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Undernews For March 20, 2008

Undernews For March 20, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith


Liberal: Someone who won't take his own side of an argument - Robert Frost

The liberals can understand everything but people who don't understand them - Lennie Bruce



Sam Smith

I'm in trouble again. The proximate cause is not my failure to accept the fact that Barack Obama is as good as we're going to get as president given our fouled up election system, but that I'm not enthusiastic about it. As a fellow journalist put it, "You haven't taken the Kool Aid." I'm in trouble not for being politically incorrect, but for being politically unimpressed.

The causes for this emotional vacuity are several fold.

For one thing, I've lived in DC most of my life, a town which has been run by blacks for 40 years, which has had a black woman mayor and a black woman chair of the city council, where, for a while, women were in the majority on the council and where only one white has been elected to one of the two top positions in the over 30 years of home rule. The last time I can recall ethnicity or sex being raised as a serious concern was in the mid-90s when a black male cab driver told me he would have a hard time voting for Sharon Pratt Kelly, soon elected mayor, because she was a woman. I remember thinking, wow, that's strange. If this is the politics you know, the whole Clinton-Obama debate sounds, well, so 1970s. And the white media commenting on it sounds like a bunch of nuns discussing sex.

So it may not seem hopelessly weird for me to admit that when I see Obama my first image is not that of a black man, but of a Harvard Law School graduate. If I had to choose one stereotype that would be it, which is to say an intelligent, analytical, somewhat self-possessed and arrogant fellow of innate caution and limited imagination. The sort of person you'd want around to handle your divorce or complete your merger, but far from the prophet whose role he has been assigned.

If you examine his politics even slightly, you would be hard to find one example of Obama saying or doing anything much out of the ordinary. You will, however, find many things with which progressives would have cause to disagree: his lousy healthcare plan, his support of the Iraq war after 2002, his approval of Bill Clinton's assault on social welfare, his uninspiring record on environmental issues, his support of the war on drugs, Real ID, the PATRIOT ACT, the death penalty and No Child Left Behind.

Does this matter, and it is cause for something less than applause? I think so.

Then there are his words. The embarrassing truth is that Obama bores me. I find him platitudinous, single toned, , sometime pompous and often guilty of that classic Washington sin described once as confusing somberness with seriousness. To be sure, I don't like listening to most politicians these days, but there is something so predictable and annoyingly didactic about Obama, as though he was trying to bring a bunch of freshman students up to speed, that I tend to turn him off and read the text instead.

I have a suspicion that my reaction may be one reason why Obama has a hard time reaching less than elite whites. It's not that he can't reach across the ethnic divide; it's the class divide that keeps him apart. He talks like someone who considers himself better than his audience.

Oddly, Obama gave a not bad description of himself when he was dissin' Ralph Nader: "My sense is that Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don't listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you're not substantive. He seems to have a pretty high opinion of his own work."

If you compare Ralph Nader's own work with that of a man who was a mere state senator four years ago, you might find some excuse for the former's high opinion of himself yet be left confused by the latter's assumption that he has already paid enough dues to be president.

It is also striking that Ralph Nader and Paul Wellstone, whom Obama described as a "gadfly," come off worse than a couple of rightwing senators Obama wants to stuff in his cabinet or even his beloved former minister who has caused him such grief. And that his constitutional law advisor says he would be 'stunned' if Obama named anti-business Supreme Court justices.

Which raises the useful question: just how liberal will Obama be as president? His enthralled throng hasn't even stopped clapping long enough to ask the question.

Finally, my work leads me into a frustrating dichotomy. At some points of the day I concern myself with the often trivial distinctions we make between candidates. But then, moments later, I find myself facing news that glaciers are in their worst shape in 5,000 years, that the Iraq War may cost $1 trillion, that Bush has assaulted the Constitution again, and that the financial markets are in their worst shape in decades. And none of the candidates who stand a chance of being elected - McCain, Clinton or Obama - have anything useful or meaningful to say on such topics.

And I am reminded once again why I can't bring myself to cheer.



MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS - Two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting, and they're looking at the value gain versus the cost in American lives, certainly, and Iraqi lives.

RICHARD CHENEY (with smirk): So?

RADDATZ: So. . . You don't care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No, I think you can't be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.


GUARDIAN, UK One of the biggest fashion retailers in the US last night began an investigation into allegations that workers in India who make its clothes are being forced to work more than 70 hours a week for as little as 15p an hour. Ahead of today's high-profile opening of its three-story European store in London, Banana Republic said it was "deeply concerned" by the claims and insisted it made frequent factory visits to check that suppliers complied with the law and with the company's ethical code. . . The alleged plight of the Indian workers who are making Banana Republic's clothes will be publicized by the charity War on Want, which plans a demonstration at the opening of the London store. . . Garment workers interviewed by the Guardian near Delhi claimed they were verbally abused if they complained, saying they could be docked money for petty disputes. Other workers said they had been "coached" to lie about the amount of overtime they had to do; the overtime is meant to be capped at two hours a day.


DW GERMANY - In a blow to Berlin's efforts to boost anti-terrorism measures, Germany's highest court on Wednesday, March 19 blocked parts of a sweeping data-collection law that had prompted large protests by civil liberties. Germany's constitutional court severely curbed parts of a wide-reaching and highly controversial data collection law that requires telecom companies to store telephone and Internet data for up to six months, dealing a setback to government efforts to fight terrorism. . . It has sparked large protests by German civil liberties campaigners, privacy advocates and opposition politicians in recent months who argue it would make huge amounts of personal data vulnerable to misuse and place everybody under general suspicion of being a terrorist. Critics are also concerned that the data may be handed over to foreign intelligence agencies and could be used by entertainment companies to pursue and prosecute people who illegally download music and videos. On Dec 31, over 30,000 opponents of the law filed a class-action suit, the biggest of its kind in Germany, against the bill.


PETER DREIER, PROSPECT One of the persistent mantras of this election season is that Barack Obama's skin color may cost him the Democratic nomination (or the White House), because of racism among working-class white voters. According to conventional wisdom, white workers faced with growing economic insecurity -- blue-collar employees in manufacturing and construction, pink-collar employees in office and retail sectors -- vent their frustrations on blacks, whom they view as competing for their jobs or living off of government social programs funded by whites' hard-earned tax dollars. When those white workers get to the voting booth, their anger translates into an unwillingness to vote for black candidates. . .

There is no doubt that some working-class whites harbor such resentments against blacks, just as it true that whites and blacks hold similar sentiments about Latino immigrants, and that many Hispanics have negative stereotypes about blacks. Among low-income and working-class Americans of all colors, such cross-cutting prejudices are well documented. It isn't surprising that these attitudes are reflected in voting behavior.

But let's be clear about the class nature of racial prejudice, stereotypes, discrimination, and disparities. Wealthy whites are more likely than working-class whites to use the race card in the voting booth. Voting statistics reveal that most upper-income whites consistently vote in Republican, not Democratic, primaries, which means they don't have to vote for black or Latino candidates. And in partisan run-off elections, wealthy whites overwhelmingly vote for Republican over Democratic contenders. In the 2004 presidential contest, eight of the 10 wealthiest congressional districts voted for Bush. . .

In contrast, among white voters with family incomes between $15,000 and$30,000, 51 percent voted for Bush, and among white voters in the $30,000 to $50,000 range, 58 percent went with Bush.

It is all but certain. . . that in an Obama-McCain face-off fewer wealthy whites will vote for Obama than working-class whites whom affluent pundits are so quick to label as racist. Indeed, we've already seen a significant number of blue-collar white voters show their support for Obama in Iowa, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and other states. Yes, white working-class Democrats in economically troubled Ohio favored Clinton over Obama. But in November, most of the blue-collar Democrats, working-class independents, and union members who voted for Clinton -- in Ohio and elsewhere -- are likely to switch to Obama, not McCain. . .
Unions play a critical role in shaping white workers’ views and mobilizing them in elections. When voters' loyalties are divided between their economic interests and other concerns, union membership can be a crucial determinant. In 2004, for example, George Bush won by a 62 percent to 37 percent margin among white males. But John Kerry carried white males who were union members by a 59 percent to 38 percent difference. Bush won among white women by 55 percent to 44 percent, but Kerry won white women union members by 67 percent to 32 percent.

Similarly, gun owners favored Bush by a 63 percent to 36 percent margin, but union members who own guns supported Kerry 55 percent to 43 percent, according to an AFL-CIO survey. Bush carried all weekly church-goers by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin, but Kerry won among union members who attend church weekly by a 55 percent to 43 percent split. . .

It is the major media, owned and controlled by wealthy whites and managed primarily by upper-middle class white publishers and editors, who perpetuate racial stereotypes in their news reporting. As political scientist Martin Gilens documented in his book, Why Americans Hate Welfare, the media systematically portray blacks in stereotypical ways.

In photos and prose, the media over-represent blacks in stories about the poor and welfare. Gilens found, for example, that more than 60 percent of poor people portrayed in the media were black, when in reality blacks comprise only 27 percent of all poor people. Similar slanted images portray blacks as more likely to be on welfare and be jobless than they are in reality, reinforcing negative stereotypes.

It is upper-class and upper-middle-class whites who live in and control the wealthy suburbs that keep blacks out of their communities and their local schools. For example, they utilize exclusionary zoning, which limits the construction of apartment buildings and favors large homes on huge lots. Some might argue that this is really class, not racial, prejudice, that wealthy white suburbanites fear that allowing poor people to live nearby might lower property values. In fact, studies document that, with some exceptions, middle-class African Americans -- even those who can afford to buy expensive homes – are systematically excluded from wealthy suburbs. Banks and real estate agents contribute to this exclusion by "steering" affluent black buyers away from such areas. But the behavior of upper-class whites who sit on local zoning boards and who move to exclusive suburbs to avoid living near blacks also plays an important role. . .

While upper-middle class pundits may get some smug pleasure out of pointing to racial prejudice among America's white working-class voters, they would be more accurate if they looked up, rather than down, the economic ladder to identify who really has the power to prop up, or fix, the institutions that turn bigotry into discrimination.



CURT GUYETTE, METRO TIMES, MI - They take no satisfaction in knowing that they were right in opposing this ill-fated Iraq war from the outset. All they want is for people to listen to them now. And what they have to say is this: If we are ever going to get all of our troops out, it will be because of pressure that starts at the grassroots level and works its way up to the top of the political chain - not the other way around.

When the Bush administration was spewing its lies and the mainstream media marched behind in lockstep, trumpeting myths about weapons of mass destruction and fantasies about invading troops being greeted with tossed bouquets, members of the peace movement were trying to warn us not to make what became a mistake of epic proportions.

But America didn’t listen. The drumbeat for war was too loud, drowning out the voices of opposition. Shoved to the margins, they were all but invisible. When not being ignored by mainstream media they were on the receiving end of ridicule from squawking chicken hawks. . .

“The peace movement hasn’t been marginalized, we’ve been mainstreamed,” says Leslie Cagan, co-chair of the national antiwar coalition United for Peace and Justice. But the shift in opinion has not resulted in an outpouring of protesters taking to the streets.

Wendy Hamilton, director of the Detroit peace group Swords Into Plowshares is perplexed by the lack of outrage: “Where’s the anger? Where’s the indignation? Why aren’t people saying we were lied to and doing something about it?”

Part of the answer is cynicism, she says. People believe that nothing is going to change as long as George Bush remains in office, so why bother to protest. . .

Another factor is what might best be described as a feeling of disconnection between everyday life on the home front and the wars under way. During World War II, gasoline, tires and even food were rationed. Instead of being asked to plant victory gardens and buy war bonds in this conflict, we’re urged by our president to hit the stores and visit Disneyland as a show of patriotism.

As for Vietnam, it was the draft that motivated many young people to take to the streets. Trying to bring about an end to the war, for them, was a matter of self-preservation.

This time around, the war - as well as the one in Afghanistan that has been under way since fall 2001 - is being fought by an all-volunteer military and an army of private military contractors.

As a result, say many of the activists we talked with, the war has been reduced to a sort of background noise for the vast majority. . .








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CONSUMERIST GMAC Bank is suing mortgage company HTFC for selling improperly secured loans, which lead to the hilariously blue and aggressive deposition from HTFC CEO Aron Wider. Wilder dropped the f-bomb 73 times, frustrating the opposing counsel's attempts to get him to answer difficult questions like "Where are you currently employed?" Some of the more colorful and creative expletives from the testimony of Mr. Wider, who, according to his company website, serves as company Coprorate Information], CEO, Senior Underwriter and Radio Engineer:

Q: My question is where are you currently employed.

A: I' m not. I just told [you] I work for free.

Q: OK. You're not employed by the HTFC Corporation?

A: Hit That Fuckin' Clown. That's what it means. notes that the classy Mr. Wilder got hit by a $29, 000 sanction for his performance, despite his lawyer's claim that his abusive language was caused by an anxiety disorder.

Q: This is your loan file. What do Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald do for a living?

A: I don't know. Open it up and find it.

Q: Look at your loan file and tell me.

A: Open it up and find it. I'm not your fucking bitch.

Q: Take a look at your loan application.

A: Do it yourself. Do it yourself. You want to do this in front of a judge. Would you prefer to [do] this in front of a judge? Then, shut the fuck up.

Q: Sir, take a look--

A: I'm taking a break. Fuck him. You open up the document. You want me to look at something, you get the document out. Earn your fucking money, asshole. Better get used to it. You'll retire when I'm done.









SOCIALIST WORKER A recent study by the Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles shatters many of the myths in the U.S. about gay couples and wealth. The study, based on U.S. Census data from 2000, compares gay and lesbian couples to heterosexual couples in terms of median income, wealth (such as home ownership) and resources available to raise children. While the median income for same-sex couples' households is slightly higher than for straight couples, the figure drops significantly when raising children is factored in. Same-sex couples raising children reported a median income of $46,200, compared to $59,600 for straight couples.

A large part of this gap is due to the fact that even if same-sex couples are fortunate to enjoy domestic partner benefits, such as health insurance, those benefits are taxed. Spousal benefits for straight couples aren't taxed. One lesbian couple interviewed in Arizona described the impact of this extra tax for them. Tina Merrell estimated this penalty at about $10,000 per year to cover her partner and their child on her health insurance.

In addition, same-sex couples are far less likely at the national level to own their homes as compared to straight couples. This fact suggests that many same-sex couples do not have the same access to wealth--rather than just income--that many straight couples have.

PINK NEWS, UK The US state of Washington has signed into law a Domestic Partnership Expansion bill that will provide more than 160 new rights and responsibilities to registered domestic partners. . . In all nine US states have gay and lesbian spousal rights in some form: Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, California, Washington and Hawaii. Only Massachusetts has legalized full gay marriage.



TELEGRAPH, UK The water thrown at Sir Paul McCartney's lawyer at the end of his acrimonious divorce settlement sounded like a "waterfall", Heather Mills' legal aide has said. David Rosen, solicitor advocate who represented Miss Mills in her failed bid to keep the judge's ruling private, said the drenching of Fiona Shackleton came at the end of Monday's high pressure hearing. Although he claimed not to see the actual event, he described the moment the L500-an-hour solicitor was soaked. . . .

"All I know is that there were not any shower facilities and Fiona Shackleton's hair seemed to be quite wet. Everyone heard it, it was like a waterfall. I didn't quite see what happened but it was towards the end. It was an undignified wet. Everyone would have heard but I don't know who saw it."

When asked about Mrs Shackleton's reaction, he said: "I wouldn't like to comment but I don't think she was too happy, there were no screaming matches. But I don't think anyone was particularly that amused.

"I can't say what was going on in Heather's mind but I presume she must have been provoked in some way."

He said Miss Mills, who lost a leg in an accident in 1993, had become upset by claims apparently allegedly made by Mrs Shackleton that her disability was some "kind of an act".


ERIN MCKEAN, BOSTON GLOBE The crowd, laughing and heckling, settles down slightly as a palpably nervous person approaches the mike. There's an air of expectancy, a little current of excitement. Someone in the audience shouts something unintelligible. A beam of light illuminates the screen, and up starts the PowerPoint presentation.

The person in front of the room launches into a completely impromptu talk from a PowerPoint slide deck she has never seen before. The results are openly, gleefully absurd. . .

The phenomenon has been spreading geek to geek and conference to conference since it was invented by a German artists' group in 2005. . .

The audience laughs, cheers, and yells out suggestions as the presenters gamely struggle to link one slide to the next, transforming something that probably started life as a tedious corporate monologue into a five-minute flight of creative irony. . .

Of all the loathed tools of office oppression, PowerPoint is probably Public Enemy No. 1. Its critics liken it to a Procrustean bed for ideas, one that dilutes real passion and innovation into an endless stream of bullet points. . .

"In the hands of the wrong person [PowerPoint] and any presentation software becomes a dangerous weapon, a means of torture and incredible torments," says Holm Friebe, who invented PowerPoint Karaoke as part of the German artists' group Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur. . .

Some karaoke slides are pure cliche. ("We offer a wide range of solutions!") Others, taken out of context, feel purely, startlingly random. A chest X-ray. The planet Earth surrounded by cartoon heads. . .



NEW SCIENTIST The common practice of storing blood for more than two weeks could be proving fatal for thousands of heart surgery patients, according to a major study. Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio have found that patients who receive blood that is more than 14 days old are nearly two-thirds more likely to die than those who get newer blood. The survey of more than 9000 heart surgery patients also suggests that recipients of older blood are more at risk from blood poisoning and organ failure.



USA TODAY - Airlines are protesting a government plan that would require them to take fingerprints of foreign travelers as they fly out of the USA, saying it could create massive lines at airport check-in counters. Congress has required that the 33 million foreigners a year coming into U.S. airports be fingerprinted when they arrive and leave the country but did not specify who should take the prints. The Homeland Security Department, which currently fingerprints foreigners coming into U.S. airports, wants airlines to be responsible for taking fingerprints as these travelers leave. . . "Carriers are pulling out all the stops to kill" the proposal, said Stewart Verdery, a former Homeland Security assistant secretary for border and transportation policy. "My guess is they're going to be successful."





NEW HAMPSHIRE UNION LEADER Mayor Frank Guinta has asked state Rep. David Scannell to resign as spokesman for the Manchester school district after Scannell voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Scannell insisted he will not resign, saying his vote is a form of political speech protected by the U.S. Constitution. He also raised the possibility he would take legal action against the mayor or anyone who tries to strip away his job. In a letter signed yesterday, Guinta said Scannell's vote on the bill, which passed the House but is unlikely to become law, "permanently and irrevocably harms" Scannell's ability to serve Manchester's schools. The mayor argued Scannell's resignation is necessary to "help restore the integrity" of district anti-drug policies. . . Scannell stood by his vote yesterday, saying he believes the bill would allow young people to "get into a rehabilitative system that enables them to become functioning adults."


LA TIMES By many important measures, the U.S. military has reason to feel better about Iraq. Violence has declined, casualties are down, the president is touting the current strategy and the public's anguish has ebbed. But inside the Pentagon, turmoil over the war has increased. Top levels of the military leadership remain divided over war strategy and the pace of troop cuts. Tension has risen along with concern over the strain of unending cycles of deployments. In one camp are the ground commanders, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, who have pushed to keep a large troop presence in Iraq, worried that withdrawing too quickly will allow violence to flare. In the other are the military service chiefs who fear that long tours and high troop levels will drive away mid-level service members, leaving the Army and Marine Corps hollowed out and weakened.



DEAN BAKER, TPM CAFE The news that J.P. Morgan bought investment house giant Bear Stearns for just $236 million, or $2 a share, sent tremors through financial markets around the world today. This is company whose stock was worth almost one hundred times as much a year ago. Its building alone is valued at close to $1 billion, which suggests that all the other assets of this 85 year-old investment bank had a negative value – Bear Stearns liabilities exceed its assets. . . One person who does not have to worry is James Cayne, the recently departed chief executive of Bear Stearns. According to the New York Times, he walked with $232 million in compensation over the period from 1993 to 2006.


VERMONT PUBLIC RADIO The Vermont House gave its final approval to legislation implementing an instant run off voting system for Vermont's congressional elections. Although the Senate has already passed the bill, it faces an uncertain future because Governor Jim Douglas opposes it. The Governor says the state's current voting system works well and that there's no need to change it. . . The House vote was largely along party lines - most Republicans opposed it - most Democrats and Progressives supported it.

THE SEMINAL Hillary’s claim that "no person has ever won the White House without winning the Ohio primary, in either party,” has proven to be yet another lie; FDR, JFK, Wilson and Eisenhower all became president without winning Ohio’s primary. "Maybe what she meant to say was, as far back as she can remember,” said Herb Asher, a professor of political science at Ohio State University.

DAVID DOONAN - Earlier this evening I was elected Mayor of Greenwich, NY. Population 2,000. Not exactly a major metropolis, but a victory just the same. A fellow Green, Roger Sherman ran unopposed for Village Trustee in the neighboring village of Schuylerville.




SACRAMENTO BEE For every Californian who has celebrated March Madness or a Super Bowl by popping a few bucks into an office betting pool, proposed new state legislation is designed to help you sleep easier. Passage of the measure would remove the possibility of jail time for organizing or participating in nonprofit, all-in-fun office pools. "Folks making a friendly wager with friends or co-workers should not have to worry about committing a crime," said Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, who proposed the measure. The Lake Elsinore Republican said his goal is to make the punishment fit the offense – not to legalize office betting. . .
Under Assembly Bill 1852, violators would be guilty of an infraction, punishable by a $500 fine. Current law allows first offenders to be jailed for up to one year and fined $5,000. . . More than 40 percent of U.S. workers have participated during the past year in office pools, most of requiring wagers of less than $20, according to national surveys.


TREE HUGGER First San Francisco banned it. Then Chicago started taxing it. Now, the city of Seattle is taking action against bottled water; last week, Mayor Greg Nickels signed an executive order to stop the city from buying bottled water. That means no more bottled water at city facilities and events, which may sound like a small step, but it'll make a big difference; last year, the city spent $58,000 on the stuff (and that's not including the true cost and carbon footprint of bottled water).

BBC The Arctic is losing its old, thick ice faster than in previous years, according to satellite data. The loss has continued since the end of the Arctic summer, despite cold weather across the northern hemisphere. The warm 2007 summer saw the smallest area of ice ever recorded in the region, and scientists say 2008 could follow a similar pattern. Older floes are thicker and less saline than newly-formed ice, meaning they can survive warm spells better. . . The loss of old, thick ice has continued through the winter months, despite the unusually cold weather deriving from La Nina conditions (the other extreme of the El Nino Southern Oscillation) in the Pacific.

GARY NELSON THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC The city's solid-waste manager told the City Council last week that foreclosures and abandoned homes have made a dent in trash collections. Willie Black said that when times are good, people eat out a lot. That leads to lots of trash at commercial sites, especially restaurants. When the economy slows, people eat at home a lot. So there's more garbage to be picked up in residential neighborhoods. With the economy slowing, Black said, commercial pickups are down, as expected. But so are residential pickups. Black said he has been in the trash business 25 years, "and this is the first time I've seen this." Normally, he said, 90 percent to 95 percent of homes will set out their black barrels on collection days. In some neighborhoods that is down to 75 percent, and "when you see it go down to 75 percent, you know something's going on," Black said. . . Black said trash collections so far this fiscal year are 9,500 tons below projections. That has saved the city more than $220,000 in landfill fees and made it possible to delay buying a new truck to the tune of $177,300 and extra trash bins for almost $300,000. His department also is cutting four positions and has enough money to add a GPS system to better track where trucks are at any given time.


NY TIMES A long-awaited city study has found that the area is so choked with vehicles using government-issued parking placards that there is little if any room for those without placards - in other words, most drivers - to park. In the financial district alone, the study found that on a typical workday, there were three times as many cars without placards trying to park as there were on-street spaces for them. . . The biggest contributors to the parking crunch were vehicles with law enforcement placards, which made up 25 percent of all vehicles in the area. Additionally, they outnumbered the on-street spaces designated exclusively for law enforcement parking by more than two to one. . . Vehicles with law enforcement placards are also the most likely to park in an unsafe way, according to the study. Among the nearly 700 vehicles with placards that were spotted parked in crosswalks or at hydrants, double-parked or parked in other hazardous ways, more than half belonged to law enforcement.


WASH POST - Nineteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the old East German Communist Party is making a comeback. Known these days simply as the Left, the ex-communists have broadened their appeal by playing to Germans' anxieties about globalization, wealth distribution and welfare cuts. After scraping along for years, the Left now draws the support of one in seven Germans, some polls show -- making it the third most popular party in the country and a potential kingmaker in next year's federal election. The Left's rebound has stunned Germany's mainstream political parties, which had written off the ex- communists as a relic of the Cold War and long treated them as untouchable extremists. Instead, the Left has upended Germany's once stable political system, increasing the odds that it could come to power in a coalition government. . . The Left calls for a full restoration of welfare benefits that have been cut in recent years, a shorter workweek, a minimum national wage and a "wealth tax" on the personal assets of rich people. The party calls itself an alternative to "unbridled capitalism" and doesn't apologize for its communist past, though it does condemn the Stalin years as "a criminal abuse of socialism," according to a platform adopted by Left leaders last year.

AFTENPOSTEN NORWAY While crime in the rest of Norway has been going down, it has been quite another situation in Oslo, where personal and automobile thefts increased markedly last year. . . Oslo had the highest rate per person in Scandinavia in terms of reported crimes, with 90 reported crimes per 1,000. . . In New York, there were 22 reported crimes per 1,000 inhabitants.

SPIEGEL, GERMANY Outrage over the number of Africans who die while trying to reach Europe by boat, when all other routes of legal immigration are blocked by law, continues unabated. In the course of 2007, some 1,861 migrants died trying to cross into Europe by sea, according to the Italian monitoring organization Fortress Europe. This is only a slight improvement upon 2006, when the number of known deaths was 2,088. Yet no European government feels compelled to act to save these lives. Fishermen from Tunisia and Italy have even been prosecuted for abetting "human trafficking" because they rescued migrants at sea.

AP The oldest bordello in Hamburg's red-light district is shutting down for lack of business, according to newspaper reports . . . [The madam] blamed the decline in business on easily available Internet porn, the rise of call-girl services, and "noisy discos and dance clubs" on the same street as her business, the newspapers reported. "You can't make any big money selling sex in St. Pauli any more," she was quoted as saying, referring to the area that includes the red-light district.

AP - Pearl Cornioley, who parachuted into France as a secret agent during World War II to help arm and organize the Resistance, has died. She was 93. Mrs. Cornioley was one of Britain's greatest agents behind German lines, according to Michael R.D. Foot, a historian who has written extensively about British special operations in France. . . Mrs. Cornioley parachuted into France in September 1943 to work as a courier for an underground unit. It was thought that the Nazis were less likely to suspect a woman. She posed as a cosmetics saleswoman while delivering coded messages. When the Nazis captured the leader of her unit in May 1944, she took over the cell in the north Indre department of the Loire Valley, about 55 miles southeast of the Normandy beaches. Using the code name Pauline, she led a 1,500-member team in efforts to cut railway, road and telephone communications and start guerrilla operations. In June 1944, the month of the D-Day landings, her unit interrupted the Paris-Bordeaux railway line more than 800 times and regularly attacked convoys. . . The Nazis put her face on posters offering a 1 million franc reward for her capture.


CHIHUAHUA NEWS, MEXICO - Armando Villareal, a prominent farm activist in the state of Chihuahua, has been murdered. The 50-year-old head of the Agrodinamica Nacional organization was shot to death March 14 gangland-style in broad daylight while driving with his son in the rural town of Nuevo Casas Grandes. . .
A controversial figure, Villareal led a group of farmers with a significant presence in the northwestern section of Chihuahua state. . . Villareal was perhaps best known for leading repeated protests against Federal Electricity Commission charges for use of water wells. As a result of his militant activities, Villareal was imprisoned for more than one year beginning in 2002. The farm leader proclaimed himself the first political prisoner of the Vicente Fox era. Most recently, Villareal participated in the revived movement against the North American Free Trade Agreement. He was involved in the Pancho Villa tractorcade that traveled between Ciudad Juarez and Mexico City last January. . . Villareal's lawyer, Sergio Conde Varela, said his client and companions were followed by unidentified individuals after leaving the Ciudad Juarez airport last Thursday. The group had just returned from a Mexico City farm policy forum. In the past, Villareal was followed by agents from the Federal Investigations Agency, Varela added. . . Since the beginning of the year, more than 130 people have been killed in the northern Mexican state in incidents attributed to organized crime.

GUARDIAN, UK Latest fashion item for clubbers - earplugs Brightly colored designer earplugs should be as familiar a sight on the dance-floor as water bottles, a charity said yesterday after research suggested that nine out of 10 young people show early signs of hearing damage after a night out. A study by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People found the first symptoms of damage - dull or fuzzy hearing, tinnitus or hyperacusis (over-sensitivity to certain sounds) - in 90 per cent of young people who had spent the night at a club, gig or loud bar.
DAN REED, USA TODAY Fewer planes, fewer flights and fewer jobs - that's how some U.S. airlines plan to cope with a 30% rise in fuel prices the past six weeks. Top executives from United, Delta, JetBlue and US Airways announced new fleet cutbacks, while executives from other carriers, including both global No. 1 American and top discounter Southwest left the door open for capacity cuts or further slowing of their growth

RULES OF THUMB - The probability of being on time for a college committee meeting is directly proportional to perceived importance. Corollary: New faculty and student reps will always be early. Veteran faculty will always be late.

METRO, UK One in three youngsters believes wartime prime minister Sir Winston Churchill was the first person to walk on the Moon. Worryingly, nearly three-quarters can't even identify the Moon in the night sky as the stars in children's eyes these days are more likely to be celebrities, a survey shows.



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It's sort of silly to compare anything to Eliot's fall from grace. You really can't compare it to any other situation because Spitzer was (very loudly) claiming to be cleaning up corruption and had the trust of underdogs everywhere. I can remember nothing in my lifetime as stunning and bizarre as this fall from grace. I am so glad this was found out before any more time had passed with him in Albany. I'm a life long Democrat and New Yorker but refuse to put this in any context other than the one it really belongs in. This is a case of a government official who was an enormous fraud. No one becomes like this over night. He just got arrogant enough to get caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Eliot Spitzer's betrayal of public trust, however stands to be worse than any I have known because he claimed to cleaning up the corruption and we are all are feeling hopeless under the Bush cloud. This fall by Spitzer is almost Biblical in proportions and to all of us who still believe in the system it is a blow that can't be matched. It's the hypocrisy and betrayal of trust not the fact he broke some laws that makes this so devastating.

The saddest part of all for those of us living in western NY which is so deeply hurting, is many here had pinned their hopes to his administration because he promised money to us out here for the failed economy. Buffalo is reeling since the news broke and that city is in its death throes quite frankly.


I do not condone Reverend Wright's harsh rhetoric or all of the views expressed in the aired TV segments.

As I listen to his 911 remarks, I don't hear him saying the US deserved such a vicious attack. What I hear him addressing are what he sees as associated root causes of the attacks. Reverend Wright is hardly alone in speculating beyond the, "they hate us because of our freedoms" explanation for the 911 attacks. So condemnations of his remarks should target on the specific elements he mentioned, not his right to engage in speculation about root causes.

Unfortunately, Wright's style distracts from his point about 911. To non-congregants and most unfamiliar with Wright's over the top, fire and brimstone, blunt delivery style, much of what he says is going to be lost or easily distorted

Wright also makes repeated reference to America's ruling power structure; the last I checked this country is ruled by neither the poor, middle class nor the non-white. If there is any real offense with regard to Wright's notion, it is with those who put forth a different version of reality.

I readily concede that some of the examples Reverend Wright cites are clearly debatable and understandably offensive in both form and substance. They are not comments that I find useful or acceptable. That said, we should be careful not to let style of rhetoric get in the way of honest analysis of what he says.

At the end of the day, Reverend Wright's comments are his and his alone and I'd hope that we would look beyond his fire and brimstone rhetorical style and these snippets of his work, to get a fuller understanding of the man and his work. We all deserve that, when we are to be judged in the public domain -in my opinion.

Further , as Wright's comments are not in keeping with my values , sense of decorum or standards for oratory clarity - I can denounce and reject them without hesitation , as has Mr. Obama .


When Tucker Carlson had Professor Steven Jones on his show to discuss his finding of thermate among the ruins of a WTC tower, Carlson offered this bit of advice at the end of the interview:
"People who don't believe the 9/11 Commission Report should go live in another country."

I don't have the precise quote, but that phrasing is close to the words he used. The message remains, whatever the wording. That comment was the ugliest, most bigoted, fanatical statement I've ever heard by a major TV talk show host. Carlson should have made it to Olbermann's 'Worst Person in the World' feature for such intolerance and for his total rejection of the scientific method of reasoning. Those words revealed exactly who Carlson is --- an authoritarian fanatic. - Richard L. Franklin

I'm glad *ucker is gone. He was a right-wing fruitcake who may have let his guests talk, but then he'd come back at them with ludicrous assertions and questionable facts and logical thinking. He loved to hear himself talk, and he loved kissing Repuke ass.


Oh, so Ralph is running to get even with folks who tried in an earlier election? Now, that's mature.

Ralph Nader should be a factor in this election. His fair and common sense positions, below, are opposite of those held by the three leading Demopublicans. Why vote for those who don't represent your views?
If you want a certain thing, first you have to start with that intention. Here are some basic Nader intentions:

Open up the Presidential debates - we must encourage discussion of all issues from all points of view.

Put an end to ballot access obstructionism.

Adopt single payer national health insurance - health care should not be a business, but a shared concern and responsibility of us all.

Cut the huge, bloated, wasteful military budget - at least by a little bit.

Reverse U.S. policy in the Middle East - let's pull in our idiotic and pretentious horns, repair our roads and bridges and make this country a place the world wants to visit.

Solar energy first, No to nuclear power - buy off the oil folks, and start installing solar furnaces and chimneys, ramp up wind and tidal power and wire all cars for good batteries

Adopt a carbon pollution tax.

Aggressive crackdown on corporate crime and welfare - and start enforcing those laws we already agreed to.

Work to end corporate personhood.

Repeal the Taft-Hartley anti-union law.

Adopt a Wall Street securities speculation tax - fair is fair, share the wealth.

Impeach Bush/Cheney - a must for National reconciliation and unity. Laws must apply to all, or they can apply to none. We know which choice is right and which we want.

If you agree with these ideas, ever 51% over the others, this guy deserves your vote. - Tom

Ralph Nader can only be a factor in this election if Democrats once again only manage 50%+/-1 of the electorate. Obviously, the country can't distinguish between the Republicans and Democrats. If the Democrats want to take Nader out of the race, they need to learn to lead.


- When do you start the clock on Obama's benefit from being black? Maybe it gave him a leg up (in certain segments, not in Marge Schott's Ohio, obviously) in the last six months, but how many legs down did it give him for the previous 45 years of his life?


Are Americans becoming more liberal as they age, or have the metrics delineating conservative and liberal changed drastically? What is now called conservatism or neoconservatism is really a radical movement towards the fascist corporativo estado. While the true conservative, who acts as a counterbalance to change, is the liberal of yore.


It's both stupid and scary, but it represents truth in advertising. One of the few honest statements made during the bush administration.


It's very interesting that you think it is so radical trying to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. But if you spend some time studying your Old Testament especially Daniels prophecy you might not just brush it off. Let Iran become a nuclear power and watch what unfolds.


Why do you waste your time defending scum like Spitzer? He is a moral maggot who has gotten only part of what he deserves, and I hope he gets all of it, good and hard. Among other things, he is a poster boy for prosecutorial misconduct. Trash-life like Spitzer, Mary Beth Buchanan, and their ilk have no place in American public life, must less in positions of authority and trust. I don't care who gets them, only that they are gone. Individuals who misuse the police power of the state for their personal aggrandizement are offensive, vile, and most importantly, a threat to our liberty. -wam

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