Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Or wherever your bar is

Katzenjammer with "A Bar In Amsterdam"

Income equality made simple

From the pen of Wiley

Shitholeistan learned well our lessons

As former Preznitent W might say, we guv them our democracy and freedoms.
Early this year, officials in Washington extolled a rare success in the fight against the drug trade in Afghanistan: The authorities there had imprisoned a leading opium trafficker on the United States’ kingpin list, Haji Lal Jan Ishaqzai.

The incarceration hinted at a newfound willingness by the Afghan authorities to prosecute criminals whose clout once made them untouchable. For those seeking evidence that the United States had not wasted hundreds of millions of dollars propping up Afghanistan’s criminal justice system, here was Exhibit A.

Then Mr. Ishaqzai bribed his way out of prison. He paid a lot — Afghan investigators suspect as much as $14 million, although people who know Mr. Ishaqzai say the figure was much lower. The cash went to a cross-section of people in the criminal justice system, according to Afghan and American officials.

Investigators say they are still trying to piece together what happened. But at its heart, the escape was fairly typical. For years, criminals and Taliban insurgents have been buying their way out of jail, for a fraction of what it cost Mr. Ishaqzai.

The number of people set free through corruption is difficult to track, in part because judges often cover up bribes by requiring a letter — real or forged — from local elders saying the prisoner about to be released will renounce criminality. This makes it difficult to prove whether the judge was moved by mercy or cash.
Just like in this country, it doesn't matter what you did, money talks and you walk.

Countrywide, the pile of shit that keeps on giving

And one of the things it keeps on giving is a headache to the senior management of Bank of America. The latest headache has sprung from one of the securities insurance firms seeking to recoup the millions in losses from backing the deceptively marketed shit that were Countrywide mortgages.
In a complaint filed on Tuesday in a New York state court in Manhattan, Ambac accused Countrywide of lying about how well it underwrote so-called "pay option adjustable-rate mortgage negative amortization" loans that backed the securities.

The securities were issued in eight transactions between 2005 and 2007, Ambac said.

Ambac said it faced potential claims exceeding $600 million as of Oct. 31 and that pools of loans supporting its insured certificates had suffered $3.07 billion of losses by Nov. 30. It also said it would have never guaranteed payments had it known of Countrywide's deception.

"Countrywide's fraud is borne out by the transactions' dismal performance," Ambac said...

The lawsuit shows how Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America might still face legal liability over shoddy mortgage practices predating the 2008 financial crisis, even after agreeing in August with federal and state authorities to pay a record $16.65 billion penalty to settle civil fraud charges.

Chief Executive Brian Moynihan said at a Nov. 12 conference that the bank's major regulatory and litigation costs tied to the financial crisis, including the purchases of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch & Co, were "largely behind us."
So we have another dust up between some of the Big Swinging Dicks of Finance and in the end a large sum of money will change hands and the homeowners who were fucked over will remain fucked over.

Five more gone

Now there are five less residents at the Guantanamo Bay resort facility for unlucky Muslims. Two Tunisians and three Yemenis have been resettled in Kazakhstan.
Their transfer followed a recently renewed pledge by President Barack Obama for a stepped-up push to shut the internationally condemned detention center, where most prisoners have been held without being charged or tried.

The prisoners — two from Tunisia and three from Yemen — had been cleared for release from the prison by a government task force, but could not be sent to their homelands. The U.S. has sent hundreds of prisoners from Guantánamo to third countries. But this is the first time Kazakhstan has accepted non-Kazakh detainees for resettlement. The oil-rich, Muslim majority nation accepted a Kazakh detainee in Oct. 2008 and three others in Dec. 2006.

Kazakhstan’s acceptance of the five followed extensive negotiations. Though Kazakhstan is a key ally of Russia and China, it has cultivated areas of economic and diplomatic cooperation with the West.

Kazakhstan is looking to maintain good relations with all big powers, according to Richard Weitz, a senior fellow at the Washington D.C.-based think tank Hudson Institute.

“They have a multi-vector diplomacy,” Weitz said. Kazakhstan, likely concerned that with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, worries the U.S might lose interest in Central Asia and "is striving to keep the U.S. engaged in the region,” Weitz added.

The prisoners’ release brings the prison population at Guantánamo to 127, according to a Pentagon statement. More than half are of Yemeni origin.

The U.S. government has moved 28 prisoners out of the prison this year — the largest number since 2009 — and a senior U.S. official said the quickened pace would continue with further transfers expected in the coming weeks. On December 7, the U.S. resettled six Guantánamo detainees — four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian — in Uruguay.
So far the biggest obstacle to releasing detainees, other than Republicans who believe in "Indefinite Detention Infinitely Extended", has been finding a country that will take them.

Ignorance exposes itself

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One sings and the other does too

But only Dana Kletter has made a career in music. Despite making a well received album with her twin sister, Karen Kletter has declined to continue in the music business and no more albums were made. Listen to Dana & Karen Kletter singing "We Died In August" and decide what we have missed.

And your definition is?

From the pen of Nick Anderson

It seems there is evidence

In this case e-mails and other documents show that Morgan Stanley was very mush involved in getting notorious bad mortgage lender New Century to make riskier mortgage loans, riskier than the garbage they were already churning out at the time.
Now, though, a trove of emails and confidential documents, filed in court, reveal the extent to which one of Wall Street’s leading banks, Morgan Stanley, actively influenced New Century’s push into riskier and more onerous mortgages, and brushed aside questions about the ability of homeowners to make the payments.

“Morgan Stanley is involved in almost every strategic decision that New Century makes in securitized products,” a Morgan Stanley internal report from late 2004 said, referring to the loans the bank packaged into mortgage bonds.

The Justice Department is currently examining the relationship between New Century and Morgan Stanley, and the bank’s sale of mortgage securities in the run-up to the financial crisis, according to a person briefed on the matter. After winning tens of billions of dollars from other banks, the Justice Department has turned its focus to Morgan Stanley, and is aiming to reach a settlement early next year, according to the person.

The new documents and emails, from 2004 to 2007, were recently filed in connection with a lawsuit and are not related to the Justice Department case. But they provide an inside picture of the process through which Morgan Stanley pushed New Century to issue more mortgages with burdensome conditions that would be lucrative for Morgan Stanley — including loans with balloon payments, adjustable interest rates and prepayment penalties that made them harder to refinance.

The bank appears to have gained its influence, in part, because it was regularly the largest single buyer of subprime loans from New Century.

The documents indicate that Morgan Stanley employees were aware of the low credit quality — and occasionally joked about it — even as they continued to snap up loans from New Century. A top due diligence executive at Morgan Stanley, Pamela Barrow, wrote to a colleague in 2006 sarcastically describing the “first payment defaulting straw buyin’ house-swappin first time wanna be home buyers.”
More proof that Wall St prior to the collapse was just one great big RICO enterprise. Nothing of consequence is expected to result.

Grimm's Fairy Tale Ends

Convicted tax cheat and Republican Congressman (synonyms?) Michael Grimm has announced that he will resign from Congress. In what has to be one of the grandest understatements of recent time, he declared
I do not believe that I can continue to be 100 percent effective in the next Congress
. I imagine the difficulty of counting votes from a jail cell may have influenced his decision.
The decision, reported by The Daily News earlier Monday night, is an about-face for Mr. Grimm, a former F.B.I. agent. Minutes after pleading guilty last week for underreporting his employees’ wages during a previous iteration as owner of the Manhattan restaurant Healthalicious, and admitting culpability, as part of his plea deal, to all the charges in a 20-count indictment that haunted him throughout his re-election campaign, Mr. Grimm told clamoring reporters he would “absolutely not” resign.

But Mr. Grimm’s mind apparently changed after speaking with Mr. Boehner. House rules dictate that a member convicted of a crime for which a prison sentence of two years or more may be imposed should not participate in committee meetings or vote on the floor until winning re-election. The stricture could have left Mr. Grimm’s 11th district effectively disenfranchised until 2016.

Mr. Grimm, 44, is expected to seek probation for tax evasion, despite sentencing guidelines that recommend as much as three years in prison. Judge Pamela K. Chen of United States District Court in Brooklyn made it clear in court that she would not be bound by the guidelines during Mr. Grimm’s sentencing, set for June 8. And federal prosecutors did not renounce other potential investigations into Mr. Grimm’s alleged campaign finance violations as part of his plea. But they will no longer be his political party’s problems.
The great strength of the Republicans has been their ability to manufacture one 'crisis' after another to never let the voters catch their breath. It appears that the manufacturing process is beginning to churn out some defective products. No sooner has the Orange Boehner fixed this problem caused by a Republican than he is facing another problem caused by a Republican, this one perhaps more contentious because Conservatives see no problem with Scalise.
(Mr. Boehner, who has sought to clean up his party’s reputation as Republicans prepare to take over both chambers, had a new headache to consider when the House majority whip, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, acknowledged on Monday that he had addressed a gathering of white supremacist leaders in 2002.)
Happy New Year, Orange Man!


The Army may train you to respond when you are shot at, but they give you no instructions on how to deal with being fucked over after they are done with you. One thing you can rely on, when you respond to whatever jolly rogering they give you, you can expect them to give you another one.
Military doctors had already told him he couldn’t get treatment for a head injury he’d sustained in a blast in Iraq. After the intelligence officer complained to Congress, he was fired.

But reading the notice, Helms realized it was the best outcome he could have hoped for: Investigators had concluded the military had illegally retaliated against him for blowing the whistle.

“Finally,” he told his lawyer that day in 2010. “This is going to be fixed.”

But it wasn’t. More than four years later, he still can’t get his old job back or even a new one after the Army revoked his security clearance. He still struggles to get proper medical treatment.

The case illustrates the perseverance required of defense and intelligence whistleblowers and the hurdles they encounter despite initiatives aimed at improving protections for them. Most recently, the Pentagon inspector general’s office has been accused of changing findings in his case and several others in a way that’s detrimental to whistleblowers.

“According to President Obama, everything should be hunky-dory for whistleblowers,” said Helms, a Georgia native who lives in a community outside Fort Knox, Ky. “Well, it’s not.
Whistleblowers mired in broken system

Since 9/11, defense and intelligence whistleblowers such as Greenstein have served as America’s conscience in the war on terrorism. Their assertions go to the heart of government waste, misconduct and overreach: defective military equipment, prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, surveillance of Americans. Read the full story

“The whistleblowing system has ruined my life. I’m 38 years old, and I’m wondering whether I have to move back in with my mother.”
The Army can do lots of things wrong but they will move heaven and earth to make you pay if you tell the world about it.

*BOHICA - Bend Over Here It Comes Again

You are known by the company you keep

Monday, December 29, 2014

A blast from the Big Band past

Artie Shaw with Helen Forrest singing "All The Things You Are" in 1939

And now for the rest of the year

Having reviewed the first half of 2014, Tom Tomorrow now brings us the rest of the year.

A question of turf

So it goes, on down the line

China, that great recipient of industrial outsourcing and home to erstwhile cheap labor, has been having its problems lately with workers demanding better conditions and higher wages. Showing a resourcefulness that some may admire, Chinese manufacturers are now outsourcing to a cheaper labor pool, in Africa.
Within a few years, foreign companies such as Huajian have helped build up Ethiopia's nascent footwear industry from scratch.

Today, the company employs about 3,000 workers in Ethiopia and generates $20m worth of exports by producing shoes for international brands such as Guess, Naturalizer and Toms destined for US and European markets.

With a growing number of brands such as H&M starting to source from Ethiopia and existing companies ramping up production capacity, the three percent of Ethiopia's exports that came from textiles and leather in 2013 may well double in the next couple of years, according to government estimates.

Rising production costs in Asia are the key drivers prompting manufacturers such as Huajian to look for alternative production sites. Ethiopia seems to be ticking many of the boxes for investors: abundant cheap labour, no tariffs, and a stable political environment.

Entry-level salaries in Ethiopia range from $35 to $40 per month, significantly below average Chinese manufacturing wages of $629 per month, a figure reported to have tripled between 2000 and 2010.

In Bangladesh, textile workers are required to earn at least $68 per month, which represents an increase in minimum wages following the deadly collapse of a factory building in April, and criticism of working conditions there.

Ethiopia, however, has no minimum wage except for public servants.

"We do have a labour law in this country, which is in line with international standards, but the government will not actually intervene in setting the minimum wage," Aklilu Woldemariam, director of investment promotion at Ethiopia's Investment Agency, told Al Jazeera.

The absence of a minimum wage means that market dynamics determine the salaries of factory workers. With urban unemployment at about 18 percent, workers must often accept whatever wage is offered, or have no income at all.
The perfect labor pool, for the time being.

Drinking water, for fun and profit

But if the bill passed by the New Jersey Senate is signed into law, and you just know His Fatness will sign a giveaway like this in a heartbeat, Hew Jersey residents may find there is no fun in paying bloated water bills to insure profits to the new corporate owners of their water system and no say on the sale either. And they will get the privilege of paying back the purchase price in their new bills.
A bill that would allow New Jersey municipalities to sell their public water utilities to private, for-profit corporations without putting the measure to voters is awaiting Gov. Chris Christie’s signature.

Until now, any municipality in New Jersey that sought to sell off its water system to a private bidder had to hold a public vote. But a bill passed with bipartisan support by the state’s Senate last week would allow municipalities with aging and deteriorating water systems to put their systems up for sale without holding a referendum.

While supporters of the bill say privatizing water systems could save municipalities money, it allows companies to factor the purchase price of the systems into the rates they charge customers, meaning taxpayers could ultimately be on the hook for the sale of their water systems.

Many New Jersey municipalities have turned to privatization as a way to get quick cash infusions for their deteriorating water systems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the state would need $41 billion over the next 20 years to repair its water, stormwater and wastewater systems.

“We’re an old, industrial state, and water infrastructure was built a long, long time ago,” said Lawrence Hajna, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, which has not taken a position on the bill. “We’ve spent billions on upgrading, but there’s still a lot more to do.”

If the bill is enacted, New Jersey would join several other states, including Illinois, Pennsylvania and California, where ballot measures are not required to sell water systems to private developers.

“This is sort of a solution looking for a problem, because the option to privatize is already there. You just have to go to the voters,” said Mike Cerra, the director of government affairs at the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, an association and lobbying group for the state’s 565 local governments. “For much smaller things, you have to go to the voters. When you consider that water is one of the most valuable assets a municipality has, then [the sale of a water system] should go to the citizens too.”

The bill comes after years of sales of water systems in New Jersey to private companies.

About 300 of New Jersey’s municipalities, accounting for about 45 percent of the state’s population, have privately run water systems, according to the New Jersey Utilities Association, a trade group. In November voters in Camden approved the sale of their water system to New Jersey American Water, a subsidiary of American Water, one of the largest private water companies in the U.S. The state far outpaces the U.S. in water privatization; overall, only 13 percent of Americans are served by private systems.
So if your water system needs rehabilitation you can raise taxes or raise your water bills to a private company that will need to include profits and the purchase price in their billing. And this is a better idea how? I can understand why the political powers in New Jersey want to bypass voters in selling out.

A numbers game

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Here is a rare bit of Welsh singing

Cerys Matthews singing "Into The Blue"

Words do have meaning

From the pen of Jim Morin

13 years of waste formally ends

It wasn't a big or flashy ceremony, not after 13 years of waste and futility and 3,500 deaths for no purpose, but it was the formal end of the combat mission in Shitholeistan.
The war in Afghanistan, fought for 13 bloody years and still raging, came to a formal end Sunday with a quiet flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul that marked the transition of the fighting from U.S.-led combat troops to the country's own security forces.

In front of a small, hand-picked audience at the headquarters of the NATO mission, the green-and-white flag of the International Security Assistance Force was ceremonially rolled up and sheathed, and the flag of the new international mission called Resolute Support was hoisted.

U.S. Gen. John Campbell, commander of ISAF, commemorated the 3,500 international soldiers killed on Afghan battlefields and praised the country's army for giving him confidence that they are able to take on the fight alone.

"Resolute Support will serve as the bedrock of an enduring partnership" between NATO and Afghanistan, Campbell told an audience of Afghan and international military officers and officials, as well as diplomats and journalists.

"The road before us remains challenging, but we will triumph," he added.

Beginning Jan. 1, the new mission will provide training and support for Afghanistan's military, with the U.S. accounting for almost 11,000 of the 13,500 members of the residual force.

President Ashraf Ghani, who took office in September, signed bilateral security agreements with Washington and NATO allowing the ongoing military presence. The move has led to a spike in violence, with the Taliban claiming it as an excuse to step up operations aimed at destabilizing his government.

ISAF was set up after the U.S.-led invasion as an umbrella for the coalition of around 50 nations that provided troops and took responsibility for security across the country. It ends with 2,224 American soldiers killed, according to an Associated Press tally.
The Imperial outposts will remain to continue the folly until, oh perhaps until the 12th of Never.

NY & NJ Governors value their patronage

And so what if some of the deals stink and some of the people are are on the wrong side of sleazy? Let's face it you can't get elected governor if you can't take good care of your friends. With that in mind, the two governors, Hid Fatness and Handy Dandy Andy, vetoed reform legislation that was passed by unanimous votes of both state legislatures.
The governors of New York and New Jersey, defying the unanimous votes of both their Legislatures, on Saturday rejected a bill aimed at curbing political interference and patronage at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, more than a year after lane closings at the George Washington Bridge set off a scandal that looms over the agency to this day.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, announced the veto of the bill just hours before a midnight deadline and in the face of almost-unheard-of bipartisan support.

Because the authority is governed by both New York and New Jersey, approval is needed by both Legislatures to make changes in its structure and operations. On Saturday night, the anger over the governors’ rejection of the bill was felt on both sides of the Hudson River.

“It’s appalling and disappointing,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a Democrat of Bergen County, N.J., who sponsored the bill in Trenton, adding: “The Legislatures of New Jersey and New York crossed party lines to pass Port Authority reform. The governors crossed party lines to obstruct it.”...

In place of the bill, Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Christie on Saturday recommended instead the acceptance of the findings of a special panel the two governors had formed in May. In a joint news release, they outlined a variety of proposals for the authority, including the adoption of a single chief executive and other administrative changes; restructuring its board; a new mission statement; and the creation of a “chief ethics and compliance officer.” The governors — who retain wide powers over the authority — will also request and consider offers of resignation from all of the current commissioners.

In addition, the governors announced support for a bill that would apply the Freedom of Information Law to the authority, pending some minor modifications.
It takes a lot of money to be President and both His Fatness and Handy Dandy Andy want to be President. And by gently massaging one of their more important sources, they hope to avoid a costly, to them, reform of this important agency. And by doing so, they may have denied themselves the opportunity to be President.

Salmon or almonds

For most people the choice would be easy because there are many more places for almonds to grow than there are for salmon to spawn. But the current drought in California is set to cause great damage to almond growers in affected areas.
California’s almond orchards have been thriving over the past decade and now provide an $11 billion annual boost to the state economy. Covering 860,000 acres, they account for 80 percent of world production. But the growth coincides with another record development here — drought — and the extensive water needs of nut trees are posing a sharp challenge to state water policy.

Farmers in the area where almond production has been most consistent have relied on water from a federally controlled project that draws its supply largely from the Sacramento River. But that source is less reliable because of legal requirements that in a time of scarcity, waterways that nurture California salmon must also get available water flows.

Growers, some very wealthy, tried to get Congress to change those rules but failed. Also, new state groundwater legislation may eventually constrain farmers’ well drilling.

Almonds “have totally changed the game of water in California,” said Antonio Rossmann, a Berkeley lawyer specializing in water issues. “It’s hardened demand in the Central Valley.”

Farmers are planting almonds because, as permanent crops, they do not need to be replanted after every harvest. They have been steadily taking over from cotton and lettuce because they are more lucrative. “That’s the highest and best use of the land,” said Ryan Metzler, 45, who grows almonds near Fresno.

The problem is that not only do almonds and pistachios, another newly popular nut, need more water, but the farmers choosing permanent crops cannot fallow them in a dry year without losing years of investment.

Now the state is putting new controls on the groundwater that has gotten many farmers through the brutal drought — which still looms over the state, despite recent rains — and there is no certainty that the future of almond and pistachio orchards in areas like the western San Joaquin Valley is secure.

So almond growers are determined to be granted the water they need to keep their crops from dying, particularly in the Westlands Water District in the San Joaquin Valley, where 15 percent of the fields are covered with almond trees, up from 5 percent about 15 years ago. They chafe at the rise in the 1990s of environmental restrictions designed to help the survival of salmon species threatened by two generations of water diversions.
What they could get away with in wet times is no longer supportable in dry times. It will come down to who has the biggest clout, the fish or the nuts.

Too many who say they are Christian

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Brandi Carlile has a new album coming soon

In March. Until then she has a video of one of the tunes, "The Eye". Brandi is ably supported by The Twins.

Some ideas for trash disposal

From the pen of Ted Rall

R.I.P. Buddy DeFranco, 91

Not many people left who play the that old licorice stick. None who played as well as you.

Parts is parts

And those who sell organs for transplant are none too fussy about where those parts come from. And given the profits to be made from fresh young organs, some dealers are not the least bit deterred by legal niceties or penalties in their hunt for new sources.
Five days after his kidnapping, the body of 6-year-old Harun-ur-Rashid was discovered dumped in wetlands near Sirajganj, north of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. The child’s kidneys were cut out — a victim of the country’s black market organ trade.

After Harun disappeared from the village of Tebaria on April 22, the boy’s father, Abdul Hannan, feared the worst and contacted authorities.

One arrested suspect told police Harun was drugged before being taken under a bridge where three waiting men had arrived from Dhaka. The suspect said a surgeon performed the operation on the spot, according to local media reports.

“Five days later [police] called to say they had found his body near another village,” Abdul Hannan recounted. “I went to collect him and could see where they had cut into his back.”...

The people of Tebaria live in the crushing poverty of rural Bangladesh and in fear of local banditry. Some described lawlessness — accentuated by ineffective and corrupt local authorities — and said 15 local children were killed the same way as Harun in the past year. Dhaka's police department did not respond to a request for comment.

“It’s a very dangerous situation here, and we can’t trust the people who do these crimes will face justice. Nothing will happen to the kidnappers,” said Kulshed Alom, a member of a local community watch program...

The Bangladeshi judiciary is rife with nepotism and embezzlement and lacks independence, according to U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, a Norwegian research body. This has allowed the black market trade in human organs to flourish, according to Monir Moniruzzaman, an anthropology professor at Michigan State University who has spent the past 12 years researching the trade’s commodification and exploitation of poor Bangladeshis.

In addition to people being kidnapped and their organs stolen, some willingly sell their organs on the black market through local brokers who contact regional and national syndicates to facilitate medical procedures and find buyers for kidneys and livers. Desperation, combined with a lack of law enforcement, enables brokers to entice impoverished Bangladeshis with offers of easy money.
People so desperate they will sell parts of their bodies are not enough to supply the trade, so they get them where they can.

Another victim of Ebola

Sex. What with a deadly disease being spread by bodily fluids, kissing and intercourse can become the fatal gift you give your loved one.
It has been four months since Messia Dukuray has had any physical contact with her husband. They don’t sleep in the same bed, hug or even share food. Her husband is a surgeon at a hospital in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, and although he doesn’t treat Ebola patients, they decided to be extra safe.

Eleven doctors in Sierra Leone have died from Ebola since the outbreak began, and she worries about her husband’s safety. They have been married for three years, and she said abstaining from any physical contact or affection is one of the most difficult things she’s had to do.

The deadly virus ravaging Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, including semen, saliva, sweat, diarrhea and vomit. Fear over contracting or spreading the virus has transformed romantic relationships and affected how people interact in general.

“I really want to have kids, but we don’t do anything — no kissing, no sex,” said Dukuray sitting on her porch in Freetown. “I need my husband, but it just seems too risky.”

This Ebola outbreak, which has killed nearly 7,000 people, began in Guinea and then spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia. There have also been cases in neighboring West African countries, the United States and Europe. On Dec. 9, the World Health Organization said Sierra Leone has overtaken Liberia as the country with the most cases.

Over 2,000 people had died from the virus in Sierra Leone as of Dec.19, according to the country’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation’s latest figures, released Dec. 19.

Men who survive Ebola also have to take precautions in the months after having the virus. According to the World Health Organization, Ebola can be present in the semen of survivors for up to three months after they have recovered. The organization advises Ebola survivors to abstain from sex for three months to protect their partners from infection.
A cruel, cruel disease.

A Consertvative foundation of wrong

Friday, December 26, 2014

Happy Boxing Day

Now take off your boxing gloves and listen to some pop fluff from Susanna Hoffs, "Picture Me"

More government regulations

It seems that the National Park Service is thinking ahead these days.
The National Park Service announced today that, responding to popular demand, it is preparing rules and regulations for pissing on the grave of Dick Cheney.

“It’s important to remember,” said a spokesman, “That Cheney does not have an actual grave at this time since he is not dead. However, public interest in pissing on his grave makes it increasingly urgent to have plans in place.”

“Ordinarily, we do not encourage urinating in public places. However, Cheney is so universally hated that we see no practical way of keeping it from happening, and have decided instead to regulate it like any other recreational activity.”

Once the final resting place of Dick Cheney is determined, NPS will conduct hydro geological studies to determine the likely drainage. “This is an important health measure,” said the spokesman, “Remember, the grave will house the rotting remains of Dick Cheney, a heavy load on the well being of whatever community it curses. We may have to install a large septic field as it is. Charging a small fee for pissing on Cheney’s grave may be the only way to recoup those costs.”
I think a small fee is appropriate when the public health is at stake.

That was then, this is now.

From the pen of Jim Morin

“If nobody sees you, it’s allowed”

The "nobody" being whichever authority figure who will arrest or evict the homeless of NYC from whatever public facility that are using to snatch a moment of comfort from. New York City does make an effort to provide shelter for all, but those who avoid them cite a lack of safety as the reason for staying away.
Deborah Absalam, who said she has lived on the streets since 1997, has come to rely on the bus terminal for shelter and other facilities.

The 55-year-old woman describes sneaking a wash in the Port Authority bathroom each morning. It’s prohibited, but can be done. “If nobody sees you, it’s allowed,” she said standing in the basement of nearby Penn Station, where Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, the Long Island Railroad and city subway lines converge.

Her daily routine — sleeping on trains, bathing in public bathrooms, relying on about $5 worth of panhandling change to buy breakfast — is all too common for those down on their luck in New York City.

The charity Coalition For The Homeless estimates that as of September there were 58,000 people in the city shelters. But shelters can be dangerous for vulnerable members of the homeless community, according to those who opt to stay away.

According to a New York City census conducted earlier this week,(PDF) "Of the 58,913 individuals in shelter there are 12,316 families with minor children and 2,135 adult families. There are 11,357 single adults."

The city's Deptment of Homeless Services said that according to an annual estimate last conducted in January 2014 about three to four thousand people sleeping outside each night in New York. The agency said it could not respond to "anecdotal" accounts of dangerous conditions at indoor havens for the homeless, adding that many families sleep each night at public facilities.

“In New York City, there is a legal right to shelter all eligible families and individuals in need," the DHS said in a statement. "This mandate requires us to provide a comprehensive system of services to homeless New Yorkers, treating them with dignity and respect.”

“It’s OK if you like playing razor tag,” said Joe, 25, a young man who begs to feed a heroin habit that he says he’s trying to quit. Razor tag refers to the slashing of someone with a razor, then running away. Afraid of violence, Joe said he only stayed a few nights at a shelter before he selected to sleep on the sidewalk instead.
So it goes with the least among us.

What do you have when the war is over?

Unexploded bombs, shells and leftover landmines, oh my! The amount and distribution depends on the scope of the war, but even in Europe, a century after WW I, there are areas where shells remain deadly. Advanced technology does not indure every bomb or shell explodes when it should. And landmine technology is specifically designed to make them difficult to find and disarm.
For more than a century, the United States has used landmines, cluster munitions and other highly explosive ordnance during conflicts around the world, and sold or given these deadly weapons to dozens of other nations so they can use them.

Long after those conflicts ended, the deadly debris from these so-called explosive remnants of war continues to kill and maim countless thousands of people. The damage they cause to whole communities and regions by barring access to fields, roads and commercial centers is incalculable. They have crippled the economies of developing nations, especially those trying to mount post-war reconstruction efforts.

No one knows for sure how many active landmines and cluster munitions are thought to be scattered throughout the world, but experts’ estimates run as high as 100 million of them in 68 countries. Tens of millions of others remain stockpiled around the world, waiting to be planted or dropped.

Since 1993, the US has spent more than $2.3 billion on programs to clean up all of this unexploded ordnance, to assist victims and to eliminate aging stockpiles of these munitions. The US has aided in the complete cleanup of 15 countries, with more than 90 countries receiving some form of demining assistance from Washington.

That makes the US government, by far, the world leader in efforts to rid the world of these “hidden killers,” as the State Department described them in a landmark 1994 study.

Since then, there has been a sharp reported decline in landmine casualties.

Earlier this month, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), released its annual report on the 17th anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty, which has now been signed by 162 nations.

The ICBL said landmine casualties, “perhaps the most brutal and indiscriminate residuals of wars past,” had fallen 25 percent from the previous year, to 3,308 victims. As in previous years, the vast majority were civilians, at 79 percent. Nearly half were children.

That made it the lowest number of recorded injuries and deaths by buried explosives since a global disarmament group began tracking these numbers in 1999. Back in 1994, more than 26,000 people were killed or injured.
Ordinance disposal is dangerous, time consuming and expensive. It is the expense that hinders clearance efforts. But the expense is not nearly as much as finding them by chance.

Bernie will decide by March.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has announced that he will decide by March 2015 if he will run for president. If Sanders chooses not to run, Hillary Clinton may not have much of a challenge for the Democratic nomination in 2016.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Time to dance off that Christmas feast

Lindi Ortega "All I Want For Christmas Is A Cowboy"

The making of a classic

Few people can hear the opening notes of "Linus and Lucy" without recognizing it and possibly remembering the first time they heard it. Tom Maxwell gives us a brief vision of how that and the rest of the soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas came to be.
One day in 1964, television producer Lee Mendelson got a call from jazz musician Vince Guaraldi about the documentary score he was working on.

“I gotta play something for you,” Guaraldi told him. “It just came in my head.”

So he wouldn’t forget, Guaraldi performed a playful, uptempo piece over the phone. It started with a 12-note left-hand introduction that is somehow both complementary and at odds with the right-hand melody that comes in four bars later, as if describing two different personalities. What Mendelson heard that day is the first performance of “Linus and Lucy,” better known as the Peanuts cartoon theme.

Guaraldi and Mendelson were creating, through perseverance and providential accident, a brilliant soundtrack and one of the most popular Christmas albums of all time. That record, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” is a wondrous mix of traditional and original material, scored for a jazz piano trio.

100 years ago today, an event that scared the generals shitless

This re-enactment from "Oh What A Lovely War" gives an idea of what happened on the day that the generals feared their men would fight no more. A fear so great that some generals did order artillery shelling to break up the fraternizing. They need not have feared for after Christmas, both sides went back to killing each other with the same industrial zeal as before. For almost 4 more years.

And 43 years after this came out we are no closer to what John wanted.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Silent Night

Deanna Durbin

"O Little Town Of Bethlehem"


Will you get it?

From the pen of Ted Rall

To keep troop deployment to a minimum

The US is reverting to its bad habit of hiring mercenaries to fill out the necessaries. Whether they are hired gunsels or hash slingers for the mess hall, they keep the number of actual soldiers down despite costing more than traditional means of the military taking care of its own needs.
The U.S. government is preparing to boost the number of private contractors in Iraq as part of President Barack Obama's growing effort to beat back Islamic State militants threatening the Baghdad government, a senior U.S. official said.

How many contractors will deploy to Iraq - beyond the roughly 1,800 now working there for the U.S. State Department - will depend in part, the official said, on how widely dispersed U.S. troops advising Iraqi security forces are, and how far they are from U.S. diplomatic facilities.

Still, the preparations to increase the number of contractors - who can be responsible for everything from security to vehicle repair and food service - underscores Obama's growing commitment in Iraq. When U.S. troops and diplomats venture into war zones, contractors tend to follow, doing jobs once handled by the military itself.

"It is certain that there will have to be some number of contractors brought in for additional support," said the senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity...

There are now about 1,750 U.S. troops in Iraq, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week ordered deployment of an additional 1,300.

The U.S. military’s reliance on civilians was on display during Hagel's trip to Baghdad this month, when he and his delegation were flown over the Iraqi capital in helicopters operated by State Department contractors.

The problem, the senior U.S. official said, is that as U.S. troops continue flowing into Iraq, the State Department's contractor ranks will no longer be able to support the needs of both diplomats and troops.

After declining since late 2011, State Department contractor numbers in Iraq have risen slightly, by less than 5 percent, since June, a State Department spokesman said.
This all seems very familiar.

When the steel turns to rust

What does a town do to replace the mainstay industry? For the town of Bethlehem PA, the answer lies in the Christmas tradition begun 2000 years ago in a town of the same name in Judea.
For those who lost their jobs, Christmas tourism is a “long, ongoing Christmas miracle every year,” said Lynn Cunningham Collins, senior vice president of Bethlehem Initiatives at the local Great Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. In many other steel towns, like Gary, Indiana, the end of steel meant a flight of young workers to nearby metropolises where they could find work. Thanks to the resurgence of the Christmas industry and other service sector jobs — in particular at the nearby Sands Casino, a major driver of the local economy and sponsor of Christmas tourism — Bethlehem has only recently recovered its tax base after its post-steel bout with flight and employment. Bethlehem’s population fell by nearly 2,000 people around the factory’s closure at the turn of the millennium but has rebounded in recent years, thanks to jobs in service industry positions and in lower-scale manufacture at, for example, the town’s Just Born factory, which produces Peeps, the iconic marshmallow treats.

The town’s Christmas festivities include two bazaars, one in two large tents at the base of the plant’s blast furnaces, that house local artisans and performing artists. Christmas tourism draws 100,000 people annually and growing, bouncing back in the past few years since the Great Recession. Some of Bethlehem’s businesspeople — selling everything from their signature star ornaments to smoked meats — say they make close to a third of their annual income at the town’s Christmas events.

There’s no room at the inn on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem – local hoteliers say they are booked. But what may come as bad news for weary travelers is heralded as a sign of good tidings by business authorities like Cunningham Collins.

It’s not just a tenuous link to Christmas that Bethlehem is selling, Cunningham Collins insists, although Bethlehem’s Middle Eastern counterpart, where Jesus was born, is 5,756 miles away. According to local lore, Moravian settlers conceived of the name at a Christmas celebration after singing a verse of the hymn “Jesus, Call Thou Me”: “Not Jerusalem, lowly Bethlehem/ ’Twas that gave us Christ to save us/ Not Jerusalem, favored Bethlehem! Honored is that name.”

When locals sing carols like “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” Cunningham Collins says, “We know it’s not about our Bethlehem, but we still feel that it’s our Bethlehem.”

And the town has a history of cashing in on Christmas in times of trouble.

“In the 1930s, during the height of the Depression, the local Chamber of Commerce wanted to take advantage of this whole concept of being Christmas City USA, sending letters to chambers of commerce throughout the USA,” dubbing Bethlehem a destination for families looking for a festive destination to visit, said Charlene Donchez Mowers, president of Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites.
If it worked once before, why not give it another try. Just watch out for infestations of evangelicals.

Your morning Pope

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Thus beginning a tradition of Christmas travel

"We Three Kings Of Orient Are" sung by Kings College Choir

Kim Jong Pudge vs Sonyzilla

From the pen of David Horsey

After all these years, do they remember the word Yes?

That is the problem that faces bullgoose Koch stooge Mitch McConnell as he preares to assume the Senate Majority Leadership post. After all, the last 6 years have been dedicated to keeping the nigger in the White House from having any success and the Republican caucus, like a herd of cattle, is not easy to turn.
As he prepares to guide Republicans out of the wilderness of the Senate minority, Senator Mitch McConnell, the incoming majority leader, knows his real problem is not corralling mavericks in his party like Senator Ted Cruz. It is persuading other Senate Republicans conditioned to voting no that it is time to vote yes.

“One of my challenges is to try to convince some of my members that passing an appropriations bill is a good thing, not a bad thing,” Mr. McConnell said during an interview in which he looked ahead to assuming command of the Senate on Jan. 6. Mr. McConnell, who was instrumental in holding Republicans together against President Obama and Democratic initiatives, acknowledges that changing the mind-set of opposition he helped instill in his colleagues will be crucial to advancing legislation that will attract Democratic support and force Mr. Obama into difficult choices over whether to sign measures pushed by his adversaries. And that is why his focus will be lawmakers he thinks he can meld into a governing coalition.
After all those years of working to stop American government in its tracks, can he get it moving in the wrong direction now?

Your antibiotic doesn't work? Blame your dinner.

In its short life, the cow, pig or chicken you are about to devour has probably been fed more antibiotics than any normal human will consume in a full lifetime. And despite efforts by the FDA to curb this gross misuse of an important medical tool, farmers are finding new ways to get the antibiotics and retain their profits.
In 2016, a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration policy will give veterinarians a key role in combating a surge in antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” that infect humans. For the first time, the agency will require veterinarians, not farmers, to decide whenever antibiotics used by people are given to animals.

Medical doctors issue antibiotics by prescription only. Yet farmers and food companies have been able to buy the same or similar drugs over the counter to add to feed and water. The drugs not only help prevent disease but enable livestock to grow faster on less feed.

The new directive is meant to guard against the overuse of the drugs in American meat production. But by enlisting the help of veterinarians, a Reuters examination found, the FDA will be empowering a profession that not only has allegiances to animals, farmers and public health, but also has pervasive and undisclosed financial ties to the makers of the drugs.

The relationships between medical doctors and the pharmaceutical industry are subject to strict rules that require the public disclosure of payments for meals, trips, consulting, speaking and research.

No laws or regulations – including the new FDA directives –
require veterinarians to reveal financial connections to drug companies. That means veterinarians can be wined and dined and given scholarships, awards, stipends, gifts and trips by pharmaceutical benefactors without the knowledge of the FDA or the public.

Of the 90,000 veterinarians who practice in the United States, about 11,000 – or one of every eight – work in food animal production, according to a 2013 workforce study. Livestock and poultry specialists advise growers on health issues from insemination to birth to weaning to fattening to euthanasia. They also treat a variety of illnesses and injuries. Many train farmhands how to spot disease and administer drugs.

In some ways, the role of the veterinarian is more complicated than that of the medical doctor. For a veterinarian, the patient is the animal but the client is the owner. In the case of food production, those clients are seeking to maximize
profit, and part of the veterinarian’s job is to help them do so.
Veterinarians who advised FDA have ties to drug industry

Veterinary medicine is a little-regulated corner of the medical profession, more dependent on industry funding than its human counterparts, and Reuters found that drug companies support veterinarians at every stage of their careers. Sometimes the payments are small – $10 for a meal or $250 for an hour’s talk. But larger funding arrangements – $100,000 for research, for example – are not uncommon.

Of the 22 veterinarians who advised the FDA in recent years on how to use antibiotics on farms, 11 received money from pharmaceutical companies. Many of these details weren’t disclosed by the FDA, which wasn’t required until 2007 to post on its website “the type, nature and magnitude of the financial interests” of its advisers. Reuters identified payments to FDA advisory group members by reviewing veterinary journals, industry publications, meeting transcripts, conference programs and resumes, among other sources.

The influence of drug companies also extends to the training that current and future veterinarians receive. For example, pharmaceutical companies routinely suggest topics and speakers for the continuing education events that veterinarians must attend to keep their licenses. Such involvement is forbidden in human medicine, according to the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.
If medical doctors still prescribe dangerous painkillers for fun & profit, how can we expect veterinarians to maintain a higher standard?

Your morning Bernie

Monday, December 22, 2014

Everything should be just about ready

So you can "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" like Karen Carpenter says.

Time to review the year

And Tom Tomorrow does it in his own inimitable style. You can find the first half of the year here.

Life is a matter of choices

From the pen of Ted Rall

R.I.P. Joe Cocker

Talk about a white guy with no rhythm.

About that Iraqi nation

It seems to be having some difficulty in hanging together.
At checkpoints across Baghdad, soldiers have defied a recent order from the prime minister to remove Shiite religious flags and replace them with Iraqi ones. At schools in the northern city of Kirkuk, students have raised Kurdish flags. And in the southern port city of Basra angry citizens have designed their own flag, anchored by the image of a single drop of oil.

Then, of course, there are the black flags of the Islamic State, the extremist group in control of about a third of the country.

Perhaps not since modern Iraq was created nearly a century ago by the fusion of three Ottoman provinces — Basra, Baghdad and Mosul — have more people challenged the idea of Iraq as a unified state.

Even as the new government is scrambling to defeat the militants of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, it faces an underlying challenge that may be tougher: promoting a new sense of national identity that, even if it cannot transcend the differences between Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Kurd, at least basically holds them together as countrymen.
They have lots of ideas to bring everyone to the same page but they just can't seem to get past those pesky differences. So the question is, will they break up or will there be a new Saddam?

Cheap gas prices not a problem

Not if you don't have a car. As part of the next generations move away from cars, the use of public transport is increasing. People who found public transport could work for them are staying with it even with the drop in gas prices.
Riders like Mr. Needham get a lot of value from public transportation, as do people in many other cities where investment in transit is leading to record-high ridership rates and persuading more people to leave their cars at home despite the latest plunge in gasoline prices.

The American Public Transportation Association said Wednesday that about 2.7 billion passenger trips were taken on transit systems in the third quarter of 2014 — an increase of 1.8 percent, or about 48 million trips, over the year-ago period — the highest third-quarter number since the trade group’s records began in 1974.

Cities with increased ridership include San Francisco, Chicago and New York, all of which reported annual increases in the number of riders for the both the latest quarter and the first nine months of 2014.

The national increase, which follows a 57-year high in ridership for all of 2013, reflects improvements in the reach, trip frequency and quality of public transportation, and weakens a traditional link between gas prices and transit use, said Michael Melaniphy, president of the association.

While previous spikes in transit use resulted from increased gasoline prices, and people would typically get back in their cars when gas prices retreated, that relationship is unraveling as transit services improve, Mr. Melaniphy said.

The latest evidence of a break in the link is an increase in ridership at a time when retail gasoline prices have fallen to their lowest in more than four years, he said.

“People are saying, ‘I came because of fuel prices; I’m staying because of the experience,’ ” he said.

With 60 percent of transit trips made by people commuting to work, the increased ridership is also fueled by a strengthening economic recovery that generates more jobs, and by improvements such as more frequent service and the availability of apps that offer users real-time updates on transit services.
Cities that have not had their transit systems dismantled at the behest of Big Auto & Big Oil are seeing increased usage by people who no longer want the hassle of cars. The downside of this is that too many people live in areas where public transport does not meet their needs. And it won't until the Republican menace is smashed,

Marco thinks for himself

And about himself, to the detriment of his fellow Republicans. Despite being a prodigious fund raiser, he is tight as a tick when it comes to helping his fellow Teabaggers.
For Marco Rubio and his leadership political action committee, a lot of money comes in. But when it comes to supporting his fellow candidates, not a lot goes out.

Rubio, a Republican senator from West Miami, Fla., and a potential presidential candidate for 2016, controls a leadership PAC that topped all others this election cycle, bringing in more money than nearly 300 similar fundraising outfits in Congress, according to an analysis of federal campaign records.

Reclaim America PAC, Rubio’s leadership committee, pulled in some $3.8 million for the 2013-14 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission filings through late November. It spent just shy of $4 million, ranking No. 2, just behind the leadership PAC for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a former vice-presidential candidate.

But that’s taking into account all spending – and on one key measure, Rubio’s leadership PAC doesn’t rank nearly so high.

Rubio’s leadership committee spent $645,255 on contributions to other federal candidates or expenditures on their behalf. Among 298 PACs classified as similar to Rubio’s, Reclaim America ranked 10th in the dollar amount of such outlays.

It ranked No. 254 in the percentage of its money spent that way.

Compare that with the leadership PACs just above and below Rubio’s on spending: The leadership PAC for Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., spent $654,500 on other candidates – 65 percent of its total outlays.

The leadership PAC for Sen. Richard Durbin., D-Ill., spent $631,250 on other candidates – 74 percent of its total outlays.

Rubio’s spent 16 percent on colleagues’ races, according to a McClatchy analysis of FEC data. The analysis pulled records for all qualified congressional leadership PACS and calculated direct contributions to other federal candidates, as well as what are known as “independent expenditures” on behalf of those candidates. The average among all leadership PACs in the analysis was 48 percent.

Instead of contributions to other candidates – a typical expense for such committees – Rubio’s PAC spent the majority of its money on fundraising, strategy, research and other expenses not directly listed as supporting his fellow politicians running for office.

They are, however, expenses that could help support any eventual presidential run.
He seems to believe that helping other Republicans now is not necessary to his goal. I wonder when the others will tell him he is wrong?

Your Morning Teedie

Sunday, December 21, 2014

I would never have imagined they did a Christmas album

Back in 1968 Canned Heat recorded a Christmas album including, naturally, "Christmas Blues"

Other movies we won't see

From the pen of Brian McFadden

Is Kim Jong Pudge pissing off China too?

Because if he did, he would eliminate the last state supporter he has and a mainstay of North Korea and its economy. And in a hardscrabble country like North Korea, that would be a disaster.
When a retired Chinese general with impeccable Communist Party credentials recently wrote a scathing account of North Korea as a recalcitrant ally headed for collapse and unworthy of support, he exposed a roiling debate in China about how to deal with the country’s young leader, Kim Jong-un.

For decades China has stood by North Korea, and though at times the relationship has soured, it has rarely reached such a low point, Chinese analysts say. The fact that the commentary by Lt. Gen. Wang Hongguang, a former deputy commander of an important military region, was published in a state-run newspaper this month and then posted on an official People’s Liberation Army website attested to how much the relationship had deteriorated, the analysts say.

“China has cleaned up the D.P.R.K.'s mess too many times,” General Wang wrote in The Global Times, using the initials of North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “But it doesn’t have to do that in the future.”

Of the government in North Korea, he said: “If an administration isn’t supported by the people, ‘collapse’ is just a matter of time.” Moreover, North Korea had violated the spirit of the mutual defense treaty with China, he said, by failing to consult China on its nuclear weapons program, which has created instability in Northeast Asia.

The significance of General Wang’s article was given greater weight because he wrote it in reply to another Global Times article by a Chinese expert on North Korea, Prof. Li Dunqiu, who took a more traditional approach, arguing that North Korea was a strategic asset that China should not abandon. Mr. Li is a former director of the Office of Korean Affairs at China’s State Council...

How widespread his views have become within the military establishment is difficult to gauge, but a Chinese official who is closely involved in China’s diplomacy with North Korea said that General Wang’s disparaging attitude was more prevalent in the Chinese military today than in any previous period.
If Dear Leader Pudge loses the support of the PLA he might as well shoot himself.

When the lab was on Plum Island

We discovered Lyme Disease, named after nearby Lyme CT. It is a new and more virulent form of a familiar mild tick disease common to Cape Cod. Now that the Federal laboratory that was researching diseases for weaponization has moved to Kansas they have this.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the death of a Kansas man over the summer was caused by an incurable ailment called the “Bourbon virus,” KSHB reports.

John Seested of Fort Scott, Kansas died over the summer from organ failure after he was bitten by a tick. Tests performed on him, however, were negative for all known tick-borne illnesses and he did not respond to any of the conventional treatments for them.

“It was very frustrating,” Dana Hawkinson, the infectious diseases specialist who treated Seested told KSHB. “That’s one of the biggest problems with my job, which I love, when we can’t answer those questions, when we can’t help the patients or their families.”

His death certificate listed three causes of death, with tick-borne illness being third. His case remained a mystery until this week, when researchers with the CDC and the University of Kansas announced that Seested had died of what it was calling the “Bourbon virus,” named after the county in which he contracted the disease.

There is no vaccine for the disease — and the at the moment, there is not even a prescribed course of treatment. The CDC is investigating other tick-related deaths from the area to determine whether any of them were also caused by the newly named virus.
One can question if this is just conspiracy thinking. The real question is whether these are simply escapes from the lab or are they field testing their results?

Longing for the good old days

Happy Winter Solstice to All

For those of you who like short days, today is the best.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas songs get covered by everybody

From 1950, Kay Starr was the first to sing "(Everybody's Waiting For) The Man With The Bag"

Got to get me a street corner

From the pen of Wiley

Having carefully examined itself

The CIA has determined that those CIA agents who broke into the computer network used by staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee while it was investigating the CIA's use of torture won't be punished.
The panel will make that recommendation after the five C.I.A. officials who were singled out by the agency’s inspector general this year for improperly ordering and carrying out the computer searches staunchly defended their actions, saying that they were lawful and in some cases done at the behest of John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director.

While effectively rejecting the most significant conclusions of the inspector general’s report, the panel, appointed by Mr. Brennan and composed of three C.I.A. officers and two members from outside the agency, is still expected to criticize agency missteps that contributed to the fight with Congress.

But its decision not to recommend anyone for disciplinary action is likely to anger members of the Intelligence Committee, who have accused the C.I.A. of trampling on the independence of Congress and interfering with its investigation of agency wrongdoing. The computer searches occurred late last year while the committee was finishing an excoriating report on the agency’s detention and interrogation program.

The computer search raised questions about the separation of powers and caused one of the most public rifts in years between the nation’s intelligence agencies and the Senate oversight panel, which conducts most of its business in secret. It led to an unusually heated and public rebuke by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is the committee’s chairwoman.

Three C.I.A. technology officers and two lawyers had faced possible punishment. In their defense, some pointed to documents — including notes of a phone call with Mr. Brennan — that they said indicated that the director supported their actions, according to interviews with a half dozen current and former government officials and others briefed on the case.
And if you asked the panel if the CIA actually exists, they would probably find no evidence of that.

Down to 132

And that number will get smaller as we find ways to return those left from that stain upon the United States, the Guantanamo Bay Concentration Camp, to some semblance of civilian life.
Four Afghan detainees have been released from Guantanamo Bay and repatriated at the request of President Ashraf Ghani, the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed Saturday.

Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani and Mohammed Zahir were flown to Afghanistan after what the Pentagon called a “comprehensive review” of their case. Lawyers for Khan and Ghani said their clients were already back with their families, after more than a decade of detention without charge.

“Ghani should never have been imprisoned in the first place, let alone for more than a decade,” said Barry Wingard, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, who represents the 42-year-old Afghan farmer. “After many years of terrible treatment at the hands of his captors, Abdul returns to his homeland as innocent as the day he was taken from his family.”

The men become the latest detainees released from Guantanamo, which President Barack Obama has committed to gradually shuttering. Saturday’s release, which was coordinated with the Afghan government, leaves 132 detainees still languishing at the facility, where torture allegedly took place until 2008.

The four Afghans were cleared for release by the Obama administration back in 2010 and a deal was subsequently arranged in March of this year to send them home. It is not clear why Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who has final approval of releases, waited so long to act.

Lawyers noted that the timing of their eventual release coincides with the formal end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of most foreign troops later this month.
And still our brave Congress insists we keep the camp open at great and unnecessary expense to keep the remaining terrible supermen of terror from our shores.

A reminder from Officer Friendly

Friday, December 19, 2014

She left home at 18 Because she was gay

If you don't like it, just shut your eyes and listen to Amelia White sing "Motorcycle Dreams" from her album of the same name.

Fare Thee Well, Stephen

Even though you will still be on at 11:30

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,The Colbert Report on Facebook,Video Archive

TPM has a list of everyone they could identify.

An audio-visual exhibit

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

About that trade embargo

Republicans may get up on their high hobby horses and condemn the normalizing of relations with Cuba, but they have one major constituency that heartily disagrees with their stand, business big and small.
PepsiCo wants in. So do Caterpillar and Marriott International.

Within hours of President Obama’s historic move to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba, companies in the United States were already developing strategies to introduce their products and services to a market they have not been in for the better part of 50 years — if ever.

“Cuba is a potential market for John Deere products and services,” Ken Golden, a spokesman for Deere & Company, a leading maker of farm and construction equipment based in Illinois, said by email.

But while there may be robust opportunities for some companies, especially those selling products or goods that could be viewed as enhancing Cuba’s own domestic production or helping to develop its underused resources, other companies could get the cold shoulder.

“For a company like McDonald’s, the Cuban government is going to ask, ‘How does McDonald’s coming in and selling hamburgers help the economy of Cuba?’ ” said Kirby Jones, founder of Alamar Associates, which has advised companies on doing business in Cuba since 1974. “It’s just not going to be like other regions where you see a McDonald’s on every corner.”

Despite Cuba’s long stagnation and isolation from the global economy, the potential trade opportunities go both ways. While some Americans will be itching at the opportunity to obtain the famed Cuban cigars more easily, the country also has a surprisingly robust biotechnology industry that makes a number of vaccines not now available in the United States. Another hot spot for the economy could be mining, as Cuba has one of the largest deposits of nickel in the world.
Though all these companies will not get what they want, they may well push aside the fossil wing of the Republican party and shatter what has up to now been a remarkable lochstep unity in the Party.

The locals are cheaper to buy

And the extreme reactionary groups that strive so hard to bolshevize America found this out with education. Fresh from seriously damaging science and public education in general, they are now turning their sights on unions at the local level.
Conservative groups are opening a new front in their effort to reshape American law, arguing that local governments have the power to write their own rules on a key labor issue that has, up to now, been the prerogative of states.

Beginning here in the hometown of Senator Rand Paul and the Chevy Corvette, groups including the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heritage Foundation and a newly formed nonprofit called Protect My Check are working together to influence local governments the same way they have influenced state legislatures, and anti-union ordinances are just the first step in the coordinated effort they envision.

A carefully devised plan began to unfold last week, when the Warren County Fiscal Court met here and preliminarily approved, in a 6 to 1 vote, a “right to work” ordinance that would allow employees represented by a union to opt out of paying union fees. This week two more Kentucky counties, Fulton and Simpson, followed suit, and a dozen more are expected to do the same in the next six weeks.

Supporters of the effort say that if they are successful in Kentucky, they will try to pass similar local laws in Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other places that do not have a statewide right-to-work law. Protect My Check is promising to pay for the legal battles of any local government that tries it.

“There are literally thousands of targets for the initiative,” said Brent Yessin, an anti-union consultant and lawyer who is on the board of advisers for Protect My Check, said at a recent meeting in Washington. “Doing this county by county, city by city is more time consuming, but it’s also more time consuming and draining for the unions to fight.”
The mis-education about unions has been relentless since the advent of St. Ronnie and now the perpetrators of the rape of the working class hope to harvest the fruits of their evil endeavors.

A step in the right direction

Colorado, which has legalized and taxed medical marijuana for a few years now, is putting some of those tax dollars to good use.
Colorado health officials this week awarded $8 million in research grants to study the use of medical marijuana to treat symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease, childhood epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder. The funding comes from taxes imposed on the state-regulated sale of medical marijuana.

Colorado was one of the first two U.S. states to legalize recreational pot use, and it is among 23 states and the District of Columbia that permit use of the drug for medicinal purposes.

But the use of weed for any reason remains illegal under federal law, a situation that has long meant a dearth of funding for medical marijuana research. Results have been limited and largely anecdotal.

Sue Sisley is a doctor who received $2 million in grant money from the Colorado awards. She'll be researching the effects of medical marijuana on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. She says she hopes these first peer-reviewed studies will lead to more medical marijuana research.

"We're arming the public with real data," Sisley said. "What’s happening is, as laws are changing in various states, even elected officials, even the most conservative, are acknowledging the needs of rigorous science to understand how this plant works. Most of the research money now is only looking at harmful side effects."

In awarding eight grants for landmark peer-reviewed studies into various maladies, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said on Wednesday that it hopes to provide objective scientific research on the efficacy of medical marijuana.
After years of trying to prove the imagined dangers of weed, it is a good time to look at the benefits.

They will stay put for now

Both the US and Cuba, now that relations are going to be normalized (less any Republican whackdoodlery), the question arises as to whether the countries will seek extradition for those who fled to the other for various legal and political reasons. At this time, the answer appears to be no.

Soon after President Barack Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with Havana on Wednesday, Cuba watchers began to raise questions over potential extradition orders U.S. exiles in Cuba, specifically regarding rights activist Assata Shakur — who has been living on the island for decades.

Shakur and other black activists, including Black Panther Party (BPP) founder Huey P. Newton, fled from U.S. intelligence and security agencies in the 1960s and 1970s to Cuba, which was sympathetic to socialist ideals. Now supporters of Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard, wonder what the future holds for the 67-year-old exile.

Questions have also been raised over Cubans who fled to the United States during the same period, especially those who allegedly took part in organizing the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

But legal experts say extraditions from either country are unlikely to pass muster considering provisions contained in the extradition treaty the United States has with Cuba.

“The extradition treaty between the U.S. and Cuba went into force on March 2, 1905 … and was never revoked,” Douglas McNabb, an international criminal defense lawyer, told Al Jazeera. “Of course, when diplomatic relations were terminated, from a practical but not legal standpoint the extradition ceased between the two. But now that diplomatic relations are being renewed, the existing treaty is still in force and will not have to be renegotiated.”...

“Article six of the extradition treaty says a fugitive criminal shall not surrender if the offense is of a political character,” McNabb said. “Cuba could say we can’t extradite her based on that … we determined a long time ago that it was politically oriented and we gave her political asylum.”
Sadly, this also means that Cuba can't ask for the return of Ted Cruz's father.

A sign of serious illness

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hats and Sax

And both Tara O'Grady, singing "Black Is The Color" and Michael Hashim on saxophone can keep their hats on.

And you thought he was from Wyoming

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

R.I.P. Richard C. Hottelet

CBS Newsman and Last of ‘Murrow Boys’ When Journalists Actually Reported News, Dies at 97.

We know we won't prosecute torture

Any any level, those involved with the Bush/Cheney torture program are feeling pretty safe, as long as they don't try to travel abroad. But the International Criminal Court may still have a card to play.
The International Criminal Court quietly revealed in a recent report that it was inching toward its first-ever investigation into the alleged torture of U.S. detainees in Afghanistan. That update — which came two weeks ago, just as the White House was bracing itself for the release of Senate findings on CIA torture — seemed to send a message: If the Obama administration continues to rule out prosecuting CIA torturers, the ICC could take action.

"Certain of the enhanced interrogation techniques apparently approved by U.S. senior commanders in Afghanistan … could, depending on the severity and duration of their use, amount to cruel treatment, torture or outrages upon personal dignity as defined under international jurisprudence," read a Dec. 2 report from the ICC prosecutor's office.

In the wake of the Senate report’s release — which brought fresh assurances from President Barack Obama that alleged CIA torturers would have immunity from criminal prosecution — the ICC has emerged as potentially the only hope for those demanding that the CIA be held accountable.

It had previously seemed impossible that there would ever be such an investigation into the covert program, which was specifically crafted by the George W. Bush administration to shield the agency from prosecution. But now that the Senate has entered a potential body of evidence into public record, the door has opened slightly for the ICC to pursue a case, according to Jennifer Trahan, an ICC expert with the New York University Center for Global Affairs.

Even though the United States is not a member of the ICC, Trahan said the court may have jurisdiction to prosecute alleged violations of international law that took place on CIA black sites in member countries — including Afghanistan, Poland and Romania.

But jurisdiction is merely the first hurdle to clear before the ICC considers prosecution. The court, which is designed “to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern,” operates on a principle of complementarity, meaning it can only prosecute such crimes when a government refuses or is unable to do so. The fact that there is an ongoing Justice Department probe into CIA tactics could be problematic for the ICC, though most experts believe the court can argue that Obama’s guarantees of immunity for CIA officers would satisfy complementarity.

“Obama is trying to walk a fine line, but I think it’s an untenable position,” said Jens Ohlin, a national security law expert at the Cornell University School of Law. “If Obama believes we engaged in torture, which he’s said he does, then why aren’t we prosecuting it?”
A question whose honest answer would damn the giver.

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