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Undernews For December 11, 2008

Undernews For December 11, 2008

The news while there's still time to do something about it

611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith

11 December 2008


With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. Steven Weinberg



From an August 2008 paper by a number of scientists including Stephen Chu, Obama's choice for energy secretary. The piece is titled A Sustainable Energy Future: The Essential Role of Nuclear Energy

The Directors of the Department of Energy national laboratories strongly believe that nuclear energy must play a significant and growing role in our nation's - and the world's - energy portfolio. This conclusion is based on an analysis of national and international energy needs in the context of broader global energy, environmental, and security issues. This paper provides details regarding our position in relation to nuclear energy. It is intended to be used as a basis for further discussion with stakeholders to help in developing specific near-term actions as well as a coherent long-term strategy incorporating the items listed below:

- Make maximum use of the current 'fleet' of operating light-water reactors, including plant life extensions, extended fuel burnup, and power uprates.

- Establish a national priority to immediately deploy advanced light-water reactors to meet our nation's increasing energy demand, while limiting greenhouse gas emissions and continuing to provide critical support to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission .

- Employ an integrated approach to manage used nuclear fuel and high-level waste, including interim storage, licensing of the Yucca Mountain Repository as a long-term resource, and exploration of optimal future waste management options.

- Implement an aggressive research and development program on advanced reactors, reprocessing, waste management, and fuel fabrication concepts to enable timely identification of the technological options for a sustainable closed fuel cycle.

- Pursue partnering with other countries and implementation of an international regime that discourages the spread of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities and promotes the assurance of worldwide fuel supply and effective waste management.

- Strengthen international safeguards through aggressive R&D, thereby revitalizing U.S.

Note: In direct conflict with the above, the AP reported "He has shown little support for building a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, one of the major issues facing the department"


Becky Akers, Christian Science Monitor - Sometime in 2010, the Transportation Security Administration will stop swiping airline passengers' bottled water and cups of coffee at security checkpoints. Instead, the agency will once again permit us to carry liquids and gels aboard planes.

It's not that the TSA has finally realized mouthwash and moisturizer really can't explode, not even at 30,000 feet. Rather, it claims it has a combination of new contraptions to prove that. Advanced Technology X-ray machines, bottle scanners, and spectrometers will confirm that your unopened, factory-sealed Listerine is, well, Listerine.

In fact, chemists worldwide doubt that even the most accomplished terrorist can concoct a combustive cocktail high above the Atlantic. . .

But none of these facts seem to matter to the TSA. It needs something to justify its existence: Despite six years of patting down passengers, it hasn't reported uncovering a single terrorist. No wonder it latched onto the nonsense about liquid bombs. Ferreting out and confiscating everyday substances not only makes work for 43,000 screeners, it also fools us into thinking this protects us.

The TSA has always been a political, not practical, response to 9/11. It hassles us at checkpoints not because of penetrating insights on security or some brilliant breakthrough, but because politicians handed it power. Specialists in security didn't invent the TSA; the Bush administration imposed it on us. So we might hope the incoming president would abolish this absurd agency.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama wants to improve the TSA rather than send it packing. His suggestions for that improvement? Passengers still aren't screened against a comprehensive terrorist watch list, his website proclaims. Such a list must be developed.

Why? The watch list has already kept Rep. John Lewis (D) of Georgia and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts off planes: Will a comprehensive list bar Republican congressmen, too? That'll protect us about as well as unionizing screeners will ¬ another change the campaigning Obama said he favors.

An administration serious about preserving passengers' lives rather than screeners' jobs would dismantle the TSA. Experts in the field, not the government, should design security. . .


From a group of educators

In 1983 a National Commission on Excellence in Education issued a "Nation At Risk Report" and set in motion a series of government-imposed reforms, all based on a false goal, student achievement in curriculum. The latest of these reforms, "No Child Left Behind," put extra pressure on teachers to ignore the diverse needs of students and to standardize their education through scripted reading, writing, and math. This top-down pressure is evidence that public school teaching is not regarded as a profession in our society.

Over many years our culture has become so obsessed with curriculum we have lost sight of our purpose – curriculum for what? Student achievement in curriculum has become a false goal, an end in and of itself. Grade-point-averages have become the main indicators of achievement in education. We have a cultural cramp – a mass mind-set that spawns counterfeit reform movements.

For genuine reform of public education we must start with a clear purpose. We suggest Education for Human Greatness.

In 1973, ten years before "Nation at Risk," the teachers at Hill Field Elementary School in Clearfield, Utah decided to ask parents about their priorities for the education of their children. In interviews with thousands of parents, over several years, teachers were surprised to learn of three needs that parents felt were more important to them than the need to have a child achieve in reading, writing and arithmetic.

First, parents wanted teachers to respect children as individuals, to pay attention to each child's special needs, and to help youngsters develop their unique talents and abilities.

Second, they wanted children to increase in curiosity and passion for knowledge – they wanted children to "fall in love with learning."

And third, parents wanted teachers to help children learn how to express themselves, communicate and get along. The priorities were so consistent with nearly every parent, the teachers surmised that these may be the core needs of people in every culture – the need to know who we are and what we can become (identity), the need for knowledge (inquiry), and the need for respect and love (interaction).

This finding led to a new concept – curriculum should not be viewed as a goal, but as a tool to help students grow in identity, inquiry and interaction. Even though the concept was temporarily smothered by the standardization movement, it remained alive all these years and has now evolved to become a framework for authentic changes of public, private and other forms of education with four priorities added as shown below:

1. Identity – Help students learn who they are – as individuals with unlimited potential, develop their unique talents and gifts to realize self-worth and develop a strong desire to be contributors to family, school and community.

2. Inquiry – Stimulate curiosity; awaken a sense of wonder and appreciation for nature and humankind. Help students develop the power to ask important questions.

3. Interaction – Promote courtesy, caring, communication and cooperation.

4. Initiative – Foster self-directed learning, will power and self-evaluation.

5. Imagination – Nurture creativity in all of its many forms.

6. Intuition – Help students learn how to feel and recognize truth with their hearts as well as with their minds – develop spirituality and humility.

7. Integrity – Develop honesty, character, morality and responsibility for self.

Surprise: When reading, writing, math and other disciplines are taught as tools rather than goals, students learning produces more depth and breadth, they retain more of what they learn and are able to apply it to solve other problems. This "higher vision" allows teachers to perform as professionals who involve parents and inspire students to accomplish amazing things.


Telegraph, UK - Prominent rock bands such as Massive Attack, Rage Against the Machine and Elbow have joined forces with a legal charity to campaign against the use of music as a instrument of torture.

US military interrogators play tracks by artists such as Metallica, AC/DC, Eminem, Bruce Springsteen and even Britney Spears at deafening volume to detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

The music is blasted relentlessly in a bid to "break" prisoners, according to Reprieve, which says the practice continues despite a ban on the use of loud music in interrogations by the United Nations and European Court of Human Rights.

Using loud music "to create fear and disorient detainee(s) and prolong capture shock" was among a host of interrogation tactics authorized by then commander in Iraq Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez in a memo dated September 14, 2003. . .

Musicians backing the initiative include Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine, who at a recent concert suggested taking revenge on President George W Bush by putting him in a cell and blasting his own band's music at him.

"What we're talking about here is people in a darkened room, physically inhibited by handcuffs, bags over their heads and music blaring at them," singer-songwriter David Gray has said of the practice.

"That is torture. That is nothing but torture. It doesn't matter what the music is - it could be Tchaikovsky's finest or it could be Barney the Dinosaur. It really doesn't matter, it's going to drive you completely nuts."

According to Reprieve, some of the music used by interrogators is written for children. Christopher Cerf, who wrote music for Sesame Street, told the Associated Press he was horrified to learn songs from the children's show were used in interrogations. "I wouldn't want my music to be a party to that."

Binyam Mohamed, a Guantanamo inmate and former London resident, told Reprieve he suffered months of torture at the hands of CIA operatives while in a secret prison.

"There was loud music, (Eminem's) Slim Shady and Dr. Dre for 20 days. I heard this nonstop over and over," he said. "The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night for the months before I left. Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off."

Other supporters of the campaign include Mercury Prize winners Elbow, The Magic Numbers, James Lavelle of UNKLE, comedian Bill Bailey and The Musicians' Union, which represents more than 30,000 musicians.


Neil Clark New Statesman, UK - Socialism - pure, unadulterated socialism, an ideology that was taken for dead by liberal capitalists - is making a strong comeback. Across the continent, there is a definite trend in which long-established parties of the center left that bought in to globalization and neo-liberalism are seeing their electoral dominance challenged by unequivocally socialist parties which have not.

The parties in question offer policies which mark a clean break from the Thatcherist agenda that many of Europe's centre-left parties have embraced over the past 20 years. They advocate renationalization of privatized state enterprises and a halt to further liberalization of the public sector. They call for new wealth taxes to be imposed and for a radical redistribution of wealth. They defend the welfare state and the rights of all citizens to a decent pension and free health care. They strongly oppose war - and any further expansion of NATO.

Most fundamentally of all, they challenge an economic system in which the interests of ordinary working people are subordinated to those of capital.

Nowhere is this new leftward trend more apparent than in Germany, home to the meteoric rise of Die Linke (The Left), a political grouping formed only 18 months ago - and co-led by the veteran socialist "Red" Oskar Lafontaine, a long-standing scourge of big business. . . Die Linke's unapologetically socialist policies, which include the renationalization of electricity and gas, the banning of hedge funds and the introduction of a maximum wage, chime with a population concerned at the dismantling of Germany's mixed economic model and the adoption of Anglo-Saxon capitalism - a shift that occurred while the SPD was in government.

An opinion poll last year showed that 45 per cent of west Germans (and 57 per cent of east Germans) consider socialism "a good idea"; in October, another poll showed that Germans overwhelmingly favor nationalization of large segments of the economy. Two- thirds of all Germans say they agree with all or some of Die Linke's program.

It's a similar story of left-wing revival in neighbouring Holland. There the Socialist Party of the Netherlands, which almost trebled its parliamentary representation in the most recent general election, and which made huge gains in last year's provincial elections, continues to make headway. . .

The SP has gained popularity by being the only left- wing Dutch parliamentary party to campaign for a "No" vote during the 2005 referendum on the EU constitutional treaty and for its opposition to large- scale immigration, which it regards as being part of a neo-liberal package that encourages flexible labor markets. . .

The party calls for a society where the values of "human dignity, equality and solidarity" are most prominent, and has been scathing in its attacks on what it describes as "the culture of greed", brought about by "a capitalism based on inflated bonuses and easy money". . . .

In Greece, the party on the up is the Coalition of the Radical Left, the surprise package in last year's general election. . . .

In Norway, socialists are already in power; the ruling "red-green" coalition consists of the Socialist Left Party, the Labour Party and the Centre Party. Since coming to power three years ago, the coalition - which has been labeled the most left-wing government in Europe, has halted the privatization of state-owned companies and made further development of the welfare state, public health care and improving care for the elderly its priorities.


Greg Palast - Trial balloons lofted in the Washington Post suggest President-elect Obama is about to select Joel Klein as Secretary of Education. If not Klein, then draft-choice number two is Arne Duncan, Obama's backyard basketball buddy in Chicago. . .

Klein, who lacks even six minutes experience in the field, was handed management of New York's schools by that political Jack-in-the-Box, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The billionaire mayor is one of those businessmen-turned-politicians who think lawyers and speculators can make school districts operate like businesses. Klein has indeed run city schools like a business - if the business is General Motors. Klein has flopped. Half the city's kids don't graduate.

Klein is out of control. Not knowing a damn thing about education, rather than rely on those who actually work in the field (only two of his two dozen deputies have degrees in education), Klein pays high-priced consultants to tell him what to do. He's blown a third of a billion dollars on consultant "accountability" projects plus $80 million for an IBM computer data storage system that doesn't work.

What the heck was the $80 million junk computer software for? Testing. Klein is test crazy. He has swallowed hook, line and sinker George Bush's idea that testing students can replace teaching them. The madly expensive testing program and consultant-fee spree are paid for by yanking teachers from the classroom.

Ironically, though not surprisingly, test scores under Klein have flat-lined. Scores would have fallen lower, notes author Jane Hirschmann, but Klein "moved the cut line," that is, lowered the level required to pass. In other words, Klein cheats on the tests.

Nevertheless, media poobahs have fallen in love with Klein, especially Republican pundits. The New York Times' David Brooks is championing Klein, hoping that media hype for Klein will push Obama to keep Bush schools policies in place, trumping the electorate's choice for change. .

The anti-union establishment has a second stringer on the bench waiting in case Klein is nixed: Arne Duncan. Duncan, another lawyer playing at education, was appointed by Chicago's Boss Daley to head that city's train-wreck of a school system. Think of Duncan as "Klein Lite."

Duncan was once captain of Harvard's basketball team and still plays backyard round-ball with his Hyde Park neighbor Obama. But Michelle has put a limit on their friendship: Obama was one of the only state senators from Chicago to refuse to send his children into Duncan's public schools. My information is that the Obamas sent their daughters to the elite Laboratory School where Klein-Duncan teach-to-the-test pedagogy is dismissed as damaging and nutty.

Lawyer Duncan is proud to have raised test scores by firing every teacher in low-scoring schools. Which schools? There's Collins High in the Lawndale ghetto with children from homeless shelters and drug-poisoned 'hoods. They don't do well on tests. So Chicago fired all the teachers. They brought in new ones - then fired all of them too: the teachers' reward for volunteering to work in a poor neighborhood.

It's no coincidence that the nation's worst school systems are run by non-experts like Klein and Duncan. . .

It's not just Klein's and Duncan's empty credentials which scare me: it's the ill philosophy behind the Bush-brand education theories they promote. "Teach-to-the-test" (which goes under such pre-packaged teaching brands as "Success for All") forces teachers to limit classroom time to pounding in rote low-end skills, easily measured on standardized tests. The transparent purpose is to create the future class of worker-drones. Add in some computer training and - voila - millions trained on the cheap to function, not think. Analytical thinking skills, creative skills, questioning skills will be left to the privileged at the Laboratory School and Phillips Andover Academy.

We hope for better from the daddy of Sasha and Malia.


Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918

Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed - The most exciting and eagerly awaited title in this season's haul from the scholarly presses is Jeffrey B. Perry's study Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, just published by Columbia University Press. Well, eagerly awaited by me, anyway. . . The world at large has not exactly been clamoring for a gigantic biography of Hubert Harrison - whose name, until quite recently, was little known even to specialists in African-American political and intellectual history. But that started to change over the past few years, thanks to Perry's decades of research and advocacy. . .

A familiar account of African-American culture during the first two decades of the 20th century frames it as a conflict between Booker T. Washington (champion of patient economic self-improvement within the existing framework of a racist society) and W.E.B. Du Bois (strategist of an active struggle for civil rights under the leadership of the black community's "talented tenth"). The life and work of Hubert Harrison does not just complicate this picture; he breaks right through its frame.

A tireless organizer for the Socialist Party at the height of its influence in the years before World War I, he took the idea of solidarity among the oppressed a lot more seriously than did his white comrades. (That is putting it mildly: One prominent member of the party wrote a pamphlet called "Nigger Equality," of which the title was not the vilest part.) He later became active with Marcus Garvey's black nationalist movement, in spite of reservations about it. A prolific critic and essayist, he was also a memorable public speaker and a fierce debater. He lectured for New York City's Board of Education and seems to have contributed to most of the major newspapers and magazines of his day.


Politico - President-elect Barack Obama's Transition today launched "Open for Questions," a Digg-style feature allowing citizens to submit questions, and to vote on one another's questions, bringing favored inquiries to the top of the list.

It was suggested when it launched that the tool would bring uncomfortable questions to the fore, but the results so far are the opposite: Obama's supporters appear to be using -- and abusing -- a tool allowing them to "flag" questions as "inappropriate" to remove all questions mentioning Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich from the main pages of Obama's website.

The Blagojevich questions -- many of them polite and reasonable -- can be found only by searching words in them, like "Blagojevich," which produces 35 questions missing from the main page of the site.

"Given the current corruption charges involving Blagojevich, will 'serious' campaign finance reform that takes money completely out of politics through publicly funded elections be a priority in the first term?" asked Metteyya of Santa Cruz, California. "This submission was removed because people believe it is inappropriate," reads the text underneath it.

Also removed as "inappropriate":

"In light of the recent corruption scandals (Blagojevich, Rangel, Jefferson, Stevens, etc) that have dominated the political scene, is there any ethics legislation being crafted to actually curb corruption and prevent another wave of nixonian cynicism?", a question from "lupercal," of Gainesville.

And: "Is Barack Obama aware of any communications in the last six weeks between Rod Blagojevich or anyone representing Rod Blagojevich and any of Obama's top aides?", a question from Phil from Pennsylvania.

Declaring a question "inappropriate" is different from merely voting it down; it's calling foul on a question, not just disapproving of it.

Community reporting systems like this are often vulnerable to abuse from committed partisans -- YouTube has wrestled with a parallel problem -- and the only solution is conscious efforts to remedy it.

So far, Obama's team does not seem to have stepped in to allow uncomfortable questions to rise to the top, and instead is allowing his supporters to sanitize the site.


Russell Goldman, ABC - From the federal complaint, the picture that emerges is of a conniving, delusional and combative man. Blagojevich's wife, Patricia, mentioned repeatedly in the complaint but not charged with a crime, has been compared to Lady Macbeth, for the way she reportedly attacked her husband's enemies and supported his schemes. . .

Milorad "Rod" Blagojevich was born on the Northwest Side of Chicago in 1956, the son of a Yugoslavian immigrant steelworker. The young Blagojevich was an admittedly mediocre student, who delivered pizzas and shined shoes to help the family make ends meet.

Addressing a group of high school students in 2006, Blagojevich called the D he received in high school algebra "a classic case of grade inflation."

A high school basketball player and Elvis Presley fan, Blagojevich trained for a time as a teenager to be a Golden Gloves boxer. "He wasn't a very good boxer, but he liked to fight," said Pat LaCassa, a boxing trainer who coached Blagojevich in the 1970sz

"He likes to fight," said Brandon Phelps, a state representative from southern Illinois. "There's an arrogance about him, no doubt. I always got the sense that he thought, 'by golly, I'm the governor, you should do as I say.'". . . . . .

The first lady was. . . under investigation for her real estate dealings with another Blagojevich friend, convicted slumlord Tony Rezko. In 2005, according to The Associated Press, she received nearly $50,000 from a real estate deal three years earlier involving Rezko. In June, Rezko was convicted of using clout with the Blagojevich administration to help launch a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme.

According to the complaint against the governor, Patricia Blagojevich, 43, is overheard in the background of a taped phone conversation cursing and suggesting that some Chicago Tribune editors should be fired in exchange for state assistance with selling Wrigley Field. The the home of the Cubs baseball team was owned by the paper's parent company.

"Hold up that [expletive] Cubs [expletive]," she says as her husband is talking on the telephone. "[Expletive] them."

She is also heard, according to the complaint, suggesting that a deal to sell Obama's Senate seat should include a seat on a corporate board for her.

James Taranto, Wall Street Journal - Even if Obama did talk to Blagojevich about the Senate appointment, there is no reason to think this would incriminate the president-elect. In fact, statements attributed to the governor in the criminal complaint make clear, in rather vivid language, that he was frustrated by Obama's refusal to play ball and reward Blagojevich for appointing "Senate Candidate 1":

Rod Blagojevich said that the consultants (Advisor B and another consultant are believed to be on the call at that time) are telling him that he has to "suck it up" for two years and do nothing and give this "m-----f---er [the President-elect] his senator. F--- him. For nothing? F--- him." . . .

This conversation is alleged to have taken place on Nov. 10. Unless Blagojevich subsequently charmed Obama and his representatives into cooperating, Jim Lindgren would seem to have it right: "If true, these allegations hint that Obama or his transition team were victims of an extortion/bribery attempt"

Does that rule out the possibility that Axelrod is now lying in order to cover up communications between Obama and Blagojevich? Not necessarily. Being a victim of a crime or other offense can, after all, be embarrassing. Wouldn't it be ironic if Obama got caught up in scandal by trying to conceal facts that were not the least bit incriminating, merely for the sake of pride?

Pro Publica - Sheldon Sorosky, who is representing Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in his federal corruption case, also currently serves as the chairman of a state criminal justice agency. Blagojevich appointed Sorosky to the non-paid position in 2003. Although Sorosky's term as chairman was supposed to expire in January 2007, he remains atop the board.

Steven Greenhouse, NY Times - The Service Employees International Union has long boasted that it is on the cutting edge of the labor movement. But it found itself badly embarrassed this week when it was linked by name to Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich's maneuvering to secure some financial gain from picking the next Senator from Illinois.

The federal criminal complaint filed against Mr. Blagojevich said his chief of staff, John Harris, had suggested to a service employees' official that the union should help make the governor the head of Change to Win, the federation of seven unions that broke away form the A.F.L.-C.I.O. The complaint said Mr. Blagojevich was seeking a position that paid $250,000 to $300,000 a year.

In exchange, the complaint strongly suggested, the service employees union and Change to Win would help persuade Mr. Blagojevich to name Valerie Jarrett, President-elect Barack Obama's first choice, as the state's new senator. And the union would get help from the Obama administration, presumably for its legislative agenda.

Washington Post - A footnote to the 76-page criminal complaint and affidavit charging Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) with soliciting bribes confirms what has long been rumored -- that a former longtime friend and fundraiser for President-elect Barack Obama is talking to federal prosecutors in hopes of a reduced sentence. Antoin "Tony" Rezko's offer to provide authorities with evidence of others' wrongdoing is "not complete," and prosecutors are working to corroborate the claims he has made so far, the footnote said. .

Prosecutors depicted Rezko at trial as a fixer for Blagojevich and the man to see to secure a high-level appointment with the governor's administration. Rezko had been a longtime fundraiser for Blagojevich and other Illinois politicians, including Obama.

Obama was not implicated in the months-long trial, and he has said that Rezko sought no favors from him. At a news conference on Tuesday, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, went out of his way to dampen speculation about Obama.

"I should make clear, the complaint makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever," Fitzgerald said. "We make no allegations that he's aware of anything, and that's as simply as I can put it. . . . There's no reference in the complaint to any conversations involving the president-elect or indicating that the president-elect was aware of it. And that's all I can say."

Legal experts said it was unusual for a prosecutor to make such a blanket statement while an investigation was continuing.

"That carries a great deal of weight," said Jan Witold Baran, a Washington lawyer who represents politicians on ethical complaints and campaign finance matters. "It is really unusual for a U.S. attorney to say someone is not implicated. Could evidence pop up in the future to the contrary? Sure, it's possible. Is it likely? I think that, based on what he said yesterday, the answer is no," Baran added.

CBS, Chicago - Gov. Rod Blagojevich knew for months he was under investigation, so why was he caught on tape making so many incriminating statements? Some are wondering if there's something wrong with his mental acuity.. . . There is the serious question people like Marian Cassler of Chicago are asking: "When you know you're being watched, why would you do something like that? You have to have something wrong."

"Well, we think he's nuts, that he has some kind mental problem that he would have the audacity to do such a thing," said Chicago resident Meg Olsen. . .

Dr. Daniela Schreirer is a forensic psychologist at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and she does not see any sign of mental illness in the public Blagojevich, but believes he does have sociopathic traits.

"We're just talking about traits. We're not talking about full-blown diagnosis. But certainly, there's the same sense of entitlement, the same sense of thinking I am superior. I can do whatever I want. I am not going to be caught," Schreirer said.

Could a claim of a mental illness be the Blagojevich's best defense in court?

"There's a difference between being crazy and being legally insane," said CBS 2's Legal Analyst Irv Miller.

Miller says don't expect Blagojevich's attorneys to even try that defense.

Newsbusters - This is entering into the realm of the bizarre -- from the web site of KHQA TV. . .

KHQA TV wishes to offer clarification regarding a story that appeared last month on our website The story, which discussed the appointment of a replacement for President Elect Obama in the U.S. Senate, became the subject of much discussion on talk radio and on blog sites Wednesday.

The story housed in our website archive was on the morning of November 5, 2008. It suggested that a meeting was scheduled later that day between President Elect Obama and Illinois Governor Blagojevich. KHQA has no knowledge that any meeting ever took place. Governor Blagojevich did appear at a news conference in Chicago on that date.

That's fine, except for the fact that the KHQA story from November 8 -- three days later. It talked about the meeting in the past tense:

Now that Barack Obama will be moving to the White House, his seat in the U.S. Senate representing Illinois will have to be filled.

Obama met with Governor Rod Blagojevich earlier this week to discuss it. Illinois law states that the governor chooses that replacement. There's already been speculation about his selection. . . from Congressman Jesse Jackson, Junior to Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth.

So KHQA is saying it "has no knowledge" that an Obama-Blagojevich meeting it thought in its November 5 story would occur actually did occur.

I suppose the station will also tell us at some point that it "has no knowledge" as to whether the meeting it definitively reported had occurred in its November 8 story really did occur.


Andria Simmons, Atlanta Journal-Constitution - Gwinnett County police drug investigators served a "no-knock" search warrant and forced entry into a Lawrenceville house, but soon discovered they were at the wrong address.

In a news release, a Gwinnett police official said it was "a case of human error and not deliberate malfeasance on the part of the investigator." The investigators intended to serve the search warrant at a home on Valley Spring Drive in Lawrenceville about 9:15 a.m. One of the investigators mistakenly pointed out another house nearby.

Once the officers forced entry to the house, they briefly detained a male and female resident before determining they were in the wrong place. . .

The front door was patched with a piece of wood Wednesday night, but splinters still littered the front hallway of the home of John Louis, 38, and his girlfriend Heather James, 37.

Louis said he was upstairs working from a home office when police used a battering ram to break through the door. James and their 3-month-old daughter were asleep in separate bedrooms.

"They came in here and put guns to us. The house was full of police," Louis said. "I've never had a gun in my face before. I've never even held a gun."

He said that he and James, who was in a nightgown, were ordered at gunpoint to lie on the floor. When he tried to ask what they wanted, Louis said, he was told to "shut up."

After the officers roamed through the house for a few minutes, they spotted the baby and realized their mistake, Louis said. He said they apologized and told him they confused his home with that of a neighbor two doors down, a suspected methamphetamine distributor. . .

"If you had the house under surveillance for three months, why did you come here?" Louis said. "You broke in here and put all our lives in danger, and all you can say is you're sorry?"



KOMO, WA - State officials, besieged by requests for more seasonal displays at the state Capitol, have approved several more - including a "Festivus" display honoring a faux holiday popularized by TV comedian Jerry Seinfeld. The new display requests come on top of an anti-religion placard, a Christmas tree and a Christian nativity scene erected earlier this week and a pro-religion sign.

Festivus is an annual holiday invented by writer Dan O'Keefe and introduced into popular culture by his son Daniel, a scriptwriter for the TV show Seinfeld. . . The holiday includes novel practices such as the "Airing of Grievances", in which each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year.


Jonathan Weil, Bloomberg - What's remarkable about the 14-page business plan that Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Robert Nardelli delivered to the Senate Banking Committee last week is how little information it contains.

The summary starts out with so much blather about how well managed and innovative Chrysler is, you might wonder why it needs a bailout. Nardelli blamed Chrysler's problems on the "perfect storm" of declining vehicle sales, the financial crisis and the global economic downturn -- as if the company were a finely tuned vessel before the waves unexpectedly kicked up.

He also provided some crystal-ball numbers for how much cash and sales Chrysler would have for the next few years, assuming it gets our money. He wrapped up with the usual doom-and-gloom threats if Congress doesn't buckle -- as much as "3 million in lost jobs" and "$400 billion in lost wages," etcetera.

Not once did Nardelli disclose any of the historical information found on a customary set of financial statements. There was nothing about total assets or liabilities, year-to-date losses or cash flows, let alone pesky details like deferred compensation that might be owed to Chrysler executives.

Nardelli did hand the committee's members a lengthier presentation, which he asked them to keep secret because it is "competitively sensitive and proprietary." If he wants to sink Chrysler's foreign competitors, perhaps he should encourage them to copy his company's plans.

A Chrysler spokeswoman, Shawn Morgan, confirmed that the secret package didn't include the company's financial statements, audited or otherwise. She said the reason Chrysler doesn't divulge such information, or the names of its board members, is "because we're a private company." A spokesman for Cerberus, Peter Duda, gave me a similar answer. When taxpayers rescue an outfit like Citigroup Inc., at least we know whom to blame.

Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post - The congressional panel overseeing the $700 billion economic rescue plan wants to know what banks have done with their allotments, whether the public is getting a fair return on those investments and what the Treasury Department is doing to help American families.

Ten questions, some of them implicitly criticizing the program, form the first report of the Congressional Oversight Panel for Economic Stabilization, which is expected to be released today.

"These are the tough questions that people all over the country are asking," said Elizabeth Warren, chairman of the panel and a law professor at Harvard University. . .

The questions in the report address basic issues, such as what Treasury officials believe is the root cause of the financial crisis, what the Treasury wants to achieve with the program and whether the program is stabilizing markets.

Other questions emphasize the fact that banks have been the major beneficiary of the program, while other groups have been left empty-handed.

For example, the report highlights the fact that while Congress told carmakers they would have to reform before they get federal aid, the Treasury did not require banks to present a viable business plan or to replace "failed" executives in order to receive money.

Likewise, it asks what steps the Treasury has taken to reduce foreclosures, and said the Treasury has an obligation to explain its reluctance to adopt a mortgage relief plan proposed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

"Why has Treasury not generally required financial institutions to engage in specific mortgage foreclosure mitigation plans as a condition of taxpayer funds?" the panel asked.

Nelson Lichtenstein & Christopher Phelps, CNN The factory occupation by 200 workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago, Illinois, recalls one of the most storied moments in American history, when thousands of Depression-era workers took over their own workplaces, seeking union recognition and better wages. The pivotal battle began on the morning of December 30, 1936, when shop activists shut down a General Motors factory in Flint, Michigan, to restore the jobs of three of their workmates fired by the company. . .

When GM agreed to recognize the United Automobile Workers, all sorts of workplaces, from dime stores to shoe shops, caught the spirit. Pie bakers, seamen and movie projector operators sat down. Even before Flint, there had been occupation strikes at Hormel in Austin, Minnesota; Goodyear in Akron, Ohio; and Bendix in South Bend, Indiana. As often as not, they won.

There are big differences between those events and the occupation at Republic Windows and Doors. The Chicago workers already have a union. They seek severance pay, not a raise. Theirs is a protest, not a strike. Rather than disrupt production, they refuse to vacate a closed plant. And their numbers are minuscule in comparison to the half-million American workers who sat down in 1936 and 1937.

Some of the underlying issues, however, are the same: preservation of jobs, economic fairness and the meaning of democracy itself. Even if this occupation is quickly settled, it has exposed perfidy and dramatized justice, as did the sit-downs of the 1930s.

Green Party leaders said that the incoming Obama Administration and Congress should take six major steps to reverse the financial meltdown and restore financial security for Americans. The steps include a Green public works program, aid for state and muncipal governments, expansion of mass transit, Single-Payer health care, a peace dividend gained by ending the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and an end to the wasteful war on drugs.

American Monetary Institute - Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio has introduced legislation requiring disclosure of the kind of information that would have made it much harder for the financiers to create the financial crisis in the first place. From the bill:

- The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System shall devise, calculate and publish a replacement for the discontinued M3 monetary statistic, in order to provide a transparent estimate of the nation's total money supply.

- The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System shall tabulate and publish a statistical description of the current distribution of wealth in the United States by quintile, including a further examination of the uppermost 1% sections by 0.1% each.

- The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System shall calculate and report to the Congress the total annual seigniorage interest income received by financial institutions as a result of their being allowed to create money in the form of the credit they extend above their own cash deposits or reserves prior to extending the loans.

- The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System shall calculate and publish semi-annually the loss or gain in economic output due to the deviation of the previous year's actual unemployment rate from the 4% level required by the Humphrey Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978 (15 U.S.C. 3101 et seq.), including such loss or gain, in income by quintile.

- The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System shall develop a market-based estimate of the value of residential, corporate and publicly owned land and report figures.

- The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System shall make projections, in 10 year increments, of the net foreign debt, and estimate and report on the location of Federal reserve notes, by country and type of holder; including an estimate of lost notes.

- The Comptroller General shall conduct a full audit of the Federal reserve system in every year before a Presidential election year.

- The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System shall undertake the Survey of Consumer Finances every year.

- The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System shall publish a summary of total credit market debt, quarterly and annually.

Moon Over Alabama - Over the last four years, since the buyback boom began, from the fourth quarter of 2004 through the third quarter of 2008, companies in the S.&P. 500 showed:

Reported earnings: $2.42 trillion
Stock buybacks: $1.73 trillion
Dividends: $0.91 trillion
De-capitalization: $0.22 trillion

Over the last four years the S&P 500 companies did not invest one dime of their earnings into additional or new business or increased productivity. Instead they divested and gave $220 billion of their basic equity back to their shareholders.

This was an extremely shortsighted behavior. Sure, these companies used part of their revenue to replace depreciated capital expenditures (machinery and the like). But if anything was spend for additional research or new opportunities at all, it must have been financed by taking on additional debt. This debt will turn out to be poisonous in the downturn. . .

A stock buyback will lead to a rising stock price as it increases demand and lowers supply of that stock. Buybacks were just a simple way for greedy CEOs to increase their personal income at the cost of the long term validity of the business.

International Herald Tribune - Egbert Krumeich, manager of Artemis, the largest brothel in Berlin, said that the recession had helped dent revenue by 20 percent in November, which is usually peak season for the sex trade. Meanwhile, in Reno, Nevada, the multimillion-dollar Mustang Ranch recently laid off 30 percent of its staff, citing a decline in high-spending clients.

Robert Pear, NY Times - As jobless numbers reach levels not seen in 25 years, another crisis is unfolding for millions of people who lost their health insurance along with their jobs, joining the ranks of the uninsured. . . Most people are covered through the workplace, so when they lose their jobs, they lose their health benefits. On average, for each jobless worker who has lost insurance, at least one child or spouse covered under the same policy has also lost protection, public health experts said

Washington Post - Max Rameau delivers his sales pitch like a pro. "All tile floor!" he says during a recent showing. "And the living room, wow! It has great blinds."
But in nearly every other respect, he is unlike any real estate agent you've ever met. He is unshaven, drives a beat-up car and wears grungy cut-off sweat pants. He also breaks into the homes he shows. And his clients don't have a dime for a down payment.

Rameau is an activist who has been executing a bailout plan of his own around Miami's empty streets: He is helping homeless people illegally move into foreclosed homes. "We're matching homeless people with people-less homes," he said with a grin.

Rameau and a group of like-minded advocates formed Take Back the Land, which also helps the new "tenants" with secondhand furniture, cleaning supplies and yard upkeep. So far, he has moved six families into foreclosed homes and has nine on a waiting list. . .




Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad In fact, we don't just seek peace; we seek a meaningful and lasting peace with Israel. We seek strong ties with Israel. We seek strong economic ties between the independent states of Israel and Palestine. We seek warm relations with Israelis. We do not want to simply get to a point where we just accept each other - we want to have warm relations where we both recognize the mutual economic, intellectual, spiritual, and of course security benefits of living and working together. We do not want to erect walls; we want to build bridges. We do not want to close Israelis out of our lives; we want to live with Israelis as our neighbors." - October 12, 2008

ABC News - African-American voters waited more than twice as long as others to vote in last month's presidential election, and Hispanics were asked to show identification more often. Although Election Day ran smoothly for most voters, the survey of 10,000 people by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found at least one in four voters lack confidence that their votes were counted correctly. . . More than eight in 10 voters said their polling places were very well run; seven in 10 said poll workers performed excellently; and less than 1% rated their service as "poor." Black voters, however, reported waiting in lines for an average of 29 minutes to vote on Election Day and 43 minutes to cast ballots before Nov. 4, as 34 states allow. That was more than twice the average wait for others: 13 minutes on Election Day and 20 minutes when voting early.


"Digital Artery Occlusion Secondary to Plastic Shopping Bag Trauma," R. Joy, J.L. Isaacs and R.J. McCarthy, Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, vol. 89, no. 6, 2007, pp. W11-3

"Upper limb digital arterial occlusion is uncommon. We present the case of a 47-year-old man with an ischaemic right middle finger (dominant hand) due to trauma from carrying a heavy plastic shopping bag. Duplex scanning revealed no proximal source of emboli. An angiogram demonstrated occlusions in the medial and lateral digital arteries of the middle digit at the level of the proximal phalanx. Treatment with heparin and warfarin resulted in complete resolution of symptoms."


Wired - Nearly seventy years ago, German U-boat submarines sank millions of tons of Allied shipping, killing tens of thousands of sailors and threatening Great Britain with ruin. The key to defeating U-boats was cooperation: cargo ships and warships would clump together for mutual protection. The resulting convoys turned the tide against the German underwater menace and helped win the war for the Allies. Today convoys are making a comeback, as a tactic for deterring pirates operating along the Somali coast. Several times a month, chartered cargo vessels link up with warships for the dangerous dash into the Somali ports of Mogadishu and Merka. During World War II, convoys sailing from the U.S. to Great Britain carried everything from weapons to food to fuel. But today's convoys are hauling just one thing: donated food, enough to feed half a nation.

BBC - The Argentine Football Association is to introduce an aerosol spray to stop defenders creeping closer to the ball during a free-kick. From next year, referees will use the spray in first division matches. Referees will mark a temporary white 10 yards from the ball, which defenders cannot cross. The spray will disappear 30 seconds later. Pablo Silva, who invented the spray, got the idea when he failed to score with a free-kick at an amateur match.

Canadian Press - Ontario's Liquor Control Board is recalling an Italian wine, but not for the usual reasons. Some of the 1,500 ml bottles of 2007 D'Aquino Pinot Grigio delle Venezie are nothing but water. George Soleas, the board's vice-president of quality assurance, said yesterday there is no risk to the public. . . "It was a human error basically, it wasn't a tampering issue at all," he added. The problem was at the bottling plant where the bottles are flushed out with water.

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