near-certainty” that no civilians would be killed.

“The death of innocent civilians is something that the US Government seeks to avoid if at all possible. In those rare instances in which it appears non-combatants may have been killed or injured, after-action reviews have been conducted to determine why, and to ensure that we are taking the most effective steps to minimise such risk to non-combatants in the future,” said Hayden.
Looks like what we seek and what we get aren't in the same ball park.

Is sovereignty for nations or corporations

There is gold in El Salvador
and El Salvador is perfectly happy to leave it there. There is a mining company in Australia that believes it should be allowed to dig up and poison any part of the earth that contains gold and no one can stop them. They want to dig up El Salvador or get paid for their troubles, including 4 murders of the opposition.
Those who share Pineda’s views don’t care if El Salvador remains the proverbial beggar seated on a bench of gold. They say their densely populated nation cannot absorb environmental distress from mining.

Yet the choice is not theirs.

The fate of the El Dorado gold mine won’t be resolved anywhere near this tiny Central American country. Rather, it’s being weighed by a three-judge tribunal on the fourth floor of the World Bank headquarters in Washington.

Last month, the obscure court heard eight days of arguments over whether an Australian firm, OceanaGold Corp., will get a green light for the El Dorado project, or in its lieu receive $301 million in compensation. Sometime early in 2015, the tribunal, known formally as the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, will issue its ruling.

The unusual jurisdiction is a sign of how international investment laws are empowering corporations to act against foreign governments that curtail their future profits, sometimes through policy flip-flops. Critics say it’s giving trade tribunals leverage over sovereign nations and elected leaders who presumably reflect the will of their people.

The lawsuit could put El Salvador in a dilemma: Either allow OceanaGold to mine or pay the $301 million the company says it would’ve earned from the gold.

“For us, it is very tough that three judges will be deciding this case. They’ve never been here. They’ve never asked us what we want. It is really ugly that someone is deciding our future without asking our opinion,” Pineda said.

Suspicions run deep over the project, which has spawned violence. Four mining opponents were killed from 2009 to 2011. None of the homicides has been fully resolved.
El Salvador's loss of sovereignty is the result of one of those trade treatys that are all the rage these days. And the Hobson's Choice it faces is a small preview of what we can expect from future treaties of this kind.

The Glorious R.B.G does The Texas Poll Tax

Monday, October 20, 2014

A band from Norway that sings in English

With one funky bass and a lot of fun. Katzenjammer sings "Mother Superior"

Our National House of Horrors

Tom Tomorrow reports on the timely Republican scary, terrifying House of Lies. More frightening than any high school spook set up.

A correct diagnosis

From the pen of David Horsey

Want to keep the Homunculus out of the White House?

At this point, the easiest way is to do whatever you can to get Mary Burke elected governor of Wisconsin. According to all the political pundits, if Scott Walker can't win a second term it will blow the little Kochsucker's chances right out of the water.
In June 2012, the morning after Scott Walker became the first governor ever to survive a recall election, the talk of higher office began in earnest.

Some conservatives said his victory instantly placed him in the mix of potential Republican candidates for president in 2016. Then came a memoir, and then a trip with other potential candidates to a meeting widely understood to be an audition before Sheldon G. Adelson, the casino billionaire and top Republican donor.

But that was then.

Now Mr. Walker, 46, finds himself in a political corner, locked in a rough fight to hold on to his job. But as he battles Mary Burke — a Democrat who was once the state’s commerce secretary, appointed by former Gov. Jim Doyle, but barely known statewide until this campaign — Mr. Walker’s day job is not all that is at stake. His currency as a presidential contender will surely vanish if he cannot win a second term as the governor of Wisconsin.

Even as Republicans are buoyed by hopes of retaking the United States Senate, Mr. Walker has his back to the wall. So intense is the fight that the governor, who defined himself by clashing with labor unions, is pressing to get his political base to the polls. In a state that twice has picked Barack Obama, Mr. Walker might have pursued a more centrist strategy. Instead, he is talking tough, as he did the other day here in Green Bay, pacing around a truck garage, laying out his plan to drug test people seeking food stamps or unemployment benefits.
Will Wisconsin wake up from it's four year nightmare? We hope so because it is the best way to keep the nightmare from spreading to the nation.

Scared Cheap

Or maybe people are just using what funds they have to replace their soiled underwear and clothing. Whatever the cause, Ebola is not inspiring any charitable giving to help West Africa.
Charitable giving to address the Ebola tragedy is almost nonexistent, and the relief agencies that typically seek donations after a catastrophe are mostly silent. “Have you had any email solicitations?” asked Patrick M. Rooney, associate dean at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “If there had been an earthquake or tsunami, my question would be who had solicited you and how many times? Americans aren’t giving because they haven’t really been asked.”

Ever since terrorists took down the World Trade Center in 2001, Americans have generously supported the organizations that swing into action after earthquakes, floods, cyclones, mudslides and other disasters. Propelled by the Internet and cellphones, which make giving as easy as clicking a button, Americans have donated billions of dollars to help victims of the 2004 tsunami that devastated countries around the Indian Ocean, the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, and the 2010 Haitian earthquake, among other calamities.

But the Ebola crisis is different, charity officials and experts say, though it is hard to say exactly why. Perhaps it lacks the visual drama of a natural disaster. Or it is harder for people to understand what their money can do to fight a disease with such a high mortality rate and no sure treatment. It is not even clear that providing food, housing and protective equipment will have any impact — or how those things will get where they are most needed.

“It’s just been more difficult to raise money around this,” said David Whalen, chief development officer at Partners in Health, founded by the physician Paul Farmer to help bolster health care in poor regions.

For one thing, Mr. Whalen and others said, news media coverage of Ebola did not begin to ramp up until an American missionary and a doctor working for Samaritan’s Purse contracted the virus and were taken to Atlanta for treatment in early August. The Centers for Disease Control’s first notice about the current outbreak, noting 86 suspected cases in Guinea, drew little attention four months earlier.

In addition, charities initially had little or no operations in the stricken region for which to raise money, and there was hope that the outbreak would be contained.

Médecins Sans Frontières, known in the United States as Doctors Without Borders, was on the ground at that time, working to fight the disease. But the organization saw no uptick in fund-raising until late July, said Thomas Kurmann, director of development for the United States branch.
Maybe if we tell people that if we help them over there they will stay over there.

Having destroyed almost everything necessary

For a civilized existence,
the latest Gaza Redevelopment Plan relieves Israel from any responsibility for it and sets up a series of restrictive conditions that essentially allows Israel to maintain its illegal blockade of Gaza.
A massive U.N.-supervised project to rebuild Gaza got underway earlier last week, but officials in Gaza and Ramallah are already doubtful that it will bring immediate aid to residents of the battered strip. The reconstruction plan calls for a highly intricate monitoring system, with restrictive measures on the import and distribution of building materials.

This comes at the behest of the Israelis, who have long barred the entry of basic construction materials — including cement, metal pipes and steel — into Gaza, insisting that they are "dual use" items that Hamas could use to build underground tunnels for military purposes.

A new monitoring system will place security personnel and video cameras at distribution points for construction materials, and will vet both suppliers and buyers. And a central database, linked to the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs, but available to Israeli intelligence agencies, will track material entering the Gaza Strip.

The details of this deal were revealed in a document named the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, which outlined a U.N.-brokered agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Palestinian officials have said that Gaza will need almost $7.8 billion in aid to rebuild after the recent Israeli offensive, which lasted 51 days and left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead.

On Sunday Oct. 12, donors pledged $5.4 billion to rebuild the strip, but only $2.7 billion is slated for reconstruction; the rest will support the PA's budget over the next three years.

"It's not enough. Gaza has been destroyed many times since 2000, starting with the second Intifada," said Faisal Abu Shahleh, a senior Fatah member in Gaza. "Israel destroyed all of the infrastructure."

Throughout the war, more than 60,000 houses were destroyed or damaged, forcing one in four Palestinians in Gaza to flee. Around 110,000 people remain displaced.

Approximately 1,000 industrial enterprises, including factories, were also affected. Close to 2.5 million tons of rubble will need to be removed, according to a 72-page Gaza reconstruction plan presented to donors in Cairo.

The Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism includes an Israeli-Palestinian-U.N. "high-level steering team" to oversee monitoring.

A spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry said the mechanism was designed to ensure reconstruction in Gaza is done without allowing Hamas to rebuild its military capabilities and "divert funds and products to violence."
There is no truth to the rumor that the IDF requested that bulls-eyes and GPS coordinates be painted on rooftops.

One raises our food...

The other just stinks.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Are you a 1 hit wonder if your song hits the charts twice?

This song made a small impression in 1977 when it was released but rose to #3 in 1982 when it found new listeners. Charlene sings "I've Never Been To Me".

Who do you belong to?

Not you personally, but your data as it is currently being collected in so many ways these days. Take for instance your whereabouts and driving patterns collected by police cameras along the roadways.
Monroe police have been using high-speed cameras to capture license plates in order to log vehicle whereabouts. As of July, the County’s database contained 3.7 million records, with the capability to add thousands more each day. The justification for cops having records of the whereabouts of law-abiding citizens is that the vehicles are driven in public and therefore drivers have no expectation of privacy. It’s an argument that’s at odds with the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in U.S. v. Jones. In Jones, a GPS tracking case, the court held that individuals do have an expectation of privacy when it comes to their long-term whereabouts, even when using public roads.

If cops are determined to violate this privacy, then at least they could behave more consistently. Last summer, Rochester, N.Y.’s Democrat & Chronicle filed a state open records request — more commonly called a FOIL (for Freedom Of Information Law) — for information on seven of its reporter’s license plates as well as two city and county government vehicles. After all, if such information is public when collected, why would it change merely because it’s sitting in a database?

Yet, the request was denied on the basis that releasing the data could be an invasion of personal privacy or could interfere with a law enforcement investigation. I’m skeptical of these arguments for a couple reasons. First, the reporters consented for the information to be released and the government cars belong to the public, so there is no privacy interest here. Second, the cameras are unrelated to any particular investigation. While it’s certainly possible to imagine a scenario where a criminal plots his entire movements to avoid the cameras, it feels a bit outlandish and it’s hard to see how that meaningfully compromises the cops’ ability to catch crooks.
What's mine is yours but now that it's yours, it's private.

Quote of the Day

If I get Ebola, I’m going to buy a lottery ticket.
Billy Willis, Carnival Magic passenger displaying refreshing understanding of the odds involved.

When you can't please any of those people at anytime.

From the pen of Brian McFadden

Lots of bodies, just not the right ones.

In the days since the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico a few things have changed. For the time being no new mass graves are being created, but the number of people murdered by whomever has greatly increased.
Five mass graves have already been discovered in the hunt for 43 students who disappeared last month after clashing with the local police — and another half dozen secret burial sites like this one are being tested to determine the origins of the remains inside.

Even with hundreds of soldiers, federal officers, state personnel and local residents on the trail, the search has still not confirmed what happened to the missing students. Instead, it has turned up something just as chilling: a multitude of clandestine graves with unknown occupants right on the outskirts of town, barely concealing the extensive toll organized crime has taken on this nation.

The students were reported missing after the local police, now accused of working with a local drug gang, shot to death six people on Sept. 26. Prosecutors say they believe that officers abducted a large number of the students and then turned them over to the gang. The students have not been seen since.

President Enrique Peña Nieto has declared the search for the missing students his administration’s top priority. But if anything, the hunt is confirming that the crisis of organized crime in Mexico, where tens of thousands are already known to have been killed in the drug war in recent years, may be worse than the authorities have acknowledged.

The federal government has celebrated official statistics suggesting a decline in homicides in recent months. But the proliferation of graves here in the restive state of Guerrero — including at least 28 charred human bodies that turned out not to be the missing students — has cast new doubt over the government’s tally, potentially pointing to a large number of uncounted dead.

Relatives of the students, who were training to be teachers and planning a protest against cuts to their college, agonize over the discovery of each mass grave. Some have given up searching on their own, convinced that a mafia of criminals and politicians knows where they are but are not saying.
Dead or alive their families want them back and someday maybe law and order in their society.

Just imagine this were in Utah

Or Texas or Florida or any of the unlimited gunhumper states. Now, if you live in one of those states, take a deep breath and think about how safe you would be if any the people found unqualified to own a gun in New York State because of mental instability moved to your town.
A newly created database of New Yorkers deemed too mentally unstable to carry firearms has grown to roughly 34,500 names, a previously undisclosed figure that has raised concerns among some mental health advocates that too many people have been categorized as dangerous.

The database, established in the aftermath of the mass shooting in 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and maintained by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, is the result of the Safe Act. It is an expansive package of gun control measures pushed through by the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The law, better known for its ban on assault weapons, compels licensed mental health professionals in New York to report to the authorities any patient “likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others.”

But the number of entries in the database highlights the difficulty of America’s complicated balancing act between public safety and the right to bear arms when it comes to people with mental health issues. “That seems extraordinarily high to me,” said Sam Tsemberis, a former director of New York City’s involuntary hospitalization program for homeless and dangerous people, now the chief executive of Pathways to Housing, which provides housing to the mentally ill. “Assumed dangerousness is a far cry from actual dangerousness.”
Given the choice, I would prefer we err on the side of the angels rather than the NRA who would facilitate our meeting with angels.

Who should worry about Ebola

Stolen with thanks from Syrbal

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