Undernews For December 11, 2008
Undernews For December 11, 2008
The news while there's still time to do something about it
THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith
10 December 2008
The fact that a believer is
happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact
that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. - George
that Washington politicians want to appoint a czar for
something is absolute proof that they have no idea what
they're doing - Josiah Swampoodle
FLOTSAM & JETSAM
HOW CORRUPTION HAS CHANGED
From Shadows of Hope, Indiana University
In 1816, Columbus, Ohio, had one city councilmember for every hundred residents. By 1840 there was one for every thousand residents. By 1872 the figure had dwindled to one to every five thousand. By 1974, there was one councilmember for every 55,000 people.
The first US congressional districts contained less than 40,000 people; my current city councilmember represents about twice that many. Today the average US representative works for roughly 600,000 citizens. This is double the number for legislatures in Brazil and Japan, and more than five times as many as in Australia, Canada, France, Great Britain, Italy, and West Germany.
It isn't just a matter of numbers. Back in the early days of television and the late days of the Daley era in Chicago, Jake Arvey was an important man in national Democratic politics. At Democratic conventions, Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley would ponder what Arvey was going to do; presidential candidates would seek his blessing.
Yet Arvey's power base was not a national organization nor telegenic charisma, but rather the 24th Ward of Chicago, from which he helped to run the city's Democratic machine.
Another Chicago politician
described it this way: "Not a sparrow falls inside the
boundaries of the 24th Ward without Arvey knowing of it.
And even before it hits the ground there's already a
personal history at headquarters, complete to the moment of
There was plenty wrong with the Daley machine and others like it. One job seeker was asked at a ward headquarters who had sent him. "Nobody," he admitted. He was told, "We don't want nobody nobody sent."
Among those whom nobody sent were women and minorities. The old machines were prejudiced, feudal and corrupt.
And so we eventually did away with them.
But reform breeds its own hubris and so few noticed that as we destroyed the evils of machine politics we also were breaking the links between politics and the individual, politics and community, politics and social life. We were beginning to segregate politics from ourselves.
George Washington Plunkitt would not have been surprised. Plunkitt was a leader of Tammany Hall and was, by the standards of our times and his, undeniably corrupt. As his Boswell, newspaperman William Riordon, noted: "In 1870 through a strange combination of circumstances, he held the places of Assemblyman, Alderman, Police Magistrate and County Supervisor and drew three salaries at once -- a record unexampled in New York politics.". Facing three bidders at a city auction of 250,000 paving stones, he offered each 10,000 to 20,000 stones free and having thus dispensed with competition bought the whole lot for $2.50.
Tammany Hall was founded in 1854; its golden age lasted until the three-term LaGuardia administration began in 1934. For only ten intervening years was Tammany out of office. We got rid of people like Plunkitt and machines like Tammany because we came to believe in something called good government. But in throwing out the machines we also tossed out a philosophy and an art of politics. It is as though, in seeking to destroy the Mafia, we had determined that family values and personal loyalty were somehow by association criminal as well.
Plunkitt was not only corrupt but a hardworking, perceptive and appealing politician who took care of his constituents, qualities one rarely find in any plurality of combinations in politics these days. Even our corrupt politicians aren't what they used to be. Corruption once involved a complex, if feudal, set of quid pro quos; today our corrupt politicians rarely even tithe to the people.
Politics, Plunkitt said, "is as much a regular
business as the grocery or the dry-goods or the drug
business" and it was based on studying human nature. He
claimed to know every person in his district, their likes
and their dislikes:
I reach them by approachin' at the right side . . . For instance, here's how I gather in the young men. I hear of a young feller that's proud of his voice, thinks that he can sing fine. I ask him to come around to Washington Hall and join our Glee Club. He comes and sings, and he's a follower of Plunkitt for life. Another young feller gains a reputation as a baseball player in a vacant lot. I bring him into our baseball club. That fixes him. You'll find him workin' for my ticket at the polls next election day. . . I rope them all in by givin' them op¬portunities to show themselves off. I don't trouble them with political arguments. I just study human nature and act accordin'.
Plunkitt also believed in sticking with his friends: "The politicians who make a lastin' success in politics are the men who are always loyal to their friends, even up to the gate of State prison, if necessary . . . Richard Croker used to say that tellin' the truth and stickin' to his friends was the political leader's stock in trade." These principles have become largely inoperative.
His prescription for becoming a statesman was to go out and get supporters. Even if it's only one man, "go to the district leader and say: 'I want to join the organization. I've got one man who'll follow me through thick and thin'" and then you get his cousin and his cousin and so on until you have your own organization. It was a principle that worked well for Tammany Hall, which at its height early in the 20th century had 32,000 committeemen and was forced to use Madison Square Garden for its meetings. In contrast, when the Democratic National Committee decided to send a mailing to all its workers a few years ago, it found that no one had kept a list. The party had come to care only about its donors.
But most of
all Plunkitt believed in taking care of his constituents.
Nothing so dramatically illustrates this than a typical day
for Plunkitt as recorded by Riordon:
Plunkitt was aroused a two am to bail out a saloonkeeper who had been arrested for tax law violations. At six he was again awakened, this time by fire engines. Tammany leaders were expected to show up at fires to give aid and comfort. Besides, notes Riordon, they were great vote-getters.
At 8:30 am he was getting six drunk constituents released. At nine he was in court on another case. At eleven, upon returning home, he found four voters seeking assistance. At three he went to the funeral of an Italian, followed by one for a Jew.
At seven PM he had a
district captains' meeting. At eight he went to a church
fair. At nine he was back at the party clubhouse listening
to the complaints of a dozen pushcart peddlers. At 10:30 he
went to a Jewish wedding, having "previously sent a handsome
wedding present to the bride." He finally got to bed at
By these means the Tammany district leader reaches out into the homes of his district, keeps watch not only on the men, but also on the women and children, knows their needs, their likes and dislikes, their troubles and their hopes, and places himself in a position to use his knowledge for the benefit of his organization and himself. Is it any wonder that scandals do not permanently disable Tammany and that it speedily recovers from what seems to be crushing defeat?
These glimpses are instructive because they contrast so markedly with the impersonal, abstract style of politics to which we have become accustomed. It was, to be sure, a mixture of the good and the bad, but you at least knew whom to thank and whom to blame. As late as the 1970s the tradition was still alive in Chicago as 25th Ward leader Vito Marzullo told a Chicago Sun-Times columnist:
I ain't got no axes to grind. You can take all your news media and all the do-gooders in town and move them into my 25th Ward, and do you know what would happen? On election day we'd beat you fifteen to one. The mayor don't run the 25th Ward, Neither does the news media or the do-gooders. Me, Vito Marzullo. that's who runs the 25th Ward, and on election day everybody does what Vito Marzullo tells them. . .
My home is open 24 hours a day. I want people to come in. As long as I have a breathing spell, I'll got to a wake, a wedding, whatever. I never ask for anything in return. On election day, I tell my people, "Let your conscience be your guide."
In the world of Plunkitt and Marzullo politics was not something handed down to the people through such intermediaries as Larry King It was not the product of spin doctors, campaign hired guns or phony town meetings. It welled up from the bottom, starting with one loyal follower, one ambitious ballplayer, twelve unhappy pushcart peddlers. What defined politics was an unbroken chain of human experience, memory and gratitude.
Sure, it was
corrupt. But we don't have much to be priggish about. The
corruption of Watergate, Iran-Contra or the S&Ls fed no
widows, found no jobs for the needy or, in the words of one
Tammany leader, "grafted to the Republic" no newly arrived
immigrants. At least Tammny's brand of corruption got down
to the streets. Manipulation of the voter and corruption
describe both Tammany and contemporary politics. The big
difference is that in the former the voter could with
greater regularity count on something in return. In fact, we
didn't really do away with machines, we just replaced
PAGE ONE MUST
RECORDING INDUSTRY TERRORIZE TRANSPLANT
PATIENT OVER DOWNLOAD
Pittsbrugh Channel - A young Pittsburgh woman who needs a transplant has another fight on her hands. She's being sued by the music industry for illegally downloading music from the Internet. But 19-year-old Ciara Sauro strongly denies the charge and says she and her mother are overwhelmed with medical debts.
"Look and see where it (the downloads) came from, and look and see that it's not me. It's not fair to do to me," said Sauro.
Sauro, who lives in Ross Township, is disabled with pancreatitis. She needs an islet cell transplant and is hospitalized weekly. Because she didn't defend herself against a copyright lawsuit, a federal judge in Pittsburgh ruled she's a music pirate, and that could cost the Sauros almost $8,000 in fines.
"I already have severe depression. I mean, it's so hard to sit there and think that I have to get in trouble for something that I didn't do. It's not fair," Sauro said.
Sauro and her mother, Lisa, are being sued for the fines because they didn't challenge a music industry lawsuit in Pittsburgh federal court.
The lawsuit accuses Ciara Sauro of illegally sharing 10 songs online with strangers through free Internet software. . .
The Sauros said they've lived in their home since Ciara's father moved out. They claim the Internet account in the lawsuit was opened by him at his new address.
Attorney James Brink told WTAE Channel 4 Action News that he's offering to represent the Sauros for free and ask a judge to reopen the case.
Brink, who has defended other similar lawsuits, said the persons being sued only have so many days to respond before a judge enters a default judgment. He also said it's common for people to be intimidated by the legal documents.
"A lay person getting this -- first of all, it's 60 pages thick," he said. "It's full of legalese and jargon from the company. They see the record company suing them for thousands of dollars. They get scared."
Gershon Baskin , The Jerusalem Post - The current water crisis is extremely serious. Years of mismanagement and irresponsible water policies are now being investigated by the state comptroller. This is not the first time that the water sector is under the scrutiny of a public investigatory committee. In June 2001 the Knesset conducted a similar investigation and reported on serious dysfunctionality, but it seems that very little has changed since then.
For at least 10 years water experts have been calling for increased investment in developing new supplies of water, mainly through desalination. But as usual here, the real policy makers are the "Treasury boys" who opposed spending millions of shekels on infrastructure and held up the developments for a decade. They finally had to give in both because of the increase in the water deficit (we pump more than we have and we continue to pollute fresh water sources all over the country) and as a result of the very powerful desalination lobby that has greased the wheels of bureaucracy with a lot of money. . .
The water crisis on the other side of the separation barrier is even more severe than in Israel proper. The Israeli-Palestinian water agreement that was signed in 1995 provided the Palestinians with increased quantities of water. The agreement was supposed to be "interim" to be followed by a permanent status agreement several years later. In the meantime, 13 years have passed, the population has grown, yet no additional allocations have been permitted. . .
It is true that in this joint water pool that we share, there is a zero-sum game. Whatever one side gets is at the expense of the other. Today when the water deficit is more than one full year of rainfall, division of the water resources or it reallocation is a reallocation of the deficit. If we fight over water, everyone loses. . .
Cooperation means changing the "hard disk" in our minds regarding the Palestinians. The occupation mind-set that guides the talks on water led by Kinarti and Nagar can only lead to bad agreements or to . .
The key to resolving the water dispute is cooperation that will bring additional quantities of water to the area and better management and conservation of the water that we have. The international community has many times expressed its willingness to assist in any process that builds real cooperation, especially in the water sector.
AFGHAN GUERILLAS USING SAME TECHNIQUE AS
WORKED ON SOVIETS
Jeff Stein, CQ - The increasingly bold attacks on NATO supplies in Pakistan should be cause for serious worry, U.S. counterterrorism operatives are saying.
The attacks mean that Islamic extremist fighters in the region are adopting the tactics that their fathers and uncles employed more than a quarter century ago -- with CIA backing - to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan.
The objective: to choke off supplies to occupying troops on the ground. "The bad guys understand our operations and what our lifelines are all about," said an analyst with counter terror experience in the region.
"These guys are good. Rather then look at one target, they look multi-dimensionally at all the targets."
Taliban guerrillas struck two truck stops in northwest Pakistan, destroying containers and more than 150 vehicles carrying supplies bound for U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan.
ATTORNEY GENERAL SAYS IT'S OKAY TO
TORTURE AS LONG AS YOU THINK IT'S LEGAL
NY Times - The attorney general pointed to two of the Bush administration's most hotly debated counterterrorism programs, one authorizing eavesdropping without court orders, the other extreme interrogation techniques like waterboarding.
Mr. Mukasey, whose nomination as attorney general last year was threatened by his refusal to say whether he considered waterboarding to be torture, said the lawyers who authorized the surveillance and interrogation programs had done so in the belief that they were following the law.
"In those circumstances," he said, "there is no occasion to consider prosecution, and there is no occasion to consider pardon."
"If the word goes out to the contrary," he said, "then people are going to get the message, which is that if you come up with an answer that is not considered desirable in the future you might face prosecution, and that creates an incentive not to give an honest answer but to give an answer that may be acceptable in the future. It also creates some incentive in people not to ask in the first place."
IVY LEAGUE BROUGHT US DOWN
Chris Hedges, Truthdig - The multiple failures that beset the country, from our mismanaged economy to our shredded constitutional rights to our lack of universal health care to our imperial debacles in the Middle East, can be laid at the feet of our elite universities. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford, along with most other elite schools, do a poor job educating students to think. They focus instead, through the filter of standardized tests, enrichment activities, advanced-placement classes, high-priced tutors, swanky private schools and blind deference to all authority, on creating hordes of competent systems managers. The collapse of the country runs in a direct line from the manicured quadrangles and halls in places like Cambridge, Mass., Princeton, N.J., and New Haven, Conn., to the financial and political centers of power.
The nation's elite universities disdain honest intellectual inquiry, which is by its nature distrustful of authority, fiercely independent and often subversive. They organize learning around minutely specialized disciplines, narrow answers and rigid structures that are designed to produce certain answers. The established corporate hierarchies these institutions service -- economic, political and social -- come with clear parameters, such as the primacy of an unfettered free market, and with a highly specialized vocabulary. This vocabulary, a sign of the "specialist" and of course the elitist, thwarts universal understanding. It keeps the uninitiated from asking unpleasant questions. It destroys the search for the common good. It dices disciplines, faculty, students and, finally, experts into tiny, specialized fragments. It allows students and faculty to retreat into these self-imposed fiefdoms and neglect the most-pressing moral, political and cultural questions. Those who defy the system -- people like Ralph Nader -- are branded as irrational and irrelevant. These elite universities have banished self-criticism. They refuse to question a self-justifying system. Organization, technology, self-advancement and information systems are the only things that matter. . .
I sat a few months ago with a former classmate from Harvard Divinity School who is now a theology professor. When I asked her what she was teaching, she unleashed a torrent of obscure academic code words. I did not understand, even with three years of seminary, what she was talking about. You can see this absurd retreat into specialized, impenetrable verbal enclaves in every graduate department across the country. The more these universities churn out these stunted men and women, the more we are flooded with a peculiar breed of specialist. This specialist blindly services tiny parts of a corporate power structure he or she has never been taught to question and looks down on the rest of us with thinly veiled contempt. . .
Barack Obama is a product of this elitist system. So are his degree-laden cabinet members. They come out of Harvard, Yale, Wellesley and Princeton. Their friends and classmates made huge fortunes on Wall Street and in powerful law firms. They go to the same class reunions. They belong to the same clubs. They speak the same easy language of privilege and comfort and entitlement. They are endowed with an unbridled self-confidence and blind belief in a decaying political and financial system that has nurtured and empowered them.
These elites, and the corporate system they serve, have
ruined the country. These elite cannot solve our problems.
They have been trained to find "solutions," such as the
trillion-dollar bailout of banks and financial firms, that
sustain the system. They will feed the beast until it dies.
Don't expect them to save us. They don't know how. And when
it all collapses, when our rotten financial system with its
trillions in worthless assets implodes, and our imperial
wars end in humiliation and defeat, they will be exposed as
being as helpless, and as stupid, as the rest of us.
STUDY FINDS LOW INCOME YOUNG HAVE DIFFERENT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
Science Daily - University of California, Berkeley, researchers have shown for the first time that the brains of low-income children function differently from the brains of high-income kids. In a study recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, scientists at UC Berkeley's Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and the School of Public Health report that normal 9- and 10-year-olds differing only in socioeconomic status have detectable differences in the response of their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is critical for problem solving and creativity. . . "Kids from lower socioeconomic levels show brain physiology patterns similar to someone who actually had damage in the frontal lobe as an adult," said Robert Knight, director of the institute and a UC Berkeley professor of psychology. "We found that kids are more likely to have a low response if they have low socioeconomic status, though not everyone who is poor has low frontal lobe response." . . . Co-author W. Thomas Boyce, UC Berkeley professor emeritus of public health who currently is the British Columbia Leadership Chair of Child Development at the University of British Columbia, is not surprised by the results. . . .
Boyce, a pediatrician and developmental psychobiologist, heads a joint UC Berkeley/UBC research program called WINKS - Wellness in Kids - that looks at how the disadvantages of growing up in low socioeconomic circumstances change children's basic neural development over the first several years of life.
"This is a wake-up call," Knight said. "It's not just that these kids are poor and more likely to have health problems, but they might actually not be getting full brain development from the stressful and relatively impoverished environment associated with low socioeconomic status: fewer books, less reading, fewer games, fewer visits to museums."
Kishiyama, Knight and Boyce suspect that the brain differences can be eliminated by proper training. They are collaborating with UC Berkeley neuroscientists who use games to improve the prefrontal cortex function, and thus the reasoning ability, of school-age children.
"It's not a life sentence," Knight emphasized. "We think that with proper intervention and training, you could get improvement in both behavioral and physiological indices."
IOWA DEMOCRAT FORMING HOUSE POPULIST
Jason Hancock, Iowa Independent - U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Waterloo, has sent a letter to his House colleagues asking them to become a founding member of the new populist caucus. Braley said he is forming the group in order to renew focus on the issues of the middle class and working families. . . . He laid out the platform for the new group:
1. Fighting for
working families and the middle class through the
establishment of an equitable tax structure, fair wages,
proper benefits, a level playing field at the negotiating
table, and secure, solvent retirement plans.
2. Providing affordable, accessible, quality health care to all Americans.
3. Ensuring accessible, quality primary education for all American children, and affordable college education for all who want it.
4. Protecting consumers, so that Americans can once again have faith in the safety and effectiveness of the products they purchase.
5. Defending American competitiveness by fighting for fair trade principles.
6. Creating and retaining good-paying jobs in America.
SAN FRANCISCANS LIKE INSTANT RUNOFF
Steven Hill, SF Gate - Whether using ranked choice voting or December runoffs, the goal is the same: to elect officeholders with majority support from the public. But with ranked-choice voting, you accomplish this in one November election. We now have had five elections since 2004 using ranked-choice voting to elect the mayor, Board of Supervisors and other offices, providing some basis for assessing its impact. One significant difference between ranked choice and the old December runoff has been a dramatic increase in voter turnout. By finishing the election in November when voter turnout tends to be highest (because voters are showing up to vote for president or governor), a lot more San Franciscans are having a say in who represents them on the Board of Supervisors.
For example, this year in the District Three race, 22,407 voters participated in the final round of the instant runoff, with the winner of that race having 13,316 votes. In the December 2000 runoff election to decide the same District Three seat, only 12,414 voters participated, with the winner garnering 7,202 votes. Voter turnout dropped by 40 percent between the November 2000 election and the December runoff, and surely would have done the same this year following a high turnout presidential election.
Instead, in all supervisorial races in 2008 the number of voters participating in the ranked-choice voting races was much higher than in previous December runoff elections, even when accounting for higher turnout in the 2008 presidential election over the 2000 presidential election.
San Francisco taxpayers also are saving millions of dollars by not holding a separate runoff election in December. Based on numbers released in 2003 by the Elections Commission, it costs at least $3 million to administer each citywide election. . .
In terms of representation, the Board of Supervisors that was just elected via ranked-choice voting will be the most representative in the history of San Francisco. Seven out of 11 members are racial/ ethnic minorities, three are women, the gay community is represented, and there is a range of ideological viewpoints.
Statistical analysis also shows that voters are handling the task of ranking their candidates. In 2008, San Francisco voters on average used 2.3 of their 3 rankings, with voters in the highly competitive races using slightly more, 2.5. That means most voters are using all three of their rankings, while some use only two rankings and a few only one ranking. . .
While the rate of overvotes in ranked choice voting races is a bit higher than in non-ranked-choice races, it still has been low, generally less than 1 percent of voters.
Several exit polls have been conducted asking voters their opinions about ranked choice voting. The most thorough of these, conducted by San Francisco State University, found that 87 percent of those polled said they understood ranked choice voting, while 61 percent preferred it over the old runoff system (only 13 percent preferred the December runoffs, while 27 percent said it made no difference).
BLAGOJEVICH AND OBAMA
ABC News - Asked what contact he'd had with the governor's office about his replacement in the Senate, President-elect Obama today said "I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening." But on November 23, 2008, his senior adviser David Axelrod appeared on Fox News Chicago and said something quite different.
While insisting that the President-elect had not expressed a favorite to replace him, and his inclination was to avoid being a "kingmaker," Axelrod said, "I know he's talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them."
(Axelrod this evening issued a statement saying. "I was mistaken when I told an interviewer last month that the President-elect has spoken directly to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy. They did not then or at any time discuss the subject.")
There are no allegations that President-elect Obama or anyone close to him had anything to do with any of the crimes Gov. Blagojevich is accused of having committed.
In fact, there are indications that Mr. Obama and his team refused to go along with the "pay to play" way Blagojevich is accused of operating, offering only "gratitude" if the governor appointed his friend Valerie Jarrett to take his U.S. Senate seat, much to the governor's chagrin.
But there remain questions about how Blagojevich knew that Mr. Obama was not willing to give him anything in exchange for the Senate seat -- with whom was Blagojevich speaking? Did that person report the governor to the authorities?
And, it should be pointed out, Mr. Obama has a relationship with Mr. Blagojevich, having not only endorsed Blagojevich in 2002 and 2006, but having served as a top adviser to the Illinois governor in his first 2002 run for the state house.
In the Democratic gubernatorial primary that year, then-state senator Obama endorsed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris. But after Blagojevich won, Obama came around enthusiastically. At the same time, meanwhile, Axelrod had such serious concerns about whether Blagojevich was ready for governing he refused to work for his one-time client.
According to Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., Mr. Obama's incoming White House chief of staff, Emanuel, then-state senator Obama, a third Blagojevich aide, and Blagojevich's campaign co-chair, David Wilhelm, were the top strategists of Blagojevich's 2002 gubernatorial victory.
Emanuel told the New Yorker earlier this year that he and Obama "participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor. We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two."
Wilhelm said that Emanuel had overstated Obama's role. "There was an advisory council that was inclusive of Rahm and Barack but not limited to them," Wilhelm said, and he disputed the notion that Obama was "an architect or one of the principal strategists."
(An Obama Transition Team aide emails to note that Emanuel later changed his recollection of this story to Rich Miller's "Capitol Fax," saying, "David [Wilhelm] and I have worked together on campaigns for decades. Like always, he's right and I'm wrong.")
Either way, others now around Obama were less enthusiastic about Blagojevich at the time, namely David Axelrod, Obama's senior campaign adviser who will soon be a senior adviser at the White House.
Axelrod had worked for Blagojevich in his past races for the House, but he declined to work on his gubernatorial run.
"He had been my client and I had a very good relationship with him, but I didn't sign on to the governor's race," Axelrod told the New Yorker. "Obviously he won, but I had concerns about it...I was concerned about whether he was ready for that. Not so much for the race but for governing.". . .
On the Chicago TV show "Public Affairs with Jeff Berkowitz" on June 27, 2002, state senator. Obama said, "Right now, my main focus is to make sure that we elect Rod Blagojevich as Governor, we..."
"You working hard for Rod?" interrupted Berkowitz.
"You betcha," said Obama.
"Hot Rod?" asked the host.
"That's exactly right," Obama said.
In 2004, then-Gov. Blagojevich enthusiastically endorsed Obama for the Senate seat after he won the nomination, and Obama endorsed Blagojevich for his 2006 re-election race in early 2005.
In the Summer of 2006, then-U.S. Sen. Obama backed Blagojevich even though there were serious questions at the time about Blago's hiring practices.
At the time, numerous state agencies had had records subpoenaed, with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald telling authorities he was looking into "very serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud" with a "number of credible witnesses."
In an interview with the Chicago Daily Herald in July 2006, then-Sen. Obama said, "I have not followed closely enough what's been taking place in these investigations to comment on them. Obviously I'm concerned about reports that hiring practices at the state weren't, at times, following appropriate procedures. How high up that went, the degree at which the governor was involved, is not something I'm going to speculate on.
"If I received information that made me believe that any Democrat had not been acting in the public interest, I'd be concerned," Obama said.
That said, Mr. Obama said, "If the governor asks me to work on his behalf, I'll be happy to do it."
Apparently the governor did. At the Illinois State Fair in August 2006, Obama spoke on Blagojevich's behalf.
"We've got a governor in Rod Blagojevich who has delivered consistently on behalf of the people of Illinois," Obama told the crowd.
In January 2007, Blagojevich's office reserved the Old State Capitol for Mr. Obama's presidential announcement at Obama's request.
Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch told reporters that "Representatives for Sen. Obama contacted the governor's office regarding use of the Old State Capitol. We contacted the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and reserved the Old State Capitol for the Senator on February 10th."
The Old State Capitol is where President Abraham Lincoln delivered his "House Divided" speech in 1858.
ZEALAND YOUR VOTE COUNTS
Fair Vote - New Zealand held general elections on November 8th using mixed member proportional representation, which has been the election system used in the country since the traditional single-member plurality system was abandoned in the 1990. And once again the electoral cycle highlighted how the shift to winner-take-all to PR has allowed a better representation of women and minorities and a dramatic increase in voter satisfaction.
According to Ron Woodman, president at Fairvote N.L., New Zealand's change to MMP represents a shift towards less wasted votes. "Before they changed their system they had 48 per cent wasted votes and after they changed they had 1 per cent wasted votes, so almost everyone's vote went to electing someone", Woodman says to The Muse Online.
MMP uses double ballots where voters cast votes for both a district representative and a party list. Half of the seats are filled with representatives that are elected from single-member constituencies.
As the Royal Commission on the Electoral System envisaged, with the change to MMP the Parliament now more effectively represents the Maori, women, Asians and Pacific Islanders. In the last FTPT Parliament only 7 per cent of the members were Maori, now they account for 16 per cent. The proportion of women has risen from 21 to 29 per cent and the percentage of Pacific Islanders rose from 0 to 2 per cent. The November 8th election left The National Party with 59 seats out of a total of 122, the Liberals gained 43, The Green Party 9 seats, The ACT Party and The Maori Party were left with 5 seats each and The Progressive Party with 1 seat.
MMP was originally invented in West Germany right after World War Two and has since been adopted by several countries, such as Scotland, Wales, Hungary, Bolivia and Venezuela. Because system compromise between rivaling electoral designs, MMP is increasingly popular.
GREAT MOMENTS IN
Reto U. Schneider is the author of The Mad Science Book. This is one of the experiments described
Reto U. Schneider, The Mad Science Book - The Good Friday service in Easter 1962 was a memorable experience for ten seminarians at the Andover Newton Theological School. Although they could remember hardly anything of the sermon delivered by Pastor Howard Thurman, they could recall a sea of colors, voices from the Beyond, and the feeling that they were melting into the surrounding world. In a word, the students were high.
At the beginning of the 1960s, some daring scientists turned their attention to studying mind-altering substances. This was the period when it was all part and parcel of a lecture on mysticism to ingest magic mushrooms to gain practical insight into the subject, and when a doctoral thesis could entail giving students drugs and observing their behaviour. This is exactly what Walter Pahnke did: this young theologian and doctor from Harvard University was keen to discover whether psychedelic drugs could induce the kind of mystical sensations that only very few people otherwise experience, for example when in a state of religious trance. Users of LSD, psilocybin or mescaline had long claimed that this was the case.
Pahnke turned to Timothy Leary, who a short time before had begun conducting drug experiments at Harvard, and who later became a leading figure in the 1960s counterculture. He proposed an experiment to Leary: test subjects would attend a church service, but half of them would be given mind-expanding drugs in advance. Afterwards, all participants would be required to fill in a questionnaire and be interviewed. Comparing the findings with descriptions of mystical experiences from the realm of religion would demonstrate whether there was a qualitative difference between them.
[Leary] explained to Pahnke that a psychedelic trip was an intensely personal experience and that a person would have to have experienced several himself before he could even contemplate devising such an experiment. However, Pahnke was adamant that he would have to wait until his thesis had been accepted before he indulged. He didn't want anyone accusing him of partiality: the experiment would only have a chance of succeeding if he hadn't taken any drugs himself beforehand. . .
On the morning of Good Friday, two hours before the service, 20 students met in the crypt of Boston University's Marsh Chapel. They were encouraged "not try to fight the effects of the drug even if the experience became very unusual or frightening.". . .
The service lasted two and a half hours. When it had ended, the students were interviewed for the first time. At 5 o'clock, Leary invited everyone to come and eat with him, but 'the trippers were still too high to do much except shake their heads, saying "Wow!"', as he later recalled. . .
In the days following the experiment, and again six months later, the subjects were quizzed about what they had gone through. . . The results were unequivocal: eight of the 10 students who had eaten the magic mushroom experienced at least seven of the impressions and feelings customarily associated with a mystical experience. By contrast, no-one from the control group reached this kind of score. In every category, they lagged far behind the experimental group. . .
Twenty-five years after the experiment, the psychologist Rick Doblin attempted to find the surviving participants. In four years' of detective work, he succeeded in tracking down 19 of the 20 students. Sixteen of them agreed to be interviewed and filled in the same questionnaire as in the original experiment. The results were astonishingly consistent: those in the experimental group and the control group gave much the same answers as they had done a quarter of a century before. The test subjects from the experimental group described the Good Friday service of 1962 as one of the high points in their spiritual lives. They all claimed that the experiment had had a positive influence on them. Some attributed their later socially aware outlook to it, while others said it had helped them come to a positive accommodation with their fear of death.
Nevertheless, most of the former participants also recalled that the experiment also had its negative aspects. There were moments when they thought they were going mad or dying. Pahnke only treated this aspect in passing in his thesis. In particular he hushed up the fact that one subject had to be injected with an antidote when the situation got out of hand: seized with an urge to put Pastor Thurman's call to spread the word of Christ into action straight away, one student left the chapel and went out onto the street, from where he had to be fetched back. . .
Just one member of the control group claimed that the experiment had benefited him greatly. Not that it was the church service as such that had such a positive effect on him, but rather the decision he made during it to try psychedelic drugs himself at the next available opportunity.
ISRAEL POLICE INTERFERING IN MUSLIM CLERIC
Haaretz - The Shin Bet security service has confirmed for the first time that it regularly intervenes in the appointment of Muslim clergymen to public office, Haaretz has learned.
The issue surfaced after the state recently declined to appoint Sheikh Ahmed Abu Awaja to serve as Imam at Jaffa's Jabalya mosque, even though Abu Awaja was the only certified candidate to fit the threshold requirements. When he appealed to the Tel Aviv Labor Court against the decision not to hire him, the district prosecutor's office told the court that "according to the assessments of the Shin Bet, the claimant's appointment to serve as an imam on behalf of the Ministry of Interior may jeopardize security and peace in Jaffa, especially in view of the sensitivity of the delicate relationship between the city's Jewish and Muslim populations."
When queried by Haaretz for further explanations, the Shin Bet said: "Abu Awaja is the head of the northern Islamic Movement in Jaffa. According to the power vested in the Shin Bet, the service has supplied the Interior Ministry and the Civil Service Commission with information showing that Abu Awaja has had a long involvement in hostile activity, which manifested itself in incitement against the state and its Jewish citizens."
Abu Awaja, 34, started acting as imam in Jaffa at the age of 19, making him the youngest imam in Israel - and some say in the entire Middle East. The married father of four children has been acting as de facto imam at Jabalya mosque for the past two years, since the last imam passed away.
Jaffa - which has a growing population of 16,000 Arabs, most of whom are Muslim, and a shrinking population of 30,000 Jews - has eight mosques, six of which are active. Three are publicly funded by the Interior Ministry, which selects imams by government tender. The imam administers the five daily prayers at the mosque, and serves as a religious authority based on Muslim scriptures.
Abu Awaja's attorneys say that after their client applied for the tender and before he took the entrance exam - which he passed - Abu Awaja was summoned for a meeting with a Shin Bet agent at Jaffa's police station.
At the meeting, the agent questioned the applicant about the subjects of his sermons and events he attended. When Abu Awaja asked the agent whether there was any point in going ahead with the application, the agent advised him to "do what he thinks best," and informed him that the identity of the imam at Jabalya will ultimately be determined the Shin Bet.
Abu Awaja says he has been preaching for 15 years and has delivered hundreds or thousands of sermons, during which, he says, he has never preached in favor of violence. "I have called on people to act within the confines of the law. The Shin Bet's interference in my nomination is political persecution, and it's been going on for many years," Abu Awaja told Haaretz.
HAPPENING TO THE MIDDLE CLASS
Tony Allison, Financial Sense - While fulfilling its classic role as the backbone of the American economy, the middle-class also is the unwitting pawn in the complex chess game of global finance and government excess. The problem with being a pawn is that one has no control of the game, or its outcome. Historically, the middle-class is always the group to feel the greatest pain and reap the fewest rewards from the machinations of Wall Street and Washington. The period dead ahead will be no exception. . . The middle-class has been under growing pressure for over 30 years, as its purchasing power has been steadily under attack. .
The early 1970's was clearly an historic turning point for millions of Americans. With the 1971 severing of the gold-backed dollar by the Nixon Administration, the fate of the middle class was sealed. Unlimited fiat money creation led to unlimited debt and a rapidly depreciating dollar. Middle-class "real" wage growth would never again keep up with "real" inflation, especially in key areas such as health care and college tuition, which have greatly exceeded the stated rate of inflation.
Divided by the CPI (which has been understated for decades) the "adjusted" Median Household Income has barely grown at all since 1973. . .
Do you think the strapped middle-class family feels better when hearing that inflation is "only" 4%, instead of 11.6%, as measured prior to 1983? Not likely. Understated inflation does not help remove the sting of declining purchasing power. It just adds to the confusion and desperation. . .
Americans have been slowly transferring ownership of their homes to the banking system over the last 50+ years. These figures would look much worse if the roughly 1/3 of homes owned "free and clear" (mostly by seniors) were removed from the data, but you can see the trend is toward less equity and more debt. This is not a sign of a prospering middle-class.
CLOSING GITMO IS FINE, BUT WHAT IS OBAMA GOING TO DO ABOUT HIS OTHER 27,000 ILLEGAL PRISONERS?
Clive Stafford Smith, Guardian UK The justifiable joy at Obama's ascendancy must be tempered with the knowledge that Guantanamo always has been a diversionary tactic in the "war on terror". The 250 men there represent fewer than 1% of the 27,000 prisoners being held by the US beyond the rule of law. There is a reason why most people have never heard of the plight of these unfortunates - they are ghost prisoners in secret prisons.
Obama has yet to speak of the missing 99.1%. It is not clear how much he even knows about them. With America at war in two countries, new captives are being taken every day. They aren't coming to Cuba, so where are they being held?
Many are in Iraq and Afghanistan, but a smattering end up in US detention in Bosnia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kosovo and in 21st-century "prison hulks" off Diego Garcia and Somalia. The most miserable are held in proxy prisons in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.
There is plenty of commitment to continue this project. Obama will keep Bush's secretary of defense and perhaps even his CIA director in place. And modern renditions are not a solely Republican phenomenon, as they began with Ronald Reagan, but continued with Bill Clinton.
MID EAST BEAT
Haaretz - Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser to Jimmy Carter, said in an interview with Haaretz over the weekend that Israel will do harm to its relations with the United States if it insists on lobbying Washington for an American military strike on Iran.
Brzezinski was at the center of a controversy during much of the United States presidential campaign when Jewish opponents of president-elect Barack Obama sent out mass emails calling the former U.S. president's aide anti-Israel, and saying he was one of the Illinois senator's key advisors on foreign policy.
The Obama campaign denied that Brzezinski and other figures like Bill Clinton's former advisor Robert Malley with dovish positions on the Israel-Palestinian question were among his Middle East advisors. . .
On Sunday, Obama told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the West must engage in "tough but direct diplomacy" with Iran, but emphasized that Tehran's vocalized threats against Israel stand "contrary to everything" the United States believes in.
Brezinski added that even if Israel did attack Iran, it would be incapable of striking all of its nuclear facilities. The best it could hope to do is to slow down or delay the Islamic Republic's drive to build a nuclear bomb while emboldening extremist sentiment in the country. .
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada - In 1969, Israel's legendary diplomat Abba Eban warned that withdrawal from the territories his country occupied in June 1967 would be a return to "Auschwitz borders." Since then some Israeli politicians have used these provocative words to attack almost anyone who defies them.
In 1992, for instance, the George H. W. Bush administration briefly suspended US loan guarantees to Israel to protest settlement construction in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A symbolic sanction that cost Israel little, it was nevertheless unprecedented for the US to condition aid on Israeli behavior. Israel's then Deputy Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the move as an American effort to force Israel back within the "Auschwitz borders." He later attacked then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for signing the 1993 Oslo Accords which, he alleged, would also take Israel "back to Auschwitz." Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli Jew brought up on such rhetoric. Netanyahu served as prime minister from 1996-1999 and may do so again following elections next February.
Eban's meaning was clear -- by comparing Israel to the most notorious and emblematic Nazi death camp, he was in effect saying that Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular are Nazis no less capable and desirous of exterminating Jews than was Hitler. In Hebron, however, it is Israeli settlers protected by the Israeli army who frequently paint threats such as "Arabs to the gas chambers" on Palestinian houses.
Comparisons of present-day Israel to Nazi-occupied Europe are common in Israel itself although they remain taboo everywhere else. The late Tommy Lapid, justice minister in Ariel Sharon's government, caused an uproar in 2004 when he said that images of an elderly Palestinian woman in Gaza "crouching on all fours, searching for her medicines in the ruins of her house" demolished by the Israeli army reminded him of his own grandmother who perished at Auschwitz. Lapid compared the Israeli army's writing of numbers on the arms and foreheads of Palestinian prisoners to the Nazi practice of tattooing concentration camp inmates. "As a refugee from the Holocaust I find such an act insufferable," he said in 2002.
Lapid, who was chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial, also likened the routine harassment of Palestinians by Israeli settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron to the anti-Semitism of pre-World War II Europe. "It was not crematoria or pogroms that made our life in the diaspora bitter before they began to kill us," he said in 2007, "but persecution, harassment, stone-throwing, damage to livelihood, intimidation, spitting and scorn." Lapid did not live long enough to see Hebron settlers attempt to burn down a house with a large Palestinian family trapped inside, an act witnessed on 4 December by Avi Issacharoff, reporter for the Israeli daily Haaretz, who called it "a pogrom in the worst sense of the word."
While Lapid's comments shocked some Israelis, they were "actually fairly mild compared to some of the Holocaust-related insults that have been hurled across the Israeli political spectrum in the last decade," the BBC reported in 2004. An example included the frequent depiction of Rabin in the months before he was assassinated in a Nazi uniform. Uri Dromi, former head of Israel's government press office, noted that Israelis from politicians to fans of rival football teams frequently called each other Nazis: "The ease with which the Nazi Holocaust has been used is alarming."
In Israel, "Every threat or grievance of major or minor importance is dealt with automatically by raising the biggest argument of them all -- the Shoah," former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg has written using the Hebrew word normally reserved for the Nazi Holocaust, "and from that moment onward, every discussion is disrupted."
Such use of the Holocaust by Israelis rarely attracts attention or opprobrium outside the country. By contrast Palestinians must always be careful about breaking the taboo of likening any of Israel's actions with those of Nazis. Even their allies usually tell them, "don't go there.". . .
And, during the recent American presidential campaign, candidates wanting to prove their loyalty to Israel and toughness toward Iran promised that the US would never allow a "second holocaust," thus entrenching in American politics the phenomenon observed by Burg in Israel. . .
Invoking another horror of the 20th Century, the president of the UN General Assembly, Nicaragua's Ambassador Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, recently likened Israel's siege of Gaza to "the apartheid of an earlier era." This is not likely to please Israeli officials; as Nelson Mandela wrote, with the exception of the Nazi genocide, "there is no evil that has been so condemned by the entire world as apartheid."
But it does at least offer a hopeful model for collective action and solidarity. D'Escoto Brockmann recalled the sanctions that helped end South African apartheid, adding, "Today, perhaps we in the United Nations should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society who are calling for a similar nonviolent campaign." That campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions is already underway and scores new victories each week. It will strengthen in inverse proportion to the complicity of world governments, no matter what justifications Israel puts forward for its mounting crimes.
The Holocaust lesson that I learned
at school is that we are obliged not to wait until things
are as bad as Auschwitz before we speak out and act.
FREE MARKET FREE FALL
Stanley Kutler, Truth Dig - The New York Mets have announced that their new stadium will still be called Citi Field. According to news reports, Citigroup will pay the Mets a trifling $400 million over 20 years for the naming rights to the new ballpark. Small change. The Mets added that the government bailout of Citigroup will help the bank survive the 'economic crisis.
AP - Just months after riding an
incredible high, the recycling market has tanked almost in
lockstep with the global economic meltdown. As consumer
demand for autos, appliances and new homes dropped, so did
the steel and pulp mills' demand for scrap, paper and other
recyclables. Cardboard that sold for about $135 a ton in
September is now going for $35 a ton. Plastic bottles have
fallen from 25 cents to 2 cents a pound. Aluminum cans
dropped nearly half to about 40 cents a pound, and scrap
metal tumbled from $525 a gross ton to about $100.
. . The recycling market has gotten so bad that haulers in Oregon and Nevada who were once paid for recyclables are now getting nothing or in some cases are having to pay to unload their wares.
The Newspaper - Just one week after receiving a pledge of $306 billion in support from US taxpayers, Citigroup announced the intended $10 billion acquisition of a debt-laden Spanish toll road group. Citi Infrastructure Partners will hand over $3.6 billion in cash and assume $6.3 billion in debt from Sacyr Vallehermoso, the parent company of the Intinere Infraestructuras toll road group. Itinere operates 32 toll roads in Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Portugal and Spain and Ireland. Another twelve concessions are under construction. Sacyr today issued a statement to Spanish investors noting that the company succeeded in offloading 37 percent of its total debt to the US firm. . .
Independent, UK - Credit card companies are facing an investigation by competition watchdogs after defying government warnings to improve their lending practices. An analysis by The Independent has found that the cost of card borrowing has risen over the past three months despite three cuts to the Bank of England base rate. Cardholders are now facing average interest rates of 17.7 per cent on credit cards, up from 16.6 per cent 12 months ago.
The Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, had given providers two weeks to come up with fair principles to help cardholders manage their debts following a summit with card providers in November. The Government is expecting proposals from the industry on how it will implement fair principles on existing debt, responsibly provide credit and support households in difficulty.
Failing to do so could see the card companies facing investigation by the Office of Fair Trading, but so far card providers have made no move to reduce the expensive lending rates which so often plunge debtors into further financial hardship.
One government source said last night: "We are not backing off. If the companies don't move, if necessary, we will go down the OFT route."
Frank Hammer, Center for Labor Renewal - The reluctance to bail out GM and the other Detroit automakers has everything to do with the UAW, as if the impending collapse is the fault of the workers at the bottom of the heap. The "free market" types want to use the current auto industry crisis to force a "restructuring" of the companies' "relationships" - principally with the UAW. We hear a chorus about "bloated UAW contracts", contract terms that "GM can't live with," or references to "overpaid" autoworkers, etc. Never mind that just one year ago UAW autoworkers agreed to huge concessions in what President Ron Gettelfinger describes as a "transformative agreement" (for which, in the Detroit media, he was heralded "man of the year."). That agreement, according to Gettelfinger, was designed to make the UAW labor force cheaper than their non-union brethren at Honda, Toyota, etc. This from a once proud union which set the industry standard.
Before the 2007 agreements were negotiated, the average total UAW labor cost per vehicle was $2,400, or a little over 8% of the price of a vehicle. UAW workers then were among the most productive in the world, producing value added worth $206 per worker per . . . The margin of difference in labor costs with non-union Toyota before the transformative agreement was already then just $250-$300!
The free marketers also complain about the "lavish" costs of autoworker healthcare, obscuring the fact that the UAW accepted all the risk for their retirees' health care when it agreed - to a "Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association," or VEBA at the Big Three's behest. To the forces which have conspired for many years to establish a "union-free" domestic auto industry, none of these concessions matter.
Campbell Brown, CNN - You know, it may be we have been looking at the economic picture all wrong. The notion that perhaps things really aren't so awful as all that popped into our heads today when we heard the CEO of Merrill Lynch was putting in for a $10 million bonus for 2008 -- mostly because, in 2008, he adeptly held Merrill Lynch down to a loss of only $11.67 billion.
Now, put it in context. This was at a time when Wall Street rivals like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns collapsed entirely. John Thain is the CEO we are talking about, and he also argued he was able to arrange the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America during these troubled times. And that orchestrating the sale of an outfit that had lost more than $11 billion surely ought to be worth some big bonus cash.
One of my neighbors worked for Merrill Lynch, and she recently got laid off. Literally thousands of Merrill employees are likely to be let go because of the sale to Bank of America. And the CEO wants a $10-million bonus.
BoinG Boing The powerful and innovative Service Employees International Union is trying to unionize bank workers, saying that if the banks are going to get a public bailout, workers should have a seat at the table. "We believe there is special responsibility for companies who receive taxpayer dollars to ensure their workers have a voice on the job," SEIU's Lynda Tran said. "And those workers should have a seat at the table at the companies where decisions that impact the future of their families and the companies that employ them" are made.
Ballot Access - Based on official election returns in 44 states, and unofficial returns in 6 states, the combined minor party and independent candidate vote for U.S. House last month amounted to 3.14% of the total vote cast for U.S. House. That is higher than the "other" vote for U.S. House had been in 2006 and 2004, but not as high as it had been in 2002 and 2000. The "other" vote for U.S. House in 2000 was 4.17%, the highest it had been since 1938. In 2002 it declined to 3.58%, and in 2004 it declined again, to 2.75%. It declined a third time in 2006, to 2.49%. The November 2008 U.S. House vote is: Democrats 53.83%; Republicans 43.04%; Libertarians .89%; independent candidates .80%; Greens .49%; Working Families .24%; Constitution .15%; other parties 55%.
HEALTH & SCIENCE
Op Ed News - Would a medical journal publish an article pushing for a higher Recommended Dietary Allowance of protein from an author whose email used to be email@example.com? JAMA did in its June 25 issue this year in an article titled The Recommended Dietary Allowance of Protein: A Misunderstood Concept. In its Oct. 15 issue it had to print a correction stating that author Sharon L. Miller was "formerly employed by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association" and author Robert R. Wolfe received money from the Egg Nutrition Center, National Dairy Council, National Pork Board and Beef Checkoff through the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Both Cattlemen flack Miller and Robert R. Wolfe, Professor of Geriatrics at the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, have a paper trial of junk food science articles funded by Big Food.
STUPID WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT TRICKS
Don't Tase Me Bro - Tallan T-Man Latz has been playing music since age three when he received his first musical instrument, a drum kit. By four he was playing guitar and at age eight, he's played on stage with both Jackson Browne and Les Paul and plays for two blues bands. Till recently he played in public nearly every weekend, always accompanied by one of his parents, saving the money for college. The Wisconsin State Department of Workforce Development, however, has ordered him to cease and desist, as his playing is against state child labor laws covering "public exhibitions and performances in a "roadhouse, cabaret, dance hall, nightclub, tavern, or other similar place."
JUSTICE & FREEDOM
MSNBC - A Montana judge has issued a ruling saying residents of the state have the right to doctor-assisted suicide. The ruling makes Montana the third state in which doctor-assisted suicide is legal. [The] ruling holds that mentally competent, terminally ill Montanans have a right to obtain medications that can be self-administered to bring about a peaceful death if they find their suffering to be unbearable. The ruling also says physicians can prescribe such medication without fear of criminal prosecution.
BBC - Rail passengers across Britain will
benefit from almost 700 extra services a day on weekdays
when a new timetable begins, train operators have said. The
Association of Train Operating Companies said weekday
services would increase by 3.4% from next week, including
faster and longer trains. . . Michael Roberts, Atoc's chief
executive, said rail companies would be operating 265,000
more trains a year from Sunday in England, Scotland and
Wales. That figure includes an extra 5.2% more services on
Saturdays and an extra 7.6% on Sundays.Many services would
be faster and feature longer trains, he added, and the
completion of a multi-billion pound upgrade would mean
faster journeys on the London to Scotland West Coast main
line.MONEY & WORK
Union City - after five years, former workers at cnn have finally gained justice. An administrative law judge ordered the network to rehire 110 workers who were fired because they were union members. Cnn also was ordered to recognize the workers' unions, national association of broadcast employees and technicians-cwa locals 31 and 11. Nlrb administrative law judge arthur amchan found that cnn engaged in "widespread and egregious misconduct, demonstrating a flagrant and general disregard" for employee rights. Pay. The board also issued a "cease and desist order" to prohibit cnn from infringing on workers' rights under labor law in the future.
HEALTH & SCIENCE
Observer, uk - brain exercises, such as those taught to thousands of schoolchildren or advertised on television to adults as a way to prevent dementia, are a waste of time and money, a neuroscientist has claimed. An award-winning scottish professor says measures such as breathing through the left nostril, drinking water to increase oxygen supply to the brain, drinking red wine to fend off dementia or listening to classical music to boost performance are little more than myths. Sergio della sala has done more than 20 years' research on the brain.
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